1. It’s Saturday, November 5, 2016. The election is three days away.
2. The American electorate is in a foul mood. I know this from taking my own temperature.
There are two reasons why.
One is that there’s a perception of an obviously large percentage of the population that things aren’t going their way. They feel as though their jobs have gone away or are in danger. If they’re trying to make it own in a small business, there are too many obstacles: taxes, hiring rules, regulations. And they believe people they don’t think work as hard as they do are getting “free stuff” that they don’t get.
Then, there’s the other side. People like me. We’re sick of the hatred, of the petty jealousy, of making people feel as though they’re less than they are. We’re sick of bluster and bullying. We’re sick of the idea that being politically correct is weak and stupid – that, maybe, the world’s problems would ratchet down a notch if people were more considerate of others.
There will be no resolution of these poles of disgust on Tuesday. Unlike other elections, when the nation tries to come together for the new president, there will no reconciliation, no matter who wins.
That’s obviously disappointing to the Americans in the middle who just want to go about their lives. That’s not going to happen. Sorry.
So what might be useful, for both sides, is to take some measurement of how the United States stands on November 5, 2016. Because, assuming we get to 2020, that will be a rational basis about which to judge the 45th President of the United States as she/he seeks re-election.
Here we go:
- As of the summer of 2016, the U.S. economy was growing at an annual rate of 2.9%. Economists say Ideal growth, the best level at which the economy is growing without spurring inflation, is 3%.
- As of October 2016, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.9%. There was a time in the early 1990s when people thought full employment was a 6% unemployment rate. In early 2009, right after President Obama took office, the rate spiked above 10% in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
- As of today, the major U.S. military commitments around the world are in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they are not nearly as large as they were before Obama took office. We’re hunting ISIS and al-Qaeda, whose nihilist rantings inspire sick-minded would-be terrorists.
- As of this crisp autumn day, the average price of a gallon of gas is $2.22 a gallon, according to AAA. A year ago, it was $2.21. Last month, it was $2.23. That’s some amazing consistency. It’s also a little more than half the record high price of $4.11 a gallon set in July 2008.
- As of 2015, the most recent year available, violent crime rose 3.9% from the prior year, according to the FBI. There were 15,696 murders last year, more than 71% of them as a result of firearms use. However, the violent crime rate is down by about a sixth of what it was ten years ago.
- As of this moment, a woman’s right to end her pregnancy is guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. That decision has been in effect for 43 years.
- As of this particular Saturday, the right to marry the adult you choose, whether of the opposite or same sex, is guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision. That decision has been in effect since June of last year.
- As of the latest report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, 58,495 bridges – nearly 10% of all in the United States – are deficient. In Rhode Island, the state with the biggest problem, 23% of its bridges are in really bad shape.
- As of October, 11 of the past 12 months have set high-temperature records, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Only a late-reported cold snap in Antarctica prevented June from being the 12th month.
- As of November 5, 2016, the right to trial by jury and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. That was meant to avoid chants of “Lock her up” and “Execute her” by vigilantes.
- There’s also a Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment – guaranteeing that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – is only one of ten in the Bill.
As of now.