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How do we connect the economy to our everyday lives?

Recent headlines — of course filled with hyperbole — drive home a singular message: America’s economy is booming!

The stock market is setting records. The 3.7% unemployment rate hovers around all-time lows. More than 220,000 jobs were added in June. Our gross domestic product has grown for almost a decade, an unheard of 120 months.

All these measures get economists excited, but the bigger question is what does this actually mean for the average citizen? Many indicators point to a disturbing answer: absolutely nothing.

Before anyone cries politics, let me emphasize that this is a legitimate discussion that needs to be happening across our country.

Part of my role in the newspaper is to work with businesses on marketing and growth. Very few here in central Kentucky say everything is rainbows and butterflies. Many say they are downright struggling to compete, as behemoths like Amazon and Walmart devour the little guys.

Even your longtime big box stores like Sears and JC Penney are hanging on by a thread.

According to a recent Reuter’s report from earlier this month, the majority of Americans are struggling financially and would be unable to absorb even a $400 emergency expense.

“… There are also signs of struggle and stagnation at lower-income levels. The wealthiest fifth of Americans hold 88% of the country’s wealth, a share that has grown since before the crisis, Federal Reserve data through 2016 shows. Meanwhile, the number of people receiving federal food stamps tops 39 million, below the peak in 2013 but still up 40% from 2008 even though the country’s population has only grown about 8 percent.”

The number of billionaires in the United States has more than doubled in the last decade, from 267 in 2008 to 607 last year, according to UBS Global Wealth Management.

“The rich have gotten richer and they’ve gotten richer faster,” John Mathews, head of private wealth management and Ultra High Net Worth at UBS, said in Reuters. “The drive or the desire for consumption has just gone upscale.”

Although there is some fear that the growth will cool this year, it is certainly encouraging to see the United States rising to the top when it comes to the global economy. The critical step is to figure out how this translates to the average American in ways that will actually improve their lives.

It is fairly easy to create a checklist of issues people care about: affordable healthcare, lower prescription drug costs, higher wages, better jobs, lower taxes, access to higher education and strong infrastructure at the national, state and local levels.

These are things that can have massive impacts on our quality of life. They are not left issues. They are not right issues. It is not about red states or blue states any other color in the rainbow. Our country is built on the concept that anyone who is willing to work hard can achieve the American dream. That is still true today, but we have to make sure ingrained flaws in our society don’t become the stuff of nightmares.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Interior Journal. He can be reached at (859) 469-6452 or by email at mike.caldwell@theinteriorjournal.com.