What’s a ‘good’ economy?

What defines a good economy?Is it enough for GDP to rise? Is it enough that the newest Forbes report indicates all the top 400 Americans are billionaires for the first time in history? Is it enough that all the magical numbers all the magical economists ever seem to look at are good?No. It’s not enough. Because there’s a difference between a “quantity economy” and a “quality economy.”One could simply sum up the need for a quality economy with the phrase, “the rich are getting richer; the poor are getting poorer”-but these words would prompt some readers to write letters saying, “Frost promotes class warfare.”So let’s not resort to that unpleasantness and simply look at some facts:1. The outstanding public debt as of Monday is $8,489,687,889,741.14. But honestly, that many numbers becomes meaningless. Can anyone really conceptualize $8 trillion? Instead, think of it this way: To pay off this debt, every citizen of the United States would have to pay more than $28,000 right now-not counting the fact that that debt increases by an average of $1.55 billion per day.2. There are more than half a million children in foster care across the country-and a shortage of foster parents to care for them. What does the state of foster care in America have to do with our economy? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.3. The average national price for a gallon of gas is $2.49. This is down almost 29 cents from last year. So do we trumpet the fact that gas is 29 cents cheaper than it was a year ago, or do we lament the fact that it’s still shockingly higher than the prices of the recent past?4. A survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found that almost half the adults in middle-income families have serious problems paying for health care. At the same time, 42 percent of all respondents reported being unsatisfied with the medical care they received.5. The cost of higher education continues to skyrocket-outstripping not only inflation, but also median family income, which means it is more difficult for average families to send their kids to college.So what defines a strong economy? Magical numbers, or the quality of life our citizens enjoy?The wall of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., says, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”As long as an enormous debt hangs over the heads of our citizens, as long as there are children not being cared for, as long as middle- and lower-class Americans can’t even afford to drive to work, as long as people can’t afford the sub-par medical care they receive and students can’t afford to advance themselves through higher education, it won’t matter what all the magical numbers say. Our economy won’t be good enough.And don’t counter this argument by saying, “We live in America, the greatest country in the world. If you hate it so much, go live somewhere else and see how good we have it” because, to that, I can only say, “Of course we have it better, rocket scientist. And we ought to be grateful for that fact-but better isn’t good enough.”We live in America-the greatest country in the world. And political correctness be damned, it should be obvious to a 4-year-old that our quality of life ought to be better than all the countries struggling against poverty, AIDS, political instability and a thousand other problems.If you believe in what this country stands for, if you believe in all its potential, then it shouldn’t be enough that we have “better.” We should have the best.And we aren’t getting it.