50% OF WHAT?
Today’s Wall Street Journal front page headline, scanned this morning over coffee by the Journal’s 1.7 million subscribers, is "Stocks Drop to 50% of Peak." I’d say we’re better off with 50% of the nonsense we had when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was the default indicator of the country’s economic health.
It’s not just the numbing predictability of the news every day — again with the Nikkei average, again with the S&P 500, and now every morning we’re supposed to care about the stock futures too.
That’s force of habit (and a lack of imagination) from the nation’s news outlets. The real problem is that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is only one measure of prosperity in this country, and certainly not the most reliable. Let’s look back a year or so and see if the Dow’s "peak" was a reliable indicator of anything except the coming crash.
Instead, how about we create some new indices? Let’s measure and highlight jobs created and preserved, look at cities and towns that survive and thrive in the new economy, at whether more people are getting health insurance, at increasing rates of high school graduation, at trends keeping more jobs in the U.S., at successful new energy projects, at stay-at home elders with medical problems getting professional care. Let’s index some real measures of what we will achieve. -NH