Growth with a Purpose:

Why Policymakers Should Grow the Family, Not Just GDP Way back in 1995, more than a dozen years before the traumatic financial upheavals of 2008, The Atlantic had the audacity to puncture the perception of good times during the Clinton presidency, a perception fueled by endless news reports of a bullish stock market, rising industrial output, and low unemployment. Despite the optimism among experts that interpreted economic indicators as proof that America was at the top of her game, the magazine editors sounded a sobering note with their October cover story, “If the GDP Is Up, Why Is America Down?” Many Americans, according to the respected magazine, were not flourishing during the so-called boom years of the 1990s. The Baby Boomers, in particular, were more discontent than ever. They were working longer hours; their families were falling apart. Like many Americans today, the public was not optimistic about the future.[1] The article offered the counter-unintuitive warning that existing economic measuring sticks represented a mixed bag and should not be taken at face value. The essay did not claim that signs of economic distress should be ignored. (Many families that have suffered job losses or home foreclosures, for example, do reflect what the depressed numbers of today indicate). But the essay did suggest that rising economic indicators, which have been idolized as the gods of political success for decades, often misrepresent reality. Even in 2011, the rebounding stock market and improving GDP numbers surely mask the sober reality of a 9 percent unemployment rate and continued trouble on the housing front. The essay was particularly critical of the nation’s obsession with the GDP, warning that a quantitative measure of the total dollar value of goods and services produced within the nation’s borders within a given year says very little—and should not be equated with national well-being. It doesn’t appear that many policymakers or politicians
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