Opinion » Letters

Measure our nation's health in a new way

San Luis Obispo



I’ve been reading an endless amount of dire news on our tanking economy, and in everyday conversation, there certainly is no shortage of angry people venting on the subject. I can’t help but think, though, that we are inaccurately prescribing these doldrums upon ourselves via a mob panic reaction to a lot of hype and economic gossip.

The current measure of our nation’s health is a travesty because it causes us to flail with our wealth and decisions. How we wield our money and decisions, and thus immense power, translates to livelihood or death for so many middle- to low-income people in our nation and others.

I want to propose a new measure for our nation’s health: How well an average person’s basic needs are met, based on a certain standard of criteria. Example criteria could include ratio of housing/rent payment to total income, access to three nutritious meals a day, ratio of savings to total income, etc.

I believe measuring our nation’s health with these kinds of criteria can give a far more accurate representation of our economic environment and reduce the detrimental mislabeling of a bad economy in situations when it is actually a changing economy.

Say that a majority of California’s residents traditionally purchase their clothes from department stores. Quarter after quarter, the stores begin reporting a loss in sales. Malignant phrases begin to pop into owners’ and managers’ conversations: “Our economy is bad,” “People aren’t spending money anymore.” These feelings lead to laying off people and reducing purchases from manufacturers. But perhaps our state’s residents became more “green” conscious, opting to keep their clothes longer to reduce waste and carbon emissions. Perhaps clothing exchange co-ops formed so members could give more of their expendable income to charitable causes.

The fact is, the need and opportunity shifted, not the economy. Department store sales may increase if they opted to sell multi-purpose clothing or open a gently-used clothing department.

Will business owners and decision makers be agile and adjusting or cry wolf? Because everything the pretend wolves cried about up to this point is devastating in a very real way the stability and happiness of so many middle- and low-income people.

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