How do the statistics about the economy play out in people's lives?
Are media asking necessary questions or just repeating glowing government statistics? Are we being lulled into ever new conflicts and despair that will keep up divisions for media to cover? There certainly is a lot of weather disaster news to cover every day.
Is the economy doing great for everyone?
Is the unemployment rate really low, or hidden by low-paid, part-time for under-employed people, not eligible to receive unemployment? The labor force participation rate is falling. How many are discouraged workers, believing there are no jobs available for them?
Why are so many people working two or three "jobs" and not making it? How many work with no benefits, no retirement, no health care coverage—with no future?
Why are there still so many people living on the streets, displaced from homes, even when we are building new housing units for them?
Where are the jobs that have been added? Are they in teaching K-12 or at universities among the uncertain adjunct class? Are they in health care? In care giving? In nonprofits? In industry? What industry? In tech? In the Inland Northwest? How many local retail jobs have been lost to online shopping?
Are the stocks going up or going down? It depends on the time and day. Who benefits and who can take advantage of those fluctuation to win the investment game?
Who is paying for the tariffs to make China comply with trade policies? American consumers? American industry? American farmers? How long will it take for the tariffs to hit our pocketbooks?
Who paid less in taxes this year? Who paid more? How do tax policies affect charitable giving? Who is audited most?
What will the proposal to lower the "poverty level" mean for people? How many will lose benefits that keep them housed and fed? Will poverty statistics look better? How will that benefit the economy?
If block grants go, what happens to programs that house people, feed them and guide them into stable futures?
Perhaps in some families the next generation is doing better, but not everyone who accumulates debt to earn master's or doctoral degrees reaps benefits in better jobs. Some find that because higher degrees require higher pay, they are not hired.
By the most basic measure, 2017 was a good year for job creation with the U.S. economy, adding more than 2 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but it is in fact the lowest level of annual job creation since 2010. Hmmm...
The economy provides fodder for pastoral care, justice action and community conversations. May we keep alert and not be lulled by numbing statistics and daily crises.
Mary Stamp - editor
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2019