State of the Nation

*Any statements in this issue of the Watch which are not sourced are mine and identified by “WW”.

34.5% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction while 57.7% say it is on the wrong track. [Real Clear Politics, 3/2-3/27/18]

47% of Americans are nervous about the nation’s economy. 40% are confident about the economy. [Fox News, 3/21/18]

28% of us are satisfied with way things are going in the United States. This is down from 36% in February. 52% of Republicans are satisfied with the way things are going, down from 67% in February. Not surprisingly, only 13% of Democrats are satisfied. Independents’ satisfaction level is at 25%, down 6 points since February. [Gallup, 3/15/18]


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March 2018 is 4.1%, this is identical to the October and November numbers and the lowest it has been since January 2001 when the rate was 3.9%.

If one takes into account the total number of unemployed + those marginally attached to the labor force + those working part-time who want full-time work, the unemployment rate for March 2018 is 8.0%. [BLS data is based on those 16 years of age and older.]

A Changing American Society

In recent NBC/WSJ surveys (August 2017 and March 2018) respondents were asked whether they are comfortable with changes in American society and with the country becoming more diverse and tolerant of different lifestyles, gender roles, languages, cultures and experiences.

The responses in the two surveys were almost identical. In August 2017 Americans said they were comfortable with the changes by 55% to 24% and in March they were comfortable by 54% to 25%.

In the March 2018 survey:

58% believe that the increasing attention to sexual harassment in the workplace is an appropriate response to what is going on in the workplace.

78% say it is a positive development that more women are working and having a career at the same time they are raising children.

52% say that men do not accept and treat women as equals.

62% of women said they are currently employed for pay.

49% of women who are employed for pay are the primary wage earner in their families. This has increased from 37% who played that role in 2000. 22% of others who are not the primary wage earner in their family are working to make it possible for their household to make ends meet.

33% of women who are married and 73% of single women are the primary wage earners of their families.

78% say it is a positive development that more women are working and have a career at the same time they are raising children. But 52% say men do not accept and treat women as equals while 42% say men do treat women as equals.

44% of women and 20% of men say they have experienced discrimination because of their gender.

49% of employed women have “received an unwelcome sexual advance or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature at work.

68% of women say that the increased attention to sexual harassment has not changed the behavior of men in their workplace.

This and That

For every 100,000 live births in the District of Columbia, 41 women die.
For every 100,000 live births in the United States as a whole, 21 women die. [WP, 3/15/18)

As of 2017 there were 27,339 Starbucks stores in the world of which 13,930 are in the United States.

False claims are far more likely to spread far and wide than true ones. Lies were 70% more likely to get shared on Twitter than the truth, while true stories took about 6 times as long to reach 1,500 people as fake ones. [NYT – 538 Newsletter, 3/12/18]

Over the last 50 years, how much progress do you think has been made in achieving equal treatment for African Americans? The following is the view of blacks and whites.

  Great deal of progress Some progress No progress
  Black White Black White Black White
Economic opportunities 9% 39% 39% 39% 51% 21%
Reducing Segregation in public life 24% 55% 34% 28% 39% 15%
Treatment by police 3% 30% 22% 31% 73% 39%
Voting rights 34% 64% 29% 25% 33% 9%
Criminal justice system 6% 28% 25% 31% 66% 40%
[AP-NORC poll, 2/19/18]

74% of us have a friend who is gay, bisexual or transgender. 68% of us use social media once a day or more often. 39% of us know somebody who was the victim of gun violence. 21% have used a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft in the last month.

On the question of abortion, 54% say it should be legal always or most of the time. 36% say it should be illegal with exceptions while 7% say there should be no exceptions.

58% believe that gun ownership does more to increase safety by allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. 38% say that gun ownership reduces safety.
[NBC/WSJ, 3/14/18]

“President Trump’s attacks on Chinese trade practices may be garnering the headlines, but underpinning that dispute lies a more consequential struggle, between liberal democracy and state-directed capitalism.

“Of late, it’s a competition in which the Chinese approach has been delivering the more robust economic result. Indeed, implicit in the ferocity of the Trump administration’s attacks on China’s protectionism is the success of that nation’s economy.

“Skeptics notwithstanding, China’s model, which has brought more people out of poverty faster than any other system in history, continues to flourish, as I’ve seen firsthand in a decade of regular visits. Meanwhile, liberal democracy – the foundation of the post-World War II order – is under pressure, most significantly for having failed in recent years to deliver broadly higher standards of living.

“Here’s one stark example: Last week, Congress finally managed to pass appropriations legislation for the current fiscal year – six months after the budget year began. The 2,232-page bill was cobbled together in a frenzy, without any discussion of national priorities or careful examination of the expenditures.

In contrast, China is driving hard toward its ‘Made in China 2025’ plan, an ambitious set of objectives to upgrade Chinese industry so that, among other things, it can manufacture its own high-value components, like semiconductors. And while we retreat internationally, China’s One Belt One Road Initiative will physically connect China to more than 65 percent of the world’s population.” [Steve Rattner, 3/27/18]

In an expected vote, China’s National People’s Congress voted 2958 to 2 to
remove a 35 year old part of the Chinese constitution that limited the president to two consecutive terms. [NYT – 538 Newsletter, 3/12/18]

In 2016 – 63,632 Americans died of drug overdoses. This was an increase of
21.5% over the 2015 total. [Time, 3/29/18]

The tax law passed by the Congress at the recommendation of the White House last fall will result in the greatest tax relief to those in the United States who are the wealthiest.

Annual earnings Tax break
Above $732,000 $32,650
Above $148,000 $5,790
$86,000-148,000 $1,480
$48,000-86,000 $780
$25,000-48,000 $320
Under $25,000 $40

If you factor in all of the law’s provisions including the corporate rate cut, the wealthiest Americans get a tax break of $51,140 while the poorest Americans receive a tax break of $60.

The wealthiest 1% will get a cut of 1.5% while the poorest get a tax cut of 0.3%

According to the Tax Policy Center, more than 60% of residents in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will see a tax cut.

Those who earn $200,000 or more are responsible for 59% of federal income taxes. [WP, 3/30/18]

90% of retail sales still happen in physical stores, but that figure is decreasing and the company that stands to gain the most is Amazon. $0.44 of every dollar spent online is spent on Amazon. [Bloomberg – 538 Newsletter 3/15/18]

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and one of the founders of Facebook, has agreed to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11, 2018.

The following are several options being considered for regulating Facebook and other consumer interfacing companies.

  • Data portability: Giving consumers the ability to yank their data from any company at any time. This option is getting some traction.
  • Transparency: Requiring companies to clearly disclose how they are collecting, using, and sharing consumers’ data.
  • Opting in: Facebook has said it will give users more control over how information is shared with third-party apps and will clarify privacy settings.

[Mike Allen, Axios, 4/3/18]

Did you know that Bloomberg produces an annual “Bloomberg Global Vice Index”? This is the calculation of what it costs to buy a basket of “vice” products. That basket includes a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of an alcoholic beverage, a gram of Amphetamine-type stimulants, a gram of cannabis, a gram of cocaine and a gram of opioids.

In the United States the basket costs $617.10. It is the cheapest in the Congo where the basket costs $18.30. The most expensive baskets are in Japan at $1,366.40; New Zealand at $1,241.60 and Australia at $1,028.70. [Bloomberg, 4/3/18]

In 2000, there were 1,643,679 illegal border crossings from Mexico. In 2017, the illegal crossings had dropped to 303,916 and the number of Mexicans involved in those illegal crossings had dropped to 192,969. 222,847 illegal crossings were by non-Mexicans. [Steven Rattner, 4/4/18]

More on guns

“I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. These stories don’t lead on the evening news,” [Naomi Wadler (age 11), March for Our Lives Rally].

67% of Americans support stricter gun sale laws. This is the highest number recorded by Gallup since 1994 when it was also 67%. 28% say they are sufficiently strict now.

Even among Republicans, support for stricter laws has grown from 33% in November 2017 to 41% today. [Gallup, 3/14/18]

(WW usually does not comment on people quoted in its pages. The following is an exception.)

WW cannot recall a dumber statement than that spoken by former U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum following the recent massive gun control protests.

On a recent airing of CNN’s State of the Union show, Santorum said, “How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations where there is a violent shooter?”

Santorum added that while he’s “proud” of the teenage activists who organized Saturday’s protests, their energy would be better spent tackling the problem at the individual level. [Time, 3/25/18]

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in NYT: “Repeal the Second Amendment

“In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

“That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option. That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform.”

According to the CDC, firearms are the leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. Firearms are the third leading cause of death of children ages 1-17 years. [NYT, 3/25/18]

About 11.9 million guns are manufactured in the United States every year, a quarter of which – over 3 million – are produced in Massachusetts. That state edges out New Hampshire, Arizona, New York and Florida as the largest firearms producer in the country. [Bloomberg/538 Newsletter, 3/12/18]

In a majority of states there is no minimum age requirement for owning a rifle. In most states a person can buy an AR-15 rifle at age 18. To buy alcohol in all states one has to be 21 years of age.

A friend pointed out to me that her 18 year old high school senior can buy a gun but can’t rent a car until she is 25 years of age.

In Texas, a gun permit is a valid voter ID but a student ID is not. [Ari Berman, 3/6/18]

44% of Americans think that passing stricter gun control laws would make the country safer while 12% think they would make it less safe. 42% think the laws would not make it safer or less safe. [Fox News, 3/21/18]

53% think it is more important to protect citizens from gun violence while 40% think it is more important to protect the right of citizens to own guns. [Fox,

In the most recent NBC/WSJ survey, the National Rifle Association is rated negatively by 40% to 37%.

The NBC/WSJ has asked the same question seven times since January 2011. In the 2011 survey the NRA was rated positively 41% to 29%. The last time this question was asked was in April 2017 when the NRA was rated positively 45% to 32%. [NBC/WSJ, 3/14/18]

In 2016, gun homicides made up 74.5 of all homicides. [538 newsletter, 4/4/18]

The Panel

Recently, a WW reader said he was interested in knowing whether Facebook ads made any difference in the 2016 election.

This question has driven the creation of a new feature for the Washington Watch of which this is the first iteration. Whether it will exist after this first attempt remains to be seen.

The panel I have put together does not in any way, shape or form claim to be a representative sample of anything but the views of the people who have responded.

To create the panel I sat and wrote down the names of people who came to mind as one whom, in one way or another, follows politics. I am the only one who knows the names of everyone on the list.

As you might expect the political persuasion of the majority of people on the list is Democratic. If this “idea” goes beyond this issue of the Watch I intend to add more Republicans to the panel.

There are 42 people on the list. 25 people responded to the first two questions.

Question 1. Did Facebook ads make any difference in the 2016 election?
Answers: Yes – 15, No – 9, Don’t know – 1

Question 2. Will the Democrats retake the U.S. House in 2018?
Answers: Yes – 21, No – 4

Let me know what you think of this panel idea.