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DN Editorial: Are you the 1 percent?

If not, you're getting poorer, and GOP politicians couldn't care less

IF YOU ARE still feeling poor, even though the recession is over, it is not your imagination. Most people are poorer today than before the economic downturn, when their incomes are adjusted for inflation.

Although income has grown in Pennsylvania since the recession, most of it has gone to a tiny sliver of the population: the top 1 percent of earners.

Their average income was nearly $1.1 million a year as of 2012, the latest year of data available used in a recent study by the Economic Analysis and Research Network. For the state's bottom 99 percent, average income was $44,000 a year.

In terms of real dollars, the income for the top 1 percent rose by 28.6 percent during the 2009-12 period examined by EARN. For the 99 percent, average income declined 1.1 percent.

Pennsylvanians who are in the bottom 99 percent have experienced a "wage-less and income-less recovery," according to the Keystone Research Center. The phrases are awkward but accurate.

Not only has the income of the richest risen at rates much higher than the rest of us, their overall share of wealth has increased as well.

If you added up all the income earned by state residents and turned it into a pie chart, the top 1 percent's slice would be equal to nearly 19 cents of every dollar. That's their highest share of overall income in the state since 1928.

To put it another way, the super-rich are living in the Roaring '20s, and many of the rest of us are living in the lean and mean 1930s - with incomes that are stagnant or falling.

This growing disparity between the rich and the rest of us has been evident for years. Economists have confirmed it with numbers and protesters have used it to stage sit-ins on Wall Street and cities across the nation.

These numbers are stark proof that American-style capitalism is failing everyday people. Our free-enterprise system is producing more wealth - but it's being hoarded by a small percentage at the top, without the trickle-down effect promised by so many conservative politicians.

It's too much to ask Washington to raise the ceiling on the federal income-tax rate, now set at 39.6 percent. (These days, it is too much to ask Washington to do just about anything.) But steps should be taken to help workers at the lowest end of the pyramid by raising the minimum wage to $10.10, as President Obama has proposed.

Higher would be better still. Recent research done by the U.C. Berkeley Research Center revealed that nearly three out of every four people enrolled in the nation's major social-welfare programs are members of working families.

No one should have to use food stamps to make ends meet while working at a full-time job. These billions in welfare costs amount to a massive subsidy to businesses that chronically underpay their employees and offer no benefits.

Local governments can play a role, too, as Philadelphia just did by passing a law that gives paid sick leave to workers who don't have that benefit.

No sooner did it pass than Republicans in the state Senate moved to make the city's law null and void.

These same Republicans are against Obamacare, which helps working people get health care; they also have opposed efforts to raise the state's minimum wage. Now, they have come out against local efforts to give limited paid sick leave to workers.

We don't have to ask whose side they are on.