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Opinion
Joe Nocera

Americans Forgot the Economy's Purpose — Until Coronavirus

It’s to enrich the lives of ordinary citizens, not stockholders and corporations. The White House should take note.

Katie Porter gets it. Trump doesn’t.

Katie Porter gets it. Trump doesn’t.

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg

This is one of those moments when it’s worth asking: What is an economy for? 

It doesn’t exist for the benefit of stock market participants, nor does it exist to fatten the coffers of corporations. Since at least the 1980s, the U.S. has equated economic health with a rising market and ever-increasing corporate profits. They are necessary ingredients for a healthy economy, but they are ultimately just a means to an end. The end is the welfare of the citizens. Economies exist to allow workers and their families to become more prosperous. That’s what too many Americans had forgotten. Until now.