America is the worst. Except for all the other countries.
Yes, that’s a Winston Churchill rip-off. He said it about democracy. He was right.
I pondered that last weekend, as we marked the 246th anniversary of American independence. It feels weird celebrating the birth of a nation when it’s presently such a hot mess.
Still, I flew my flag, watched fireworks, and ate hot dogs like the patriot I am. There’s still nowhere else I’d rather be.
On cue, there was another mass shooting.
Meanwhile, the country is stinging from a court ruling that curtailed the rights of women, ostensibly justified by a Constitution that women had zero say in writing. If I was emperor, only female judges and legislators would decide reproductive rights. That seems fair.
Two weeks ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends came to our cabin with his kids – mid-teenagers – who grew up with our kids. It’s an annual getaway we do, sans moms.
Early that Friday, as my friend and I sat around the fire, drinking beer, and listening to Tyler Childers, the four kids were far from earshot, scrolling through their phones, as kids can’t help but do. One of them brought up politics, an argument sparked, then escalated, and a minor physical altercation ensued.
Dumbfounded, my friend and I did our best to salvage the situation. In the end, keeping four angry teenagers in the same house was untenable. They left.
The kids will be fine. They’re kids. My friend and I were fine – if disappointed – from the start. Nearly 40 years of friendship and 46 years of perspective will do that.
And that’s the difference. Perspective.
Of all the things we lament about social media and its impact on kids, the persistence and toxicity of politics doesn’t get enough attention. When I was 15, I’m not even sure I knew who the president was (it was Bush I), let alone what the Supreme Court was doing. I was too busy playing sports in our cul-de-sac and being terrified of girls.
Kids today can’t escape politics, particularly troubling because they can’t intellectualize it. Most of their views come from their parents. Everything is black and white. Gray comes with experience. So does diplomacy.
Sometimes I wonder if social media – and the tribalism it festers – is turning us all into children again. We’ve lost perspective.
Hopefully we can all grow up.
Here’s what we’re seeing:
Consumer confidence didn’t reach a record low this week. Let’s celebrate the small victories. At least for a minute, our Economic Sentiment Index stopped hemorrhaging in its latest public reading. Plateauing gas prices and (slightly) slowing inflation seem to be quelling our collective bad mood – if temporarily. Or maybe it’s just the warm and fuzzy feeling of summer vacations and Saturdays by the pool. Check back in two weeks.
Service industry workers have a bleak outlook for the job market. In one of the more dramatic four-month swings we’ve seen in our data, Americans employed in service jobs have a deeply negative view of their employment prospects. Seventy-two percent of service workers (the highest of any major employment category) expect it to be more difficult to find a new job in the next six months, up from 18% in March. Meanwhile, workers in labor or trades have the rosiest outlook, with a full 50% saying they think it will be easier to find a job through the remainder of the year. Most white-collar workers have grown more pessimistic.
Americans are starkly divided on companies paying for out-of-state abortion care for their employees, but the numbers have moved a lot. Thirty-nine percent of U.S. adults agree that companies should reimburse their workers for abortion-related travel costs in the wake of the Roe vs. Wade overturn. Forty percent disagree. Those results represent a big shift from when we first started tracking the issue after the initial leak in May – when just 22% agreed. Notable for brands is that 37% of consumers say they are more likely to support companies that offer reimbursement, while 28% say they would be less likely. You know which ones are which.
Amazon Prime Day will still be a big thing this year. Despite all the financial headwinds we’ve read so much about, a near equal percentage of consumers plan to take advantage of Prime Day compared to last year. That doesn’t necessarily mean Amazon should expect comparable sales numbers, as people may not spend as freely as they did in years past. A slightly larger number this year say they already know what they plan to buy (health and beauty products are up 100% over 2021), meaning that serendipitous purchases could be less common. As more and more retailers roll out their Prime Day knock-off events, competition will be fierce, too.
Gen Z is nostalgic when it comes to fashion. One thing I will give today’s kids credit for is their taste in clothes – especially the vintage Sublime T-shirt Maddie has hidden from me in her closet. Throwback fashion is “fire,” as they say, with a particular fondness for ‘90s and early 2000s-era threads among Gen Zs. One in five U.S. adults say they purchased at least one apparel item in the past year that reminded them of a different time. Maybe because this particular moment in time kind of sucks.
Several more studies from the prolific CivicScientists:
- The same people are worried about long COVID and lenient gun laws;
- A lot of adults are going back to school;
- Pickleball is all the rage;
- 3 big insights about QSR consumers right now;
- 5 things you didn’t know about hikers;
- 5 things you didn’t know about Stranger Things fans.
The Most Popular Questions Since We Last Met:
- How comfortable are you with pressing the flight attendant call button when you need something on a flight?
- What is the most important condiment for a hamburger?
- Are the books currently in your home more for decoration or enjoyment?
- Do you think you would fare better in a competitive eating or competitive chugging competition?
- How often do past mistakes keep you awake at night?
- Do you actively keep track of your friends’ birthdays?
Answer Key: Never, ever; Ketchup; Decoration; Definitely not; Never – but plenty of other things do; Religiously.
Hoping you’re well.
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