Measurement is tricky–I’ve heard it said that what matters can’t be measured, and what can be measured doesn’t matter. Still, lots of people spend lots of time trying to assess how we’re doing. They often focus on a handful of indicators; what do the jobs numbers look like? How’s consumer spending? Is business investment turning around? Experts imply that we should be concerned about whether the economy is growing. We tend to be interested in whether our communities are prospering.
Whether we come up with a meaningful answer to questions like these depends in large measure (see what I did there?) on what indicators we pay attention to. We get valuable counsel on this point from Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States. In his second inaugural address, he framed the issue this way:
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, but it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
Key indicators of growth in the stock market are doing well, and have been for some time. But perhaps there are some other indicators we ought to be looking at, and other priorities we ought to be considering. I have seen an estimate that for the average middle class taxpayer the latest tax legislation will pay for a laptop. For those making more than a million, it will pay for a luxury SUV, every year.
I know the argument that people who make more money pay more taxes, and should receive more tax relief from reform. That’s fine in the abstract, even if it doesn’t turn out to represent how things always work. But as “we add to the abundance of those who have much,” FDR invites us to consider those who have too little. What are your thoughts about how we do that?