Opinion: Look at health of society for indications of success

As we get closer to the election, the talk is becoming more and more centered around the health of the economy. It seems, to many, that the strength of our economy is the only measure of our progress as a society.

Is it? I get that money is important, I like to be able to pay my bills. However, it seems that the arbitrary measures that we use to judge our economy have little to do with the impact on our daily lives. Let’s be honest. On Jan. 4, 2022, when the DOW reached its all-time high, did you find yourself breathing a sigh of relief because it meant more money in your pocket every month? Did you celebrate the fact that even though you still don’t make enough to rent a two-bedroom apartment, Idaho has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the county?

When you read the article that we are struggling to fill over 900 teaching positions in the state because qualified teachers could make more working anywhere else and, in many cases, pay a lower cost of living as well, did you take comfort in Idaho’s record budget “surplus”?

The fact is that in Idaho, regular folks face struggles every single day. Nearly one-half of the state lives at A.L.I.C.E. or below. A.L.I.C.E. stands for asset limited income constrained employed. In other words, these are people who work but still can’t always meet the most basic of needs. The reality is that if our focus continues to be on creating lots of jobs that don’t pay enough to live, driving earnings and stock prices higher by exploiting workers, and short-changing infrastructure and education to drive budget “surpluses,” we will continue to fall further behind. It does not matter how “healthy” our economy is if our citizens do not have the opportunity to meet basic needs.

We need to acknowledge that the surpluses our “leaders” keep crowing about are actually the result of a failure to invest in our communities and our people — and our future.

It is important to measure where we are, but we need to start looking at the health of our society as a more accurate indication of successful outcomes. The economy is just one part of a healthy society. We should also be looking at the strength of our education institutions, our health care system and the ability of families to meet basic needs — especially in households where adults work 40 or more hours per week. It’s long past time to start looking at the health of our society as a whole, rather than focusing on how much more money the top 1% was able to squeeze out of our economy.

Perhaps when we start focusing on the health of our society, we can start tackling the underlying issues of the real challenges we face.

David Roth is a member of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee and Idaho’s Democratic nominee to the United States Senate.