State of the Nation

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

Note: I was recently asked when I started writing the Washington Watch. It was in 1987 as the Kirkpatrick and Lockhart Washington Watch. I was a partner in that law firm at the time. The only copy which I have on hand is issue #4 from July 1987.

63% of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, including 62% of men and 64% of women. 37% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction. This includes 38% of men and 36% of women. [Morning Consult/Politico 8/7/19]

In July, 36% of us were satisfied with the way things were going in the United States while 62% were dissatisfied. [Gallup 7/12/19]

The U.S. government expects to borrow more than $1 trillion in 2019. [WSJ 7/30/19]

As of June 2019, the government’s total debt was $22.023 trillion. This is greater than the gross domestic product.

26.5% of the debt is owed to another arm of the federal government, Social Security. Another 13.3% comes from retirement and disability funds. The Federal Reserve is another big holder of treasuries, 9.5% of the total debt.

Net interest payments on the debt are estimated to be $393.5 billion in this fiscal year or 8.7% of all federal outlays.

Contrary to popular belief, mainland China holds only 5% of the total debt, $1.18 trillion as of May. Hong Kong owns another $0.20 trillion while Japan holds roughly $1.03 trillion. [PEW 7/24/19]

Is the U.S. on its way to joining the move to negative interest rates? Globally, more than $15 trillion in government debt has a negative yield, meaning those bond holders pay to store their money. Examples of where this is at work now include Denmark, Germany, Japan and Sweden. [Bloomberg 8/8/19 -WSJ 8/12/19]

July 2019 is the earth’s hottest month ever recorded. The previous record was July 2016. Also in July, Greenland’s ice sheet poured 197 billion tons of water into the North Atlantic.

In 2018, 22 states were Democratic in party orientation, based on the party preferences or leanings of their residents. 18 states were Republican and 10 states were competitive. Things turned south for the Democrats in the first year of Obama’s presidency.

  2018 2010 2009 2008
Solid Democratic 14 13 23 29
Lean Democratic 8 9 10 6
Competitive 10 18 12 10
Lean Republican 5 5 1 4
Solid Republican 13 5 1 4

[Gallup – Based on annual state averages of party affiliation from Gallup tracking]

Wealth in America

In 2018:

  • American households held over $98 trillion of wealth. (Wealth is total assets minus total liabilities.)
  • U.S. households held over $113 trillion in assets.
  • American households hold over $15 trillion in debt (2/3 of that debt is in homes).

In 2016:

  • The top 20% held 77% of household wealth.
  • The top 1% owned 29% – $25 trillion – in household wealth.
  • The middle class owned just $18 trillion (middle class is defined as the middle 60% of the usual income distribution).

A recent Federal Reserve Board survey found that:

  • 61% of Americans said they would cover a $400 expense with cash or equivalent.
  • 27% said they would cover the expense through a credit card, paying it off overtime, etc.
  • 12% said they would not be able to cover the expense right now.

[Brookings 6/25/19]

In 2004, less than one-third of the deceased in the United States were cremated. In 2016, half of those who died here were cremated. It is projected that by 2028, 65% will be choosing cremation. [Axios 8/8/17]

73% of U.S. adults under 30 believe people “just look out for themselves” most of the time. 71% of those under 30 believe that most people “would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance” and 60% say that most people “can’t be trusted.”

Percentage of U.S. adults of each age group who say…

  65+ 50-64 30-49 18-29
Most of the time, people just look out for themselves 48% 58% 67% 73%
Most people would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance 39% 56% 62% 71%
Most people can’t be trusted 29% 43% 52% 60%
[PEW Fact Tank 8/6/19]


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July 2019 is 3.7%, down from 3.9% a year 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 is 7.0%, as opposed to 7.5% a year ago.

164,000 jobs were created in July, down from 224,000 in June. The average monthly growth so far is about 165,000 jobs. [BLS 8/2/19]

The Demographics of Unemployment for June 2019

Unemployment by Gender (20 years and older)
Women – 3.8% (decreased since last month)
Men – 4.0% (increase since last month)

Unemployment by Race
White – 3.3% (no change since last month)
Black – 6.0% (decreased since last month)
Hispanic – 4.5% (increased since last month)
Asian – 2.8% (increased since last month)

Unemployment by Education (25 years & over)
Less than high school – 5.1% (decreased since last month)
High School – 3.6% (decreased since last month)
Some college – 3.2% (increased since last month)
Bachelor’s Degree or higher – 2.2% (increased since last month)

In June 2019, 32 states had unemployment rates below the national rate; one state had an unemployment rate that was exactly at the national rate of 3.7%; 19 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico had unemployment rates that were above the national rate.

Alaska, at 6.4%, had the highest unemployment rate in the country. Mississippi and D.C. had unemployment rates of 5.0% or more but less than 6.0%. 14 states had unemployment rates that were 4.0% or greater but less than 5.0%. [Bureau of Labor Statistics]

Another way of looking at the unemployment rate is the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) and it is also made available monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the unemployment rate tabulates the number of men and women who are actively job-hunting, it omits those who have stopped actively looking for a job. However, this latter group is included in the LFPR. In other words, the LFPR refers to the number of people available for work as a percentage of the total population.

The LFPR in the United States averaged 62.99% from 1950 to 2019 reaching an all-time high of 67.3% in January 2000. The record low was 58.1% in December 1954.

In July 2019, the LFPR is 63.0%. Going forward, the labor force participation rate will be noted in the first paragraph of this section along with the unemployment rate.

Americans are not particularly trusting in various public and private entities’ ability to protect their personal information.

  Amazon Google Facebook Federal Govern-ment
Trust a lot 7% 6% 3% 7%
Trust quite a bit 15% 13% 3% 12%
Not sure 5% 1% 2% 0
Some 45% 43% 32% 46%
Not at all 28% 37% 60% 35%
[NBC/WSJ 3/27/19]