Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

July 29, 2016 12:00 PM

State of the Nation

18% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction while 73% say it is on the wrong track. (NBC/WSJ 7/9-13/16) The ABC/WP and CBS/NYT surveys taken at roughly the same time are slightly more optimistic with right direction scores of 28% and 26% respectively.

Let’s take a look at the “official” unemployment numbers.

The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June 2016 is 4.9%, up from 4.7% last month.

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 current rate is 9.6%. [BLS data is based on those 16 years of age and older.]

The unemployment rate for adult women and men was 4.5%; 4.4% for whites, 8.6% for blacks, 3.5% for Asians, and 5.8% for Hispanics.

In the first week of July, Gallup found an unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.3%. It also found an under-employment rate of 13.3% (unemployed + those working part-time but wanting full-time). [This is based on those 18 years of age and older.]

11 million U.S renters spent at least half of their paycheck on rent in 2014. [CNN Money]

In 2014 there were 55.3 million Hispanics in the United States. This compares to 14.8 million Hispanics in 1980. The following represent the share of eligible voters who are Hispanic in key states. Florida – 20%, Nevada – 18%, Colorado – 15%, North Carolina – 5%, Pennsylvania – 5%, Virginia – 5%, Michigan – 3% and Ohio – 2%. [Pew Hispanic Center – WSJ 7/12]

56% of Americans believe that immigration helps the United States more than it hurts it. 35% have the opposite view. [NBC/WSJ 7/13]

People in the U.S. go to the emergency room more than you might think. 20% of people in the U.S. head to the ER at least once each year, according to new numbers out from the CDC. That translates to about 131 million ER visits a year, 11% of which result in a patient being admitted to the hospital. Visits in the five most populous states — New York, California, Florida, Texas, and Illinois – accounted for 36% of all ER visits nationwide. [STAT, 6/24/16]

74% of Americans think that race relations in the United States are either fairly or very bad. This is the highest number found in the eleven times this question has been asked since 1994. Among whites, 75% think race relations are very or fairly bad and among African Americans the fairly/very bad number is 76%. 70% of Hispanics share the fairly/very bad view. [NBC/WSJ 7/13]

64% of registered voters believe that a solution will eventually be worked out. 33% think race will always be a problem. African Americans are less optimistic with 50% believing it will always be a problem. [NBC/WSJ 7/13]

32% of Americans think that too little has been made of the problems facing racial minorities in this country. 30% say that too much has been made of these problems. The final third of people believe that the right amount of attention has been paid to these problems.[NYT/CBS 7/12]

The pessimism expressed in the two surveys noted above is reinforced by the finding in the WP/ABC survey (7/14) that 63% of respondents believe that race relations in this country are generally bad. 72% of African Americans share this view as do 63% of white Americans.

The following are excerpts from a Washington Post story published at the same time that the above survey was reported.
“While there is agreement that race relations are deteriorating, the common ground ends there, according to follow-up interviews with those who took part in the survey. There is no gathering consensus on how to solve the issue or who is to blame.”

“The feelings of unease about race are layered over a series of concerns, including a presidential campaign that has been viewed as racially divisive and alarm among traditional civil rights groups about the erosion of laws passed in the civil rights era to eliminate discrimination.”

34% of us say it is a lot more difficult to be black in this country than it is to be white. Another 36% say it is a little more difficult to be black in this country. A total of 85% of blacks (65%, a lot)(20%, a little) say it is more difficult to be black in this country. [Pew Research Center 7/5]

Black federal district judges “are overturned on appeal 10% more often than white judges.” [NPR]

49% believe that the condition of the economy is very/fairly good but only 24% think it is getting better. [NYT/CBS 7/12]

46% say that the future of the next generation of Americans will be worse off than today. [NYT/CBS 7/12]

59% of us say that in today’s economy, “just a few people at the top have a chance to get ahead.” 38% believe that anyone can get ahead. [NYT/CBS7/ 12]

71% of registered voters are very/fairly angry about the way things are going in the country today. [CNN/ORC 7/24]

80% feel “mostly safe” when they describe their “feelings about the police in their community”. This view is shared by 85% of whites but only 53% of blacks. [NYT/CBS 7/12]

In 2015, women made 83% of what their male counterparts made. The gap is even larger among black and Hispanic women. Asian men made 117% more than white men. Two-thirds of black respondents said “black people receive harsher treatment than white in the workplace. [Pew Research Center 7/1]

In a 2014 survey, 86% of the public at large and 93% of married women with children think that politicians do not know what it is like to live a day in their shoes. 79% feel their voices are not heard effectively and 61% believe that the next generation will not have the same quality of life that they had. [Winston Group 6/24]

Who is Poor In The United States

By: Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Lauren Bauer and Ryan Nunn (Brookings, 6/17/16)

The following are excerpts from this article.
46.7 million Americans—14.8 percent of the population…lived in poverty in 2014.

  • More than a third of those who live in poverty are children. More than 15.5 million children lived in poverty in 2014.
  • About 13 percent of those living in poverty are senior citizens or retired.
  • A quarter of those who live in poverty are in the labor force—that is, working or seeking employment.
  • A tenth of those in poverty are disabled.
  • Eight percent of those living in poverty are caregivers, meaning that they report caring for children or family.
  • Students, either full- or part-time, make up another seven percent of those living in poverty.
  • Just three percent of those living in poverty are working-age adults who do not fall into one of these categories—that is, they are not in the labor force, not disabled, and not a student, caregiver, or retired.
Just over half of those who live in poverty are of working-age, defined as between the ages of 18 and 64.

  • 13 percent are full-time, year-round workers, meaning that they usually worked 35 hours or more per week for at least 50 weeks during 2014.
  • Just over one quarter of poor working-age adults work less than full-time year-round, meaning that they worked during the previous year, but not on a full-time, full-year schedule.
  • 5 percent report that they are seeking employment – a classification that means that these adults were in the labor force – throughout the year.
The remaining 55 percent of working-age adults are not in the labor force.

  • 18 percent —a third of the non-workers living in poverty—are disabled.
  • 26 percent—just under half of non-workers—are caregivers or students.
  • 6 percent are retired, though it is important to note that only the working-age population is considered here, so this constitutes early retirement.
  • 5 percent of the total population of working-age adults in poverty are not in the labor force and are neither disabled, a caregiver, a student, nor retired.
Though 13 percent of working-age adults living in poverty are working full-time year-round, about twice as many were employed less than full-time year-round in 2014.

About 40 percent of those working part-time during the year are involuntarily part-time – meaning that they would like to work full time but cannot due to an economic reason such as inability to find a full-time job, employer reduction of hours, or slack work. Just under half of part-time workers were students, caregivers, or disabled. Only about 1 in 6 of these part-time workers worked fewer than 35 hours a week or less than 50 weeks a year for some other reason.

WW has not previously recommended the entirety of an article but I encourage you to read "How American Politics Went Insane" in the July/August 2016 issue of The Atlantic, by Jonathan Rauch. The following are a few excerpts:
“Yes, the political future I’ve described is unreal. But it is also a linear extrapolation of several trends on vivid display right now. Astonishingly, the 2016 Republican presidential race has been dominated by a candidate who is not, in any meaningful sense, a Republican. According to registration records, since 1987 Donald Trump has been a Republican, then an independent, then a Democrat, then a Republican, then “I do not wish to enroll in a party,” then a Republican; he has donated to both parties; he has shown loyalty to and affinity for neither. The second-place candidate, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, built his brand by tearing down his party; slurring the Senate Republican leader, railing against the Republican establishment, and closing the government as a career move.”

“The Republicans’ noisy breakdown has been echoed eerily, albeit less loudly, on the Democratic side, where, after the early primaries, one of the two remaining contestants for the nomination was not, in any meaningful sense, a Democrat. Senator Bernie Sanders was an independent who switched to nominal Democratic affiliation on the day he filed for the New Hampshire primary, only three months before that election. He surged into second place by winning independents while losing Democrats. If it had been up to Democrats to choose their party’s nominee, Sanders’s bid would have collapsed after Super Tuesday. In their various ways, Trump, Cruz, and Sanders are demonstrating a new principle: The political parties no longer have either intelligible boundaries or enforceable norms, and, as a result, renegade political behavior pays.”
“And here is the still bigger point: The very term party leaders has become an anachronism. Although Capitol Hill and the campaign trail are miles apart, the breakdown in order in both places reflects the underlying reality that there no longer is any such thing as a party leader. There are only individual actors, pursuing their own political interests and ideological missions willy-nilly, like excited gas molecules in an overheated balloon.”
“Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self- organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self- interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.”

The full article can be found here

The following are excerpts from a Charlie Cook National Journal Column as published in the Cook Political Report 6/27/16.
"This race is about shifts in the electorate that have prompted voters to behave in ways they never have before."
"Both of our two major political parties are becoming far more ideological than they were in the past. The Democratic Party, once center-left, is now emphatically Left. The Republican Party, historically center-right is now emphatically Right."
"The economy has changed just as dramatically. Globalization, automation, productivity gains and technological advances, among other things, created new winners and losers almost overnight. The losers were often people who had skills that served them well in the 20th century but had fewer applications in the 21st century. The people left behind are scared and angry. Many of them are working-class voters without college degrees, and they form the backbone of the Trump movement."
"The fight over immigration is partly related to jobs and the economy. But it also reflects a split between people who embrace multiculturalism and see immigration as freshening the lifeblood of the country, and other people who are uncomfortable with the new arrivals and feel our culture is under siege.

At the same time, the political culture wars have heated up. Abortion, guns, gay marriage, and bathroom policies at schools have created deep emotional cleavages in the country. The opposing camps are so entrenched that compromise seems impossible.

The quirky personalities who have walked on stage during this campaign season often blind us to the societal unease we are experiencing. It would be a mistake to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of various candidates without recognizing the underlying forces at workand trying to figure out where they might lead."

Breaking Government Gridlock: America’s Birthday Challenge

The following are excerpts from a piece written by Peter Hart and Dan McGinn.
“The story of America is the story of hope over despair and unity over division. Countless political, social and economic disruptions have threatened to divide the nation and destroy our remarkable system of government. But Americans have always persevered.”

“First, the public has lost faith in the core institutions upon which our government and our economy are based”

“Second, the shift in the political system away from populism and greater participation, which defined much of the 20th century, toward the commanding influence of Super PACs, billionaire operatives and ultra-influential special interests, has undermined the essence of our representative democracy.”

“Third, the disappearance of competitive congressional districts should alarm everyone who believes in the importance of a government that is respected and valued.”

“The consequence of these three forces is gridlock, declining trust and a yearning among the general public for something radical to shake up the system.”

“If both parties remain fixed on an all-or-nothing approach, ‘We the People’ will see to it that the system is radically changed.”

Confidence in Institutions
Great Deal/Quite a Lot (%)
Great Deal/Quite a Lot (%)
Military 73 63
Church 41 57
U.S. Sup Ct 36 54
Public Schools 30 49
Banks 27 49
Newspapers 20 37
Big Business 18 28
Congress 9 41

“In a survey for Congressional Institute earlier this year, we found that eight out of ten (79%) voters feel that their voices are not effectively heard. This belief cuts across almost every demographic group: • 84% of Republicans • 80% of Independents • 74% of Democrats • 87% of conservative Republicans • 68% of African-Americans • 82% of Hispanics • 85% of conservatives • 76% of moderates • 77% of liberals • 79% of men • 80% of women” [Winston Group 7/22]

This and That: Did You Know?

A “juffy” is the scientific name for 1/100th of a second.

A 10 gallon hat will only hold ¾ of a gallon.

Penguins are not found in the North Pole. They live in the southern hemisphere.

It’s not just a tiger’s fur that is striped but also its skin.

Multiply 111,111 x 111,111. What do you get? 12345654321

Remember the dust up over the role of the Super Delegates in the Democratic primary process? Well, the platform fight leading up to the convention is likely to result in a change.

After a protracted debate during the platform committee deliberations, a “unity commission” will be created with one of its goals being to review the role of the Super Delegates well before the 2020 election.

It sounds like members of Congress, governors and distinguished party leaders will remain “unpledged and free to support their nominee of choice.” The balance of the super delegates will be “apportioned and required to cast their vote at the convention in proportion to the vote received by each candidate in their state.”

Further, it appears likely that participation in the primaries or caucuses will be broadened as to who may participate. [Washington Post, 7/23]

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