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We Must Change the Way We Measure Economic Health

Our primary focus should be on improving the lives of our most marginalized—and without an arbitrary price tag.

The clock has started on Biden’s promise to Build Back Better, as Americans anxiously wait to see what will be passed in his American Rescue Plan. Will the bill center the needs of everyday people and dedicate resources accordingly, or will deficit hawks and lackeys of the rich continue to play an outsize role in guiding our economy?

Too often our conversations about the economy rely on the latest GDP figures or the stock market, measures that feel out of touch to most people. Such headline measures sanitize and dehumanize an issue that has a profound human impact.

Too many people are facing impossible circumstances because policy-makers have consistently done too little. A few weeks ago, a DoorDash driver’s van was stolen—with his children inside—as a result of his having to take his kids to work, and a young woman felt compelled to give up her college savings to prevent her mother, who had lost her job, from being evicted. And this past week, Texans were without power and dying during a snowstorm. 

This is why talk about “overheating” the economy—as Larry Summers recently did in a Washington Post op-ed—is problematic. It detaches people from policy and commodifies the value and welfare of human life. It suggests that failing to invest in the policies and programs critical to human well-being is optional, and ignores the fact that decades of failing to invest in equitable care and energy infrastructures, robust public health programs, quality jobs, and adequate unemployment policies—just the tip of the iceberg—is a key reason we are in this mess.

Read the full article in The Nation »