The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index for 2017 shows people across the country are more depressed than they were during the Great Recession. Despite low unemployment and rising wages, interviews with over 160,000 adults nationwide indicate that overall Americans don’t think their general well-being is improving. Obviously, they are concerned about more than just the economy.
Twenty-one states had statistically significant declines in well-being last year, with emotional and psychological factors dominating. Contentment with jobs and relationships has deteriorated in states from Washington to North Carolina and from Arizona to Maine – and no state experienced a statistically significant increase in well-being. By contrast, the 2009 Index showed that 15 states had declines in well-being when money and financial worries were the major factors and unemployment reached 10 percent.
This report isn’t surprising to me and in some ways, it’s even heartening. Apparently, voters are not comfortable with the chaos in the White House or the dysfunction in our government. Commenting on the problem, Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, observed, “We don’t know what is going to happen next. There’s no clear path toward stabilizing either the country or the world.”
It’s obvious that this nation has no long-term foreign or domestic policies other than what Trump happens to feel in his gut on any given day. He wants to dismantle significant deals and decisions made by his predecessors and his reasons for doing so are not clearly articulated nor are his plans to replace them. DACA, NAFTA, the Iran nuclear agreement, the Paris climate agreement, you name it, he wants to modify it or kill it. I think there is a growing fear that the author of “The Art of the Deal” doesn’t know how to negotiate a deal. And with tariffs and tweets, Trump is screwing up the economy — the most positive aspect of his presidency. His “ready, fire, aim” approach to governing is not only unsettling, it’s dangerous.
Along with the lack of planning, there seems to be a new scandal in the Trump administration almost every day. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt lavishly wasted taxpayer dollars on expensive, luxury travel and a 30-man 24/7 personal security detail. Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family business got loans of over $500 million after he met with bank officials in the White House. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used military aircraft between the spring and fall of 2017 that cost taxpayers $1 million. HUD secretary Ben Carson is catching flack for buying a $31,000 office dining table but this pales by comparison to the unethical and corrupt activities of his peers.
The nation’s economic policies are being influenced by right-wing/Libertarian Fox News pundits like Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs and Trump knee-jerk reacts to what he watches on Fox and Friends. That’s one reason why competent people like economic advisor Gary Cohn don’t want to work in this White House. It is becoming increasingly more obvious that we don’t have a leader; we have a serial tweeter who’s on the wrong course to MAGA. I think that’s why many working people in America have an uneasy feeling that all this dysfunction will not end well and that they will suffer the consequences just like they did after eight disastrous years of President George W. Bush’s administration.
Polls indicate that a majority of Americans favor stricter gun controls, a robust government response to climate change, comprehensive immigration legislation, effective environmental regulations and even higher taxes on the wealthy. I believe these polls accurately reflect the preferences of the entire population. Yet this president and the Republican-controlled Congress are dead-set on passing laws to please their donors and their minority base. No wonder most people are unhappy.
Just take the Republican “head in the sand” position on climate change. According to a recent study by the World Bank, rising seas and agricultural disruptions could create 143 million climate migrants. That would make the exodus from Syria over the past several years look like a small-town Easter parade. Yet Trump and EPA’s Pruitt eagerly eliminate regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and remove studies on climate change from government websites.
After a contentious election the winner has a duty to heal the wounds and unite the nation. Instead, Trump has divided this nation like at no other time in my memory. Friends and even family members are being torn apart by Trump’s divisive rhetoric and agenda. This polarization is being fueled by unabashed Trump supporters like the opinion anchors on Fox News and conservative talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh. These pundits have a “no compromise” philosophy that started during President Obama’s tenure. At its core is a belief that conservatives can only win if liberals lose.
I strongly believe that GOP obstruction of Obama caused voter angst in 2016. They didn’t know which party to blame so they turned to outsider Trump. Well, now they should know the root cause of their anxiety. It’s like President Harry Truman once said, “How many times do you have to get hit over the head until you figure out who’s hitting you?”. Of course, he was referring to Republicans.
So yes, I’m encouraged if voters feel their well-being is being threatened. It’s probably the only way some of them will get off their duffs and do something about it in November.