By some measures, our economy has never been better. The stock market is at an all time high and jobless claims are at about a 49-year low. End of story, right? Well… not really.

We still have millions of citizens living in poverty. More than 20 million children are unable to get adequate food. The PBS documentary “Poor Kids” looks at the impact of poverty and food scarcity on children in American. According to the Good Country Index, we rank 25th in the world ranked on various measures of success.

How can the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country have millions of people living in poverty?

Imagine a village with a water well that produces barely enough water for everyone. A few enterprising people decide to make the well work better. They hire local workers and build a powerful pumping system. Now the well is producing more than ever before.

Yet, not everyone in the village has access to the water. Powerful people in the village get greedy and hoard the water. The cost of water rises. The workers who helped build the well pump barely get enough water for their families. Soon there is water scarcity in the village.

The few powerful and wealthy citizens proudly state that they are generously giving 5% of their profits ‘back to the community’ but it really isn’t enough for people to survive.

So, despite having a thriving ‘economy’ measured by water from the well, it’s not a just and equitable economy. It’s not a compassionate economy. It’s not an equal participatory economy. It’s an economy that allows some people to get extremely wealthy while others suffer.

There have been many efforts to infuse ethics, compassion, and justice into our present-day economy. For more about those efforts search on terms like ethical capitalism, triple bottom line, and the good company index. Until improvements are made, we’ll continue to have problems with poverty in our society. If not corrected, we could end up being the wealthiest nation in the world and still rank poorly by many measures of success.

Travel back in time to any place on earth and you’ll find disparities of wealth and nations waging war regardless of ideology, politics, religion, or economic system. There are debates about which economic or political system would produce the best results, but ultimately the greatest problem is that regardless of the society there are always a small number of people who will try to hoard wealth, gain power, and exploit others. What we most need to promote are the ideals and values that promote generosity, compassion, and abundance for all.

Watch the Poor Kids documentary for a better understanding of the crisis we are currently facing: pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/poor-kids/