State of the Nation

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

38% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction, 54% say it is on the wrong track. [Economist/YouGov, 10/9/18]

In September, 37% of us were satisfied with the way things were going in the United States. 37% is the average satisfaction level that Gallup has found since it began measuring the public satisfaction level in 1979. The low point in the
Gallup survey was 7% in October 2008 and the high point of 71% was reached in February 1999. Currently, satisfaction among Republicans is at 68% while satisfaction among Democrats has fallen to 12%. [Gallup, 9/2018]


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for September 2018 is 3.7%, a drop from 3.9% in August. This is the lowest unemployment rate since December 1969, 49 years ago.

If one considers 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 September 2018 is 7.5%.

The Demographics of Unemployment

As the overall unemployment situation has improved it has also improved for most of the population segments. One exception is that unemployment for Asians grew from 3% to 3.5% between August and September.

Unemployment by Gender (20 years and older)
Women – 2.8%
Men – 3.0%

Unemployment by Race (all races)
White – 3.3%
Black – 6.0%
Hispanic – 4.5%
Asian – 3.5% (increase)

Unemployment by Education (25 years & over)
Less than high school – 5.5% (increase)
High School – 3.7%
Some college – 3.2%
Bachelor’s Degree or higher – 2.0%

In August, 22 states were above the national average; 2 states had unemployment rates that were exactly at the national number of 3.7%; 26 states and D.C. had unemployment rates that were above the national average.

One state, Alaska at 6.7%, had the highest unemployment rate in the country. Louisiana, West Virginia and D.C. had unemployment rates of 5.0% or more but less than 6.0%. 17 states had unemployment rates that were 4.0% or greater but less than 5.0%.
[Bureau of Labor Statistics]

This and That

60% of Americans say they would definitely not vote for a political candidate who had been accused of sexual harassment by multiple people.

68% of women and 53% of men

81% of Democrats

  • 84% of women
  • 76% of men

34% of Republicans

  • 41% of women
  • 28% of men

32% would still consider voting for such a candidate

  • 38% of men
  • 26% of women

56% of Republicans

  • 48% of women
  • 61% of men

More than 175 million workers contribute to Social Security with every paycheck.

• About 43 million retirees collect monthly benefits.

• For three in five older Americans, those checks account for more than half their income.

• For one in three retirees who receive social security, it accounts for 90% of their income.

• Three in five rely on it for at least half of their income.

[WSJ, 9/29/18]

The following are things that some Americans are worried about being able to afford.

  Very/Somewhat Worried
Unexpected medical bills 69%
Health Insurance deductible 53%
Gasoline or Transport costs 46%
Prescription Drugs 45%
Monthly utilities 43%
Monthly Health Ins. Premium 42%
Rent or Mortgage 41%
Food 37%
  [Kaiser Family Foundation]

30% of Americans have at least somewhat positive attitudes toward the news media while 45% have at least somewhat negative attitudes toward the news media.

61% of us believe that immigration helps more than it hurts the US.

69% are very/somewhat satisfied with the state of the U.S. economy.

[NBC/WSJ, 9/19/18]

20 states have now struck down the death penalty. [AP]

If you are a ranch dressing aficionado you are enjoying what 40% of Americans do. Ranch is by far and away the most popular salad dressing. The runner up is Italian. [Significant Digits, 10/12/18]

2/3 of landlords in Philadelphia and 3/4 of those in Los Angeles are no longer accepting Section 8 vouchers because in the current economy they can get higher rents. [NYT]

The United Nations warned this week that we have 17 years to slow climate change. But for some it’s too late. In Florida they’re tallying the dead lost to Hurricane Michael which, like Florence, was turbocharged by warming oceans. Meanwhile, the White House filled a key EPA advisory board with critics of pollution regulation. —David E. Rovella

Ban Laptops from Meetings?

Is it okay to be on your computer or phone during work meetings? Politeness aside, research suggests that even the mere presence of a phone in the room compromises our brain power. That has made some companies enforce a no-device policy during meetings in order to boost efficiency and collaboration. [CNN]

A Morning Consult survey found that 58 percent of Americans are not interested in the political and social views of celebrities they like, while 9 percent are strongly interested in the opinions of entertainers. There are some circumstances where celebs motivate fans: 11 percent said they’ve made a donation or volunteered because a star encouraged them to. [Jeremy Barr, The Hollywood Reporter MacLellan, Quartz ]

Read the fine print

When you make contributions to various PACs do you read the fine print on the contribution page? Yours truly does not but will in the future. The following is an example of the reason why.

We first heard about Michael Avenatti as the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. Then we heard about “potential” candidate for president Michael Avenatti, then again as the lawyer for a woman connected to the Kavanaugh matter. He next launched his own political action committee called “Fight PAC” designed to support Democratic candidates for Congress.

As one of his early hustles Avenatti appeared to be raising money on behalf of Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic Senate candidate in Texas. What he did not reveal is that half of each contribution received went to his own “Fight PAC”. Happily, the Campaign Legal Center read the fine print and made a fuss.

Avenatti begrudgingly deleted the donation page while noting that there are other PACs that operate the same way. This turns out to be true. Some do it as surreptitiously as he did and other PACs make clear how donations will be used. [WW]