You can’t vote happiness into office - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

You can’t vote happiness into office

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Mark J. Scarp is a contributing columnist for the Tribune. Reach him at mscarp1@cox.net.

Posted: Saturday, August 25, 2012 12:45 pm

Hardly anyone in the past four years failed to ask when good times will return. One difficulty with finding an answer is that definitions vary. Is it when gas goes below $3 a gallon? $2.50?

Or when the unemployment rate drops below 6 percent? 5 percent?

How about when all paychecks total what they were in 2006? 2005? Or when your company restores its 401(k) funding match?

Or when something you haven’t been able to afford is now something you can?

Because everyone has his own definition – similar to others’ but not exact – one thing I don't envy those running for office is that they have to appeal to voters broadly enough for most of us to nod in agreement.

I also don’t envy how those broad statements, based on broad policy ideas, are ill-equipped to create enough economic movement to please us all.

On Tuesday we in the East Valley join fellow Arizonans in voting in the state primary election, when bombarding us via the media have been a slew of 5-second solutions to what are portrayed as near-cataclysmic problems.

Meanwhile, this past week we received some news that would disappoint those candidates as they give some, perhaps most, but certainly not all, Arizonans, reason to believe that good times are closer.

First, Arizona is fourth among states and Phoenix fourth among major cities in job growth from July 2011 to July of this year, according to an Arizona State University report as reported by The Associated Press in the Tribune.

Professor Lee McPheters, the author of the report, told the AP that he expects Arizona to be in the top 10 states for job growth in 2012, a significant upgrade from Arizona’s ranking of 49th in 2010.

Second, as Capitol Media Services reported in the Tribune, after Arizona home prices dropped 15 percent from 2010 to 2011, they rose 12.9 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to figures announced by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Yes, Arizona lost more jobs than most states and had its home prices fall farther in this recession than most states. However, with these figures in two of the most important indicators there are – jobs and housing -- you define the recovery, one way that’s very difficult to defend is that it’s nonexistent.

This is not to try to convince everyone that things are fabulous. In fact, even during the time most of us think was the fabulous period there was still plenty of grousing, so feel free.

Things are never perfect. If they were, we’d still suspect that they were not, because we’re schooled in the idea that if things look too good to be true, that’s because they probably are. Fair enough.

In June, HealthDay News reported on a study posted online in Psychological Science saying that happiness is “more about respect and influence than status or wealth.” One reason: Once they get it, people get accustomed to having more money, but never stop enjoying the admiration of other people, HealthDay news said.

Still, there is something to be said for money, so long as it affects long-term satisfaction with life rather than short-term emotional well-being, according to another study.

In September 2010, Time magazine reported on research conducted at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School that found that after achieving an annual income level of $75,000, people don’t admit to any greater degree of happiness.

Time went on to say that raising everyone’s pay to $75,000 won’t suddenly put smiles on millions of our faces, rather that the figure represented satisfaction with life in the long run.

Yes, many if not most of us don’t make $75,000 a year. But it’s a number that’s far lower than many of us would cite if asked, off the top of our heads, what annual income would make us happy for most intents and purposes.

Abraham Lincoln observed that “most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Life should be longer than it is; for one thing, then we could be choosy enough to save our happiness for when conditions are exactly the way we would wish them to be. Truly then, happy days would be here again.

But we don’t have that luxury. Each of our lives is one less day as long as it was yesterday.

So, when are the good times going to come back? The people on Tuesday’s ballot really don’t have the answer. In how you deal with the money you have and the attitude you develop, you do.

 

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