Keeping your Misery Index in check is not so easy

Posted: Friday, July 10, 2009

The nation has a Misery Index. It can be found at It's been around since the early 1970s when Arthur Okun, an economist and adviser to President Johnson, thought it up.

It's a number arrived at through a simple calculation: merely add the unemployment rate to the rate of inflation. The higher the number, reasoning goes, the more people are miserable.

Numbers from one chart take us all the way back to the Truman years. Who was president when we felt the least misery? The lowest number and so the least misery was at the start of the Eisenhower administration. The number was 3.28. The worst was during - are you ready? - Carter's term. The number hit 19.72, almost 20. It had been 13.67 when he was running against Ford in 1976. The highest increase during a president's term was with Nixon and the greatest decrease happened during Truman's years in office. The current number, given in May, 2009, with Obama president, is 8.12.

Now we can compare misery through the ages with scientific precision! Today the nation is half as miserable as at the end of Carter's term and more than twice as miserable as at the end of Truman's.

This makes me think.

How's your personal Misery Index?

Compared to a year ago, is it twice as high or only half what it was? What two changes have happened to most increase or decrease your misery? Those two factors will reveal the two things you have been leaning on most to add together to determine your happiness.

For, of course, a flaw in simply looking at the nation's Misery Index alone is that misery or the lack thereof depend on more than jobs and the cost of living, which are factors relating to how much stuff we can have.

Jesus warns us "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15.

Jesus could not be more correct. Life and the lack of misery depend on many factors. Relationships, hope, purpose, peace and more than we can name here all enter into a life that is full and truly abundant. In this uncertain economic time, we would do well to treasure the things that, while intangible, are the keys to a low misery index. My desire is that above all you would discover a relationship with Jesus and be able to say with Paul, one of his followers: "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do everything through him [Jesus] who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13.

Rick Cupp is the minister at Kenai Fellowship. Sunday Bible classes are at 10 a.m. coffee, 10:45 a.m. worship; and Wednesday worship and Bible classes for all ages at 7 p.m.

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