Personal incomes in Maine grew by nearly 1 percent in the last quarter, but a closer look at the numbers shows that’s no cause for celebration.

The 0.9 percent growth, which matched the national average, merely offsets the decline of the same rate from the previous three months, and follows negative growth in each of the last three years.

More importantly, in Maine and nationally, the gains from income growth are going disproportionately to the very top earners, an almost-four-decade-long trend that threatens to make the American dream of upward mobility a fantasy tale.

The state’s average income grew nearly 40 percent from 1979-2007. However, that growth was strongly skewed to the top 1 percent of earners, whose income grew nearly 150 percent in the time span, as compared to just 30 percent for everyone else.

Despite that poor record, Maine has a much smaller gap than other states. But the only difference is at the top.

In Connecticut and New York, for example, sharp increases in income in the financial sector have made those two states the most unequal when it comes to income distribution.

But the story at the bottom is the same everywhere, with the lowest incomes showing only modest growth despite gains in worker productivity, a problem that was made worse by the Great Recession.

The rate of growth for personal income slowed for everybody from 2009-2012, but much less for the top 1 percent. And while the recession was stagnating, if not catastrophic, for the middle and lower classes, the top earners have rebounded quite nicely.

In fact, with each successive economic recovery and expansion since World War II, the top 1 percent of earners have taken a bigger portion of the spoils.

So it’s no surprise there are so many working people who spend too much of their income on housing and food, and who have nothing left once the bills are paid.

For them, home ownership, once a key to the middle class, is out of reach.

And it’s no surprise there is a widening gap between the best and worst public schools, a metric that relates closely to community wealth.

For those students who return home from below-average schools to parents struggling to get by, it is becoming less likely that they will grow up to do any better.

Those are condemnations of the American economy that should get everyone’s attention.

The rich will always be better off. But for Maine and the country as a whole to flourish, the gains of a growing economy — and opportunities for educational and professional achievement — must be shared more equally.

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