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. [Economist/YouGov 2/26/19]

In February, 29% of us were satisfied with the way things were going in the United States while 69% were dissatisfied. [Gallup 2/10/19]

35% of Americans describe themselves as conservative, 35% as moderate and 26% as liberal. The spread between conservatives and liberals has narrowed by 10% points since the baseline measurements were taken in 1992. Since then the percentage of conservatives has remained stable while those describing themselves as liberal has grown. [Gallup – FiveThirtyEight 1/9/19]

A record 7 million Americans are 90 days or more behind on their auto loan payments. [Federal Reserve Bank of New York, WP 2/13/19]

Employers posted 7,300,000 open jobs in December 2018. In the same month the number of unemployed Americans was 6,300,000. [CNBC]

If faced with unexpected expenses of $400, 4 in 10 adults said they wouldn’t have the money to cover it, according to a report by the Federal reserve last year. [WP 2/23/19]

$160 billion worth of produce in the U.S. gets tossed every year – largely because of how it looks. [Morning Consult]

Worldwide, 1.4 billion tons of food – a third of global production – ends up in landfills every year. This is estimated to add up to $1 trillion in annual squander. An industry is emerging to deal productively with this waste. [WP 2/24/19]

Only 1 in 6 of the 1.87 million civilian full-time federal employees live in the Washington D.C. area. [WP 2/17/19]

Americans spent $3.65 trillion on health care in 2018. Health care spending grew by 4.4% between 2017 and 2018. $3.65 trillion amounts to $11,121 per person. [Axios Vitals 2/21/19]

53% think there will not be an economic recession in the next 12 months. 33% think there will be a recession. [NBC/WSJ 2/27/19]

As part of a funding deal back in 2015, Congress allocated $750,000 to develop a nonpartisan report on halving child poverty in the U.S.; that report has finally arrived. The report estimated that child poverty costs $800 billion to $1.1 trillion every year due to increased crime, worsened health and lower earnings. It made four possible policy recommendations, the most ambitious of which would cost $111.6 billion per year and would lift 4.8 million kids out of poverty, cutting the child poverty rate by 12.6 percent to 6.1 percent. Also, fewer kids would go to sleep hungry in the richest country on earth, which would be nice. [Dylan Matthews, Vox 3/1/19]

47% of Americans would “prefer the U.S. be a nation primarily made up of people from all over the world” while 9% would “prefer the U.S. be a nation primarily made up of people from Western European heritage.” 77% of Democrats say that the country’s diverse population makes it stronger, this is also the view of 55% of independents and 51% of Republicans. [PRRI survey]

Ronald Reagan said at one point, “America represents something universal in the human spirit. I received a letter not long ago from a man who said, ‘You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk.’ Then he added that, ‘Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.’” [WP 2/21/19]

In 2018, 22 U.S. states were Democratic in party orientation, based on party preferences or leanings of the folks who live there. 18 states were Republican in orientation and 10 states were competitive.

In 2008, 35 states were Democratic in orientation while 5 states were Republican in orientation.

In 2012, 19 states were Democratic in orientation while 12 states were Republican in orientation.

In 2016, 14 states were Democratic in orientation while 21 states were Republican in orientation. [Gallup 2/22/19]

When it comes to our two-party system, only 11% of Americans believe that the two-party system works fairly well.

38% think the system is seriously broken and the country needs a third party. That is the highest number holding that view going back to at least 1995.

47% think the two-party system has real problems but with improvements can still work well. [NBC/WSJ 2/27/19]


The February BLS data is not available until March 8th, the date that this issue comes out. The numbers below are for January.

The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January 2019 is 4.0%.

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 is 8.1%.

This and That

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday, January 24, 2019 said he doesn’t understand why federal workers are visiting food banks during the partial government shutdown, saying they should instead seek low-interest loans from banks and credit unions to supplement their lost wages.

“I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why,” Ross said on CNBC when asked about federal workers going to food banks. Ross is a billionaire and a longtime friend of President Trump.

His comment drew immediate criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Is this the ‘let them eat cake’ kind of attitude?” she said. “Or call your father for money?”

In his television interview, Ross repeatedly stressed that federal workers should simply take out loans to cover their expenses while the government was shut down. He acknowledged they would have to likely pay some interest, but he said it should help them cover costs. [CNBC 1/24/19]

“Nearly 2 percent of high school students in the United States identify as transgender. 27% of them feel unsafe at school or traveling to or from campus; 35% are bullied at school; 35% attempt suicide.” [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (WP 1/26/19)]

About Facebook (As of January 30, 2019)

  • 2.32 billion monthly active users (9% increase in the last year)
  • 1.15 billion mobile active users
  • 1.52 billion people on average log into Facebook daily
  • 307 million people are on Facebook in Europe
  • 50% of 18-24-year-olds go on Facebook when they wake up
  • 29.7% of users are age 25-34 years of age
  • 76% of females and 66% of males are Facebook users
  • The average time spent on each Facebook visit is 20 minutes
  • Every 60 seconds on Facebook, 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated and 136,000 photos are uploaded.
  • Facebook estimates that 2.7 million people use Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger each month and more than 2 billion people use at least one of the Facebook family of services every day on average.

[Zephoria Digital Marketing 2/20/19]

A few years ago, it looked like traditional methods of paying for things like credit cards or even cash were on their way out to be replaced by things like smart phones.

Lo and behold something happened on the way to the “cash” register. The use of debit and credit cards grew and continues to grow. The chart below represents the share of consumer payments by dollars spent.

  2012 2017
Cards 53% 62.3%
Cash 19% 15.5%
Electronic 13.3% 14.2%
Checks 13.6% 7.5%
Other 1.1% .5%
[WSJ 1/13/2019]

In 2011, 35% of adults in the United States had a smartphone. In 2018 that number grew to 77%. [PEW/WSJ 1/13/19]

From 1979 to 1989 the Antarctic lost 40 billion metric tons of melting ice every year.

From 1989 to 1999 it lost 50 billion metric tons per year.

From 1999 to 2009 – 166 billion metric tons of were lost per year.

Since 2009, 252 billion metric tons of Antarctic ice becomes ocean every year.

Every 360 billion tons equals a millimeter of sea level rise – global sea levels have risen about 7-8 inches since 1900. The whole of Antarctica contains 187 feet of potential sea level rise. [WP]

In 2002, 182 new TV shows premiered. Last year 495 new shows premiered.

71% of U.S. Households subscribe to more than one streaming service. [WSJ 2/23/19]

The New York City subway system has become notorious in recent years for its delays. Last year, 268 trains were delayed by 29 incidents involving animals. These incidents involved dogs, a goose, two goats and a kitten. [The Brooklyn Daily Eagle]

In 2008 there were 852 surface coal mines and 583 underground mines for a total of 1,435 mines. Today there are only 671 coal mines total – 434 surface mines and 237 underground mines. [Numlock News 2/20/19]

There are 2,208 billionaires in the world. Cumulatively they control $9.1 trillion. [Axios Visuals 1/28/19]

2018 was the fourth hottest on record according to NASA and NOAA. The rest of the “top four” happened in the last five years. [Vox/ FiveThirtyEight 2/7/19

China has closed the Mount Everest base camp to tourists. During the last climbing season, the Tibet Autonomous Region Sports Bureau said it collected 8.4 metric tons of waste, including garbage and human waste. [ABC News]

The national debt of the United States is now over $22,000,000,000,000. At the end of 2000 it was $5.6 trillion. By 2008 it was just over $10 trillion.

The current national debt stands at 78% of GDP. The CBO says it will rise to 93% by 2029. By that year the debt is estimated to reach $28.7 trillion. [Chris Cillizza and NPR 2/13/19]

55% of Americans think that government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people. 41% believe that government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. [NBC/WSJ 2/27/19]

66% believe that the full Mueller report should be released to the public while 21% believe the only thing that should be released is a summary prepared by the Attorney General. [NBC/WSJ 2/27/19]

Every year a bunch of saps get conned into schlepping to Times Square so they can serve as a living background for Anderson Cooper and his friends. But the reality is that the numbers that have been touted lately are essentially bunk: No, 1 to 2 million people are not in Times’ Square on New Year’s Eve. There are likely fewer than 100,000. Crowd size estimates can be boosted for political or funding reasons and that compounds over time. Times Square can only hold 51,000 people if you pack ‘em in at three per square meter, and could only reach 120,000 if you really crammed them in 7-train style into 7 people per square meter. [Michael R. Sisak, Associated Press]