BOOM: New York Daily News Endorses Mitt Romney for President.

America’s heart, soul, brains and muscle — the middle- and working-class people who make this nation great — have been beset for too long by sapping economic decline.

So, too, New York breadwinners and families.

Paychecks are shrunken after more than a decade in which the workplace has asked more of wage earners and rewarded them less. The decline has knocked someone at the midpoint of the salary scale back to where he or she would have been in 1996.

Then, the subway fare, still paid by token, was $1.50, gasoline was $1.23 a gallon and the median rent for a stabilized apartment was $600 a month. Today, the base MetroCard subway fare is $2.25, gasoline is in the $3.90 range and the median stabilized rent is $1,050, with all the increases outpacing wage growth.

A crisis of long duration, the gap between purchasing power and the necessities of life widened after the 2008 meltdown revealed that the U.S. economy was built on toothpicks — and they snapped.

Nine million jobs evaporated. The typical American family saw $50,000 vanish from its net worth, and its median household income dropped by more than $87 a week. New Yorkers got off with a $54 weekly hit.

Our leaders owed us better than lower standards of living, and we must have better if the U.S. is to remain a beacon of prosperity where mothers and fathers can be confident of providing for their children and seeing them climb higher on the ladder.

Revival of the U.S. as a land of opportunity and upward mobility is the central challenge facing the next President. The question for Americans: Who is more likely to accomplish the mission — Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?

Four years ago, the Daily News endorsed Obama, seeing a historic figure whose intelligence, political skills and empathy with common folk positioned him to build on the small practical experience he would bring to the world’s toughest job. We valued Obama’s pledge to govern with bold pragmatism and bipartisanship.

The hopes of those days went unfulfilled.

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