State of the Nation

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

36 % of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction, 55% say it is on the wrong track. 63% are satisfied with the state of the U.S. economy while 37% are not satisfied. [NBC/WSJ, 6/4/18]

In early May, 37% of us were satisfied with the way things were going in the United States. This is up from 29% in April. In March, satisfaction among Republicans had fallen to 52%; in May it rebounded to 63%. A similar rebound occurred among Independents which had dropped to 25% in March; in May it was 35%. Among Democrats the March to May increase is 13% to 14%. [Gallup – March and May, 2018]


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May 2018 is 3.8%. This is the lowest it has been since April 2000.

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 May 2018 is 7.6%. This is the lowest it has been since May 2001.

The Demographics of Unemployment

Unemployment by Gender (The last time the numbers were this low was December 2000.):

  • Women – 3.3%
  • Men – 3.5%

Unemployment by Race:

  • White – 3.5%
  • Black – 5.9%
  • Hispanic – 4.9%
  • Asian – 2.1%

(Hispanic ticked up 0.1%)

Unemployment by Education (25 years & over):

  • Less than high school – 5.4%
  • High School – 3.9%
  • Some college – 3.2
  • Bachelor’s Degree or higher – 2.0%

(The last time the “Bachelor’s Degree or higher” number was this low was February 2008.)

Notwithstanding that recent “economic benchmarks look really good”, “an alarming number of Americans are still struggling to get by.”

  • 40% of American adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency.
  • 43% of households aren’t earning enough to cover the basic costs of living.
  • 25+% skipped medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it.
  • 22% of adults are able to pay their bills every month.
  • 38% of non-retired Americans think their retirement savings are on track.
  • 77% of whites, 66% of Hispanics and 65% of African Americans say they are doing okay.
  • 48 million households aren’t saving or are unable to save.
  • More and more people who have jobs still don’t have enough income for food and rent and are showing up at food pantries.
  • 3 in 10 adults say their work hours vary greatly from month to month.

[WP, 5/29/18]

“A study by the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that almost a quarter of work activity performed in the U.S. could be automated by robots and artificial intelligence by 2030. These changes present both challenges and opportunities. The changes in the job market will demand more skilled and more highly educated workers.

“This is one of many reasons why it is a shame that our leaders in Washington have not enacted a policy that would staple a Green Card to every graduate diploma handed out to a foreign student in the U.S. today. And why the U.S. should honor our tradition and welcome immigrants to our country.” –Former CEA Chair Alan Krueger at Hofstra.
[, 5/21]

U.S. job openings rose to 6.7 million at the end of April, compared with the 6.3 million Americans who were unemployed. That’s “the first time since such record-keeping began in 2000” that “the number of available positions exceeded the number of job seekers,” according to the Labor Department. [BLS]

This and That

55.7% of the U.S. voting age population and 86.8% of registered voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. This compares to the record year of 2008 when 58.3% of the U.S. voting age population and 89.8% of registered voters cast ballots. [PEW, 5/21/19]

In the past 15 months, the number of people in the U.S who say this country has a responsibility to accept refugees has dropped from 56% to 51%. Among the GOP it has dropped from 35% to 26% but among Democrats it has grown from 71% to 74%. [PEW, 5/24/18]

72% of Americans – including 63 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats – favor allowing illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college. [PRRI’s 2017 American Values Survey]

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that Hurricane Maria in September 2017 was the cause of 4,645 deaths in Puerto Rico. The official estimate was 64 deaths. [Axios, 5/29/18]

2.2 million couples got married in 2017 while 800,000 couples were divorced. [FiveThirtyEight significant digits, 5/24/18]

In 2017, 4.5% of all U.S. adults including 3.9% of men and 5.1% of women self-identify as LGBT. This reflects a steady increase of self-identifying adults over the last five years. In 2012, 3.5 % self-identified as gay.

In 2017, the self-identifiers include:

  • 4.0% whites (non-Hispanic)
  • 5.0% blacks (non-Hispanic)
  • 6.1% Hispanic
  • 4.9% Asian (non-Hispanic)

There is a steady increase of self-identifiers by age:

  • 1.4% of those born between 1913-1945 – traditionalists
  • 2.4% of those born between 1946-1964 – baby boomers
  • 3.5% of those between 1965-1979 – generation X
  • 8.2% of those born between 1980-1999 – the millennials.


22 of the 28 member states of the European Union permit same sex marriage. The European Union’s Court of Justice has ruled that E.U. members who do not allow same sex marriage must grant residency to the same sex partners of E.U. citizens. [Numlock, 6/8/18]

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a cake shop owner, who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple’s marriage celebration. The 7-2 decision “is in contrast to popular opinion.” 60 percent of Americans oppose allowing a small business owner in their state to refuse products or services to gay or lesbian people if providing them would violate their religious beliefs. Even among those who oppose same-sex marriage, nearly half (45 percent) are against allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay or lesbian people. [PRRI survey]

“…In traveling around the country-I figure I’ve spent the night in 17 states since January 1-there is a group of Americans who don’t seem to be particularly far on the left or right, but still feel alienated from the media and have, as a result, tuned out.

“It’s not that they are seeking validation of a point of view-they don’t seem to believe anyone, from any point on the ideological or partisan spectrum. For them, the line between reporting and opinion, between news and commentary is no longer visible, or recognizable.

“That seems to be true among a substantial segment of readers, viewers, and listeners, and frankly, among quite a few journalists as well. As a result, a large segment seems to have tuned out of news and current events, thus disengaged from the political process. What this means for elections in 2018 and 2020 is anyone’s guess.” [Charlie Cook, 5/18/18]

68% of Americans are “exhausted” by the amount of news there is today. This includes 77% of those who are Republicans or lean Republican and 61% of those who are Democrats or lean Democratic. [PEW, 6/2018]

About tweeting – Twitter, for better or for worse

[Full disclosure – I opened a Twitter account in April 2009. I follow 317 people and am followed by 456 people. I have sent out 225 tweets over these 9 years.]

There are 69,000,000 Twitter users in the United States and 336,000,000 in the world. The following are the percentage of U.S. Twitter users by age, as captured at the end of 2016.

  • 18-24 years old 17.7%
  • 25-34 years old 22.5%
  • 35-44 years old 19.5%
  • 45-54 years old 17.9%
  • 55-64 years old 16.5%
  • 65+ years old 5.9%

Some folks seem to live on Twitter and must spend all day at it. The other day I received a notice on my Twitter account that I had 74 notifications. When I logged on I found that all of those notifications were from two people. One had 34 notifications including 1 tweet, 14 retweets and 19 likes. The second person had 20 retweets and 20 likes. A couple of days later, the same two people had a similar number of tweets.

President Trump has 20,000,000 Twitter followers and has effectively used that platform to systematically disparage, denigrate or challenge any governmental body, public or private organization, person or norm that he chooses to undercut for his own purposes.

Recently, a single tweet by Roseanne Barr sank her career. The tweet was, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” She was referring to Valerie Jarrett who is black and was born in Iran. Within 24 hours ABC cancelled the sitcom in which she starred and which was about to start filming its second season.

Which comes closer to your point of view? “The news media is the enemy of the people” or “the news media is an important part of democracy”?

  Enemy of the people Important part of democracy
All 22% 66%
GOP 51% 37%
Independents 16% 70%
Democrats 3% 91%
[Quinnipiac, 4/24/18]

Are you on a diet or attempting to not gain weight? Here is one more weight control prescription: avoid restaurants that are particularly noisy.

“A new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science has found that if ambient music played in a restaurant is louder, the customers are more susceptible to choose unhealthy foods.” [WP, 5/30/18]

National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) & Alliance for Period Supplies

Jan, a friend in Kansas City, Missouri sent me the following note:
“My granddaughter collected 900 diapers and $110 for Happy Bottoms diaper warehouse, in lieu of birthday presents.”

When is a necessity not a necessity? When it’s a product used by half the population every month for 35 to 40 years, but never even once by the other half. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about menstrual supplies. Pads and tampons cost women up to $120 a year – and that’s not counting pain relievers like Midol or Advil. Over a lifetime, it can add up to as much as $4,500.

Menstrual supplies have been in the news thanks to attempts by activists in several states to repeal the so-called “tampon tax”, a sales tax levied on menstrual supplies in 36 states. The rationale for applying sales tax to menstrual products is that they are luxuries, not necessities, which any woman can tell you is ridiculous.

These are not products women can simply choose not to use, like perfume or cosmetics. It is indeed insulting that women, who already earn less than men, are taxed for an essential product that only women use. A tax, let us not forget, originally levied by male lawmakers, and sometimes preserved by them, too. Four states have dropped the tax in recent years, but when California legislators voted to do the same, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it. The state, with its proposed $190 billion budget, just couldn’t do without the $20 million women paid in each year. (He vetoed getting rid of the tax on diapers, too.) [The Nation, Katha Pollitt, 6/4-11/18]

About the Russia Investigation

On May 17, 2017 Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

[The information below is from the 6/4/18 NBC/WSJ poll unless otherwise noted.]

37% of Americans believe that the Trump campaign did collude with Russia during the 2016 campaign. A relatively equal number, 34%, say the campaign did not collude with the Russians. The remaining 28% say they don’t know enough to have an opinion.

30% are following the news coverage of Mueller’s investigation very closely. An additional 33% say they are following the investigation somewhat closely. The remaining 36% are not following it closely.

53% of Americans have a great deal or some confidence that Mueller will conduct a fair and impartial investigation. 40% have little or no confidence.

The following are the positive and negative feelings about Mueller as the investigation had gone on.

  Positive Negative
June 2018 30% 19%
April 2018 28% 19%
March 2018 28% 19%
December 2017 28% 21%
June 2017 24% 11%

46% of Americans think this investigation should continue while 36% say it is time to end the investigation.

The Russia probe is barely registering in the campaigns by Democrats seeking to wrest control of Congress in November – even as the year-long investigation has consumed Washington. Candidates barely mention it, TV ads don’t highlight it, and polls show Americans aren’t voting on it. [Bloomberg Politics, 5/29/18]

Which of these should Republicans in Congress do about the Russia investigation? Should they try to end the investigation, or let the investigation continue?

  Try to end it Let it continue
All 33% 64%
GOP 68% 29%
Independents 31% 65%
Democrats 9% 90%
[CBS, 5/6/18]

While the FBI has come under a fair amount of fire from the White House and related sources during the Russia investigation, the attitude of Americans toward the Bureau has remained quite consistent. About half of Americans are quite positive about the FBI, about 20% are negative and about a third are neutral.

  Positive Negative
June 2018 50% 18%
March 2018 48% 20%
January 2018 53% 19%
December 2017 47% 19%
June 2017 54% 14%
May 2017 52% 16%
April 2017 47% 18%
[NBC/WSJ poll 6/4/18]

The following is an excerpt from a Charlie Cook article called “America’s Seismic Political Shifts.” It is one of the best descriptions I have seen of political America. [WW]

“Across the country, we are seeing political division-some say the greatest since Reconstruction (even likening Trump to President Andrew Johnson). But these divisions aren’t just political; they are social, cultural, and economic as well. We are seeing seismic shifts, not just Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other, not just conservatives on one side and liberals on another, but on a geographic level: people who live near the coasts and in urban/suburban areas on one side, and those in the heartland and rural and small-town areas on another. We also see it on an economic level, with whites working in the knowledge economy tending to go one way, and many working-class whites going the opposite way. Then there are internationalists versus isolationists, and protectionists versus free-traders. We are seeing tectonic plates collide, with the disruptions that one might expect.”