If I open my phone and swipe left, top of the screen are indicators for the DOW, NASDAQ, and S&P 500. Numbers measuring the value of these funds also top the page of the newspaper, get mention on NPR, and scroll across the bottom of CNN.
Last week, the DOW topped 30,000. It’s never been valued so highly.
Now, ask yourself: is the value of the DOW a true measure of how we are doing as a society?
Also ask yourself: can you quickly find on your device or in the newspaper daily measuring statistics that would actually indicate overall societal health, like downward trends in homelessness and hunger?
For example, in 2019 567,715 people were homeless. Compared to the previous year, homelessness increased by 3 percent in the 2019 Point-in-Time Count. This marked the third straight year of national-level increases.
At the same time, record numbers of Americans are food insecure. Nearly 1 in 4 households have experienced food insecurity THIS YEAR.
“Even before the pandemic hit, some 13.7 million households, or 10.5% of all U.S. households, experienced food insecurity at some point during 2019, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That works out to more than 35 million Americans who were either unable to acquire enough food to meet their needs, or uncertain of where their next meal might come from, last year.”
When we highlight the DOW as a measure of well-being, we are essentially saying the well-being of the rich is what matters most.
Only about 55% of Americans own stock. “In 2020, the percentages owning stock range from highs of 85% of adults with postgraduate education and 84% of those in households earning $100,000 or more to lows of 22% of those in households earning less than $40,000 and 28% of Hispanics.”
The prophet Amos had something to say about the injustice of focusing more on the well-being of the wealthy compared to the poor.