Call for economic overhaul: Column
We need to pay attention to the happy planet index when measuring economic success.
Everybody is finding fault with the economy these days. When it doesn’t grow quickly enough, business leaders complain, then President Obama announces he is refocusing on the economy yet again. When job growth appears to pick up, as it did last week, investors flee from stocks fearing rising interest rates.
It often seems that only those who make money when things are good and when they are bad seem to be happy. People such as the 10 highest-earning hedge fund managers who averaged a billion dollars in take-home pay last year are all smiles. But regular Americans have legitimate concerns, especially those who have faced home foreclosures, layoffs, and sky-high tuition and medical bills.
Gloom or boom?
This gloom might seem misplaced. After all, the goal emanating from boardrooms, newsrooms and classrooms is to grow the economy, as measured by gross domestic product. And U.S. GDP has risen for 14 quarters in a row. Last week was bad for the stock markets, but it has only been a couple weeks since the S&P 500 was in record territory. The government announced that 162,000 new jobs had been created in July.
Nevertheless many people sense something’s wrong. Even with rising GDP, we’re not feeling better off. One reason is that a few wealthy individuals have hoarded the benefits of growth. When a fund manager can “earn” as much in one hour as a typical American family earns in two decades, it’s time to reconsider our idea of fairness. But there’s a deeper problem. The pursuit of GDP growth is failing because the costs have ballooned beyond the benefits.
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