152 Comments

When I read your topic for today I was surprised because I think the total opposite to be true for myself. I’m glad people are having this experience that I find baffling. I do have moments of happiness but they are ephemeral. I think the key word you used was *authentic*. With all that is going on in the world, especially in the news, and my subsequent bouts of depression, I don’t have the luxury of being happy. I put on a happy face for the public and suffer in silence. How can any of you possibly be happy? I really don’t understand. Our nation is in crisis as well as our planet. If people are suffering in the world, I suffer too. This is how we lose our democracy and our planet. I am really stunned. Are we living in the same country?

Expand full comment

Jane Dill. Thank you for your honest feedback. Please do not suffer in silence. This is what I do. I go help others. That makes me feel better. I also have gratitude every. single. day. I have another day to go "play at living". I have 2 eyes, 2 legs, my kidneys, liver and heart still work. If we have our health we having everything. Health is the TRUE wealth. If we are healthy then we can help others. Just my thoughts for you. Hugs from Arizona.

Expand full comment

Thank you, Cecelia. Great outlook! :)

Expand full comment

I’ve been depressed in the past/ it feels awful. Needed therapy and meds to feel better, and now I choose to be happy- not unaware, or uninvolved- just can’t carry that misery around daily

Expand full comment

The ability to find joy in our own lives despite the fear and misery all around us is a uniquely human coping skill. I find it develops as we age and face more trials and difficulties. It takes great strength to stay engaged. That strength is bolstered by the ability to feel gratitude in our personal lives. We are of no use to anyone if we collapse under the weight of all this misery.

Expand full comment

Why not implement the new monetary paradigm of Gifting into the economy with a 50% Discount/Rebate policy at retail sale and everytime we went to the store to buy a sweet potato it would be an opportunity to feel/self actualize gratitude for the government and the money system?

Expand full comment

This is a very good insight Dr. Reich. What it means is that change has already begun. What we need now is a new purpose for the general Good to catalyze a mass movement that resolves our economic problems and that also enables us to permanently change the public and political situation. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" is a deep psychological insight.

Maybe we can literally change the world after all by changing the human civilization long domination of every individual and commercial agent by the monopolistic monetary paradigm of Debt Only with the new monetary paradigm of Gifting.

Implement a 50% Discount/Rebate policy at retail sale, self actualize gratitude numerous times per day and thus change the world.

Expand full comment

Great essay.

I wonder if this dichotomy of public angst and private happiness (for the fortunate ones) is also what's fueling the public anger the country is experiencing; people have had enough no matter their political views.

The pandemic has exposed the flaws of American democracy for all to see, and it isn't pretty, which I suspect causes much of the public anger, and rightfully so.

This rage (often misdirected, especially by extremists on the right) has been simmering for a long time, while the GOP and corporate media place the blame squarely on Biden, rather than scrutinizing their own complicity in this maelstrom.

Privately, I do find myself turning inward by listening to music, exercising, reading and occasionally visiting my few close friends, which is very satisfying.

I've also pared back on spending, finding I don't need as much as I thought I once did.

I just hope enough Americans use this time of public rage/private happiness to reflect on what this country will become if Trump and his thugs get a second chance to destroy this country.

Expand full comment
author

In 1950, the sociologist David Reisman and his colleagues wrote "The Lonely Crowd" -- in my view, the best examination of American character since Tocqueville's masterful "Democracy in America." Reisman posited two aspects of the America -- those (or those aspects of us) who are "other-directed," and those who are "inner-directed." His point was that Americans are both extraordinarily concerned about what others think and believe -- we obsess about public opinion and about how we come across in the world -- while also being extraordinarily unconcerned, creating private and personal inner-directed worlds for ourselves based on an exaggerated sense of individualism. Perhaps Reisman offers a clue to how Americans today can be so upset about the state of the nation while simultaneously satisfied about their own personal state?

Expand full comment

Interesting way of describing the character of Americans. Would you say "other-directed" is your boss and government telling you what to do and then you going home and deciding what you want for dinner or what courses you will take in college is inner directed? I think fearfulness causes people to be overly concerned about what others think. As for an exaggerated sense of individualism...having trouble seeing how this fits with the population in general. Some individuals, perhaps Jeff Bezos, may be this way, but I don't think the general population is like this. If anything, most people seem to me to be insecure, especially about things they aren't familiar with. I'm still struggling to see how people can be satisfied with their own personal state with the threat of losing our Democracy looming overhead. It's good for people to realize that their well-being is affected by the well-being of others and the well-being of the planet, etc. Self-determination is good only with the thoughtful consideration of others, the planet, and so on... which is something that can and should be taught...to make a healthier viewpoint about life.

Expand full comment

That could change in a twinkling, and until it does, I hope it will not. Glad it has not Yet.

Expand full comment

The fundamentals of fascism are -1- a large group of declassed people ( in Germany it was petti-bourgeois shopkeepers losing out to capitalist consolidation, farmers going broke, and workers crushed by austerity)-2- a triggering event like the collapse of the stock market or loss of a war -3- a rigid ruling class that will not accept democratic solutions such as the German aristocrats that never accepted the parliamentary system

Expand full comment

It's funny. Most of my life (almost all of it) I have had to be very careful about my very limited financial resources. Decisions about how I use my resources are always difficult and I don't see them becoming easier any time soon. But that is not necessarily a bad way to live. What it essentially means is that I allow myself a single solitary discretionary activity and then I give my heart and soul to that and try to make myself the best I can be. No excuses for my failures, no efforts to compete with others and squeeze them out, no shirking on what I try to give to others, to my mentors and teachers, and thereby to myself. I try to follow the words of wisdom of a very wise musician who said that the most important thing in life is to be a good person, loving and kind to others. Next comes being a good musician, respecting those who are also students of music and teachers of the same. Then--and only then--comes the goal of being a good player of an instrument or singer. That wise musician is the cellist YO-Yo Ma who was echoing the words of his teacher, Pablo Casals. Since Yo-Yo's passion is also mine, his words have special meaning for me. But--my discretionary activity aside--I will always eke out periodic gifts to others in distress and I feel such gifts help me more than them, seeing how small and yet meaningful the gifts are. Am I happy? I don't know, to be honest. But I also know that I try to make the best of each day, share what I know about music and about life, and forge on ahead. There are now so many who have so much less that we should all be following similar roads through life. I think, anyway.

Expand full comment

Lanae ; You ask a good question : Am I happy? I'm sad at times and even worried or scared. But there is this serenity, or calm that comes to me as well. I know that I can't affect the big picture by myself. I do what I can and am able to enjoy my relative safety, good food, my husband and occasional visits with my grown children, (often remotely). I rely on this forum to get through the news cycle with an enhanced perspective, sometimes even a sense of humor. Always some resolve to be part of a solution.

Expand full comment

Lanae. So well written. When we give we receive. I was a single mom raising two sons on limited income back in the 1980's. Living on a tight budget taught me a lot. If we focus on gratitude and have good health we have everything we need.

Expand full comment

Graciousness as in Gifting is an incredibly powerful idea whose time has come. Why not apply graciousness as in Monetary Gifting into the economy with a 50% Discount/Rebate policy at retail sale and everyone making minimum wage of $7.35/hr. now has the purchasing power of $14.70/hr. Graciousness is wisdom, wisdom insights are always deep and imminently applicable otherwise they wouldn't be wisdom. Change the monetary paradigm and change the world.

Expand full comment

You really thin the do-ers and shakers will go along w/ cutting income 50%??????

Expand full comment

First it doesn't cut anyone's income/purchasing power. A guy making a million/yr. gets the full 50% discount at retail sale the same as the guy making minimum wage (although above that in my book I advocate a sliding scale reduction in the percentage discount for the very wealthy). Secondly, I don't care who likes or dislikes it. The regressives, cynics and terminally iconoclastic who unconsciously love problems more than solutions willl always come up with reasons why things are impossible or won't work because the small minority of the wealthy won't allow it. I'm way past listening to such., and I'm way past palliative reforms when a paradigm change is identified and imminently doable. Politics comes at the end of the road. A mass movement for the new monetary paradigm is what we need FIRST. That's how Ghandi did it in India because politicians never lead.

Expand full comment

Ma and Fred Sherry used to play at our apt at Columbia when they were at Juilliard. :)

Expand full comment

The biggest issue facing all of us, is one you didn’t mention, climate change. Whether people understand it or not, we are looking at an abysmal future, and no one is willing to deal with it. On we go talking about the economy etc , when it is the very economy that will destroy us. Cognitive dissonance at it best.

Expand full comment

What you write is very obvious. It's true that I got through my entire statement without a word about climate change and I guess you consider that a flaw. However, focusing my response on the economic woes of those at the bottom of the economic pyramid also results in a relevant and timely discussion, one that is probably not as pertinent in your eyes but one that will also affect us all in the future. The way the economy and labor are currently run (and government and education and health care as well), the wealthy have huge piles of money safely hidden from taxes and efforts to deal with our problems (including climate change and infrastructure/education/health care for all) while those in the middle and lower classes are struggling to survive. The government--before it became the turf of billionaires--used to attempt to even the score, to give those of modest means a chance at a meaningful life and a safe environment. But in the struggle between the Individual ("what counts is me and only me") and the society ("what counts is creating a socially and environmentally secure environment for all) the Individual won and has been winning. I chose to look at it as a total picture and not address the part of the issue dealing with climate change which is ultimately wrapped up in the total package. The current satire 'Don't look up" offers a view of what happens when the corporation fat-cats take over the government and determine all policies which is more or less what Citizens United has achieved.

Expand full comment

I didn’t mean to focus this on you, but the article in general.

Expand full comment

Climate change will be very difficult to ignore, especially when it is visited onto the wealthy. Some 'genius' in the financial world will figure out that all those billions will be useless!

Expand full comment

Beth ; If we didn't laugh we'd cry! Comic relief is good sometimes.

Expand full comment

Beth, If we implemented a 50% Discount/Rebate policy at retail sale that would immediately double everyone's purchasing power and integrate beneficial price DEFLATION into the economy. If we never had to worry about inflation any more then we could permanently shut the mouth of every conservative pundit forever....and thus enable the kind of fiscal deficits to fund the mega projects necessary to confront climate change. Pair the 50% Discount/Rebate policy at retail sale with a 50% debt jubilee at the point of loan signing for all "big ticket" and green consumer items and we could have a sane industrial policy. For instance a $60k Tesla would be $30k at retail sale and $15k at the point of loan signing. A $400k home with solar panels and back up batteries becomes $200k at retail and $100k at note signing.

Change the monetary paradigm and change the world.

Expand full comment

Oh, just wanted to say. I believe many people I know are very worried about the US but won't talk about it. I think people are in survival mode, trying to keep it together but are scared, won't admit it but they are.

Expand full comment

Yes! We are like the people of the Ukraine. Russian troops are massing at their borders and they are shrugging and saying "So, what else is new?" Living in fear is absolutely exhausting. Humans have to remove themselves from what they can't change and focus on their daily lives, or we go insane. In my case, more insane.

Expand full comment
founding

Agreed! With everyone struggling, why add to peoples burdens by complaining?

Expand full comment

I agree. There is an upside to the pandemic. In 2020, we had a weird Christmas, just my husband and myself, but we watched all of our grandkids opening their Christmas presents on Zoom and FaceTime. We got out the good china and made ourselves a wonderful dinner. The whole day was very enjoyable. Christmas 2021 we celebrated with our family but not necessarily the ones who were originally coming because COVID caused a couple of changes in plans.

My husband and I are closer now than ever because we have more time together. We have daily cribbage games, exercise together, and take occasional walks to the park. We have had no problem getting used to the slower pace. It’s been quite refreshing. (We are retired, he’s 80 and I am 77. We have been married for 56 years)

Expand full comment

I did not "do" xmas. A most excellent day. Yesterday mailed off gifts to son and dil. Just in the for Easter.!!!

Expand full comment

The benefits of pandemic living which you list have been a particular boon to the large percentage of us who are (often secretly) introverts. Finally! A social environment geared toward our comfort zone! Finally, a world in which we can truly relax and feel at home, and continue to function...even more effectively, without the constant "noise" of forced gatherings and louder voices. What a gift!

Expand full comment

My father-in-law, an extreme extrovert (career in public relations), would become full of energy during and after parties, meetings and other gatherings of others. I, on the other hand, find myself exhausted and burnt out by the same! My father-in-law hated to be by himself. I enjoy it. You are so right about the pandemic being a gift to us introverts.

Expand full comment
founding

!!!

Expand full comment
founding

Or not so secretly. 😉

Expand full comment

Schlump! I haven't seen/heard that word in ages. I was born and continue to be a Schlump too. Schlumps of the world... UNITE AND TAKE OVER.

Expand full comment

Is Trump a schmuck or a putz?

Expand full comment

He's meshuggeh.

Expand full comment

Thank you. I just added a new word to my vocabulary!

Expand full comment

It's much worse than that. He was both before before he was potty trained.

I look to mythology for an antidote. Since he's a conglomeration of our anger and fear, let's starve him of his power and refer to him as "He who shall not be named."

It will be like throwing water on the wicked witch of the west.

Expand full comment
founding

I don’t know about that. It gives him too much power.

Expand full comment

He would like that, wouldn't he?

Expand full comment

I have often referred to him that way. I think you are right though, wasn't Voldemort of Harry Potter infamy called that?

Expand full comment
founding

Yes, and to some extent Sauron in Lord of the Rings as well. Trump sees himself as the great disrupter. He’d love being compared to Voldemort.

Expand full comment

Or even McConnell. They were kind of 'at each other' there! Funny!

Expand full comment

Those terms are too good for him!

Expand full comment

mostly a schmuck... a putz would not have any money.

Expand full comment
Feb 8, 2022·edited Feb 8, 2022

A loser.

Or, also, a 'pud spud,' a wannabe 'dick tater' according to my sophisticated professor wife, who says she hates puns . . .

. . . and, it should be noted, he is a failure and loser in that too. -- b.rad

Expand full comment
founding

He’s way beyond either.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

Thanks! I knew a guy whose last name was Schmuck. He pronounced it "Smoke". He had it tough when meeting people for the first time!

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

Yes, he was a nice, decent person! He was smart enough not to take it too seriously -- he even turned it into a humorous situation by joking about it with others. He was well liked.

Expand full comment
founding

I knew a psychiatrist named Dr. Tush. Can you imagine?

Expand full comment

Never too old to learn something! Thanks Vicki!

Expand full comment

Haha!

Expand full comment

Robert, Robert, Robert. You know better to put so much stock in polls! You don't compare the language of questions or the sample populations over time. The long-term comparisons are intellectually useless (not unlike inflation and unemployment rates). The personal satisfaction percentages cry out for scrutiny.

And the leap to your own personal satisfaction! How many Americans are in a comparable position. I would argue that--if we had reliable data--inc. multiple indicators and survey questions and samples that we could trust-- there would be a closer relationship between public and private levels.

What do others think?

Expand full comment

Harvey. I believe each person has their own set of values. I believe if we have gratitude and good health we are blessed. I believe in the American Spirit. I see it every single day in my home care company. People helping People. The good news does not get reported on main stream news or social medial. Twitter is the worst! And polls don't work in today's real world.

Expand full comment

It depends on how a person defines happiness. Some people strive to meet certain high expectations [lots of money, fancy house, celebrity, power...] they set for themselves to say they are happy. [I'll be happy when...] But others have a more simple definition that uses the fulfillment of basic needs and having a few meaningful relationships as the requirement. If all a person does throughout life is to strive for something that s/he may never have, it seems like most of that life may be lived in unhappiness. What's discouraging to me is that meeting the basic needs of so many Americans is more difficult than it should be, but I do what I can to help combat the ills of the world while balancing those efforts with the quiet contentments of my life.

Expand full comment

Jeanne Blum Lesinski Very well stated. My maiden name was Legerski. My descendants are from Poland on my dad's side.

Expand full comment

Graff Harvey ; I think we are in a world of $#8t, no matter our age, sex, race, (wealth, or lack there of), If the continuing attack on our rule of law and government, attack on our people (human beings), continues. Our President and Justice Department, along with the Congress need to intervene in what Republican Governors of Partisan ruled States are doing in their states to deprive Citizens of this Country of their Constitutional Rights to Vote, Control their own lives with legitimate, legal settled law Medical Family Planning, Freedom of Religion and the right to the pursuit of Health and Happiness and Truth in Education, Science and History. We better hope our Department of Justice can be Expeditious! Or we face a Dumpster Fire of Extreme Proportions! To say Nothing of the Great Flood!

Expand full comment

I was also very skeptical with the discrepancy between the personal and public satisfaction levels. How could they so starkly in contrast? And certainly nothing like I would have expected, particularly the high levels of personal satisfaction. I personally cannot keep my personal satisfaction totally separate from what's happening out in the public. What the government, federal, state or local, is doing or not doing always will have an impact on my life. This has been especially true during the pandemic. I followed the survey link provided but really didn't learn anything about the types of questions asked. Also, it appears that the survey was completed in January 2020 before the pandemic and the sample size seemed quite small, plus it was only conducted by phone. As for the things that Robert points out that are a positive result the pandemic, I also have found these things to be true but there have been way more negatives impacts for me. The question that comes to mind for me is who asked for this particular survey, why, how did they use it and for what ends?

Expand full comment

Jim, almost no one asks those critical questions esp. those who ignorantly toss them around including the media, and others . . . .

Expand full comment

Graff Harvey ; Some things cannot be quantified IMHO.

Expand full comment

Exactly. That's why polls can only be read critically, cautiously, and in comparison to each other.

Expand full comment

To be honest, I have not experienced the positives that you mention in your message today. On the other hand, I am overwhelmed and often depressed about what is happening in the country. I don't see any signs of hope, because I am convinced that we have lost the resilience of Truth in the USA. One man has dumped vitriol (even in his profitable coffee-table book) - and the reach of his condemnation of everyone who doesn't agree with him has caused us to become a nation of bullies - and has oozed over into Canada where anguished protests are taking place. Here in Florida, our governor (who is the postmodern equivalent of Caligula) has so many red-meat laws being rushed through the legislature - Don't Say Gay, a Surgeon general who doesn't believe in science, control of teachers, the myth of CRT in the public schools, a proposal that tries to ensure that children should never experience sadness, a proposal for a State Militia and a group called the Election Police, and some weird bundled proposals that are supposed to kill all the WOKE stuff. I just feel overwhelmed by the insanity around me.

Expand full comment

Frederick, me too! I am horrified every day by what is happening in the US; the destruction of public education to hand over to religious entities, our corporate health care system that makes this country among the worst in health outcomes with one of the worst mortality rates and then your state and many others that are becoming out and out fascist governments. I feel physically ill when I hear daily what DeSantis is doing, he's totally out of control. I am grateful for the level of health and well-being that I have and that my adult children and grandchildren are okay but I'm constantly worried about living in the US. I manage to stay out of a depression but I have lost a level of joy that has morphed into fear, something I never had before.

Expand full comment

I appreciate hearing from someone else who feels as dislocated as I do. DeSantis and Texas gov. Abbot are involved in what I call "penis wars" as to who can be the most authoritarian and hateful. The hubris of our republican state legislature is astonishing and everything DeSantis is pushing is evidence of his belief that he can tell everyone else what they must do. I started my life as a Catholic Priest but left after 3 years because of the rot I found in the church. I am now an atheist and very fearful of the well-funded push towards Theocracy - we are not a Christian nation - but folks are pushing their beliefs on other people. I'm passionate about many things, but I mostly don't know what to do with my energies on such topics.

Expand full comment
founding

I certainly hope it isn’t a Christian nation, although all my life I’ve had to battle people who think it is. As an atheistic Jew I find this chauvinism very oppressive. Why can’t people just live and let live? I honestly don’t get it. But I’m completely in your corner.

Expand full comment

Separation of church and state is a basic rule. Religion has been used to control people for millennia! This was a beacon of our country and is one of the pillars upholding the Constitution. The rule of law is threatened. We need to see justice now, or very soon. The Justice department is investigating and the Jan 6th committee continues to find evidence. We need action, and justice.

Expand full comment
founding

When I was a child in the fifties we had to sing Christmas carols in school. Some if them were religious in nature. It was really upsetting for me. I don’t know if that’s changed but it certainly wasn’t separation of church and state.

Expand full comment

The carols that were religious in nature are as offensive as the commercialized 'carols'. Teach the people from a very early age to buy, buy and buy some more! What is love about? Buying stuff! 'Showing that you care' by giving gifts! Nonsense!

Expand full comment

I went to a 'parochial' school. I am a refugee of sorts from the Catholic Church. As soon as I was, say 14 years old I was done with it. I can't say I have not gone to weddings and funerals etc. to support family. But I never felt the church to be supportive of me or any in my family. Christmas was so dishonest because it was partially lifted from ancient pagan rituals and Wiccan beliefs.

Expand full comment

Thank you for this. I completely relate. I find the state of affairs very disconcerting, hard to relax, get my mind off it. "Folks pushing their beliefs on other people? As if fascists states aren't bad enough, look what the Supreme Court is doing. You are right, this is not a Christian nation but Christian Nationalism is being thrust on this nation. I believe there will either be a serious backlash or we're going to live in a very different country then the founders envisioned.

Expand full comment

Christian nationalism is simply Fascism in a pretty dress!

Expand full comment

Christian/Puritans ran everything with rigid rules. We thought we were over that, but no, the power structure survives beyond its true survival usefulness.

Expand full comment

And this "movement" is extremely well funded!

Expand full comment

Frederick ; I am hoping that there will be legal cases brought by the feds to stop the power grabs in the states. Local citizens in Florida may push back too. It is very concerning and almost overwhelming. I hate to see the next news cycle.

Expand full comment

For one idiotic governor to think he can dictate what teachers have to say, and then to hide behind frightened and misinformed mother's to do the dirty work - it's truly disgusting. Did you know that Oklahoma passed a law that says that any parent can demand that a book be removed from a library, and can then fine the target for $10,000 - what has come of our "democracy"

Expand full comment

Frederick ; It sounds like the anti choice trick they pulled in Texas that allows the state to deputize people to sue a woman for $10,000 if she 'breaks the law'. Unconstitutional! That was settled law! The present tRump appointees of the Supreme Court should be kicked out of that court. They are as illegitimate as he is! Now there are replications of these 'laws' proliferating everywhere the Repugs 'rule'.

Expand full comment

It's comforting to know that there is someone like you out there who is just as outraged as I am. The republican party has painted a picture of who they are that is so outrageous, my only hope is that enough people vote them all out of office. I've always felt that the 147 congress persons who objected to the election results should all be drummed out of their positions.

Expand full comment

All Traitors should be perp-walked to a Federal Prison!

Expand full comment

I agree! Josh Hawley at the front of the line

Expand full comment

Cannot upvote this comment. I think my laptop is a Rethuglican. So please consider htis comment a upvote.

Expand full comment

If you don't have a Mac, consider one :)

Expand full comment

Good Question!

Expand full comment
founding
Feb 8, 2022·edited Feb 8, 2022

OMG, that’s disgusting. No wonder you’re upset. I’d heard about some if that but not all. And I’ve been depressed about all our wildfires here in California. That’s nothing compared with what you’re facing. What can we do to help you?

Expand full comment

I suppose it depends on who you talk to and when you talk to them. I suppose the 900,000 people who died from covid are not happy. Nor are at least some of the family that lost them happy. I suppose the 50% that cannot work from home, and are risking getting sick are not happy. I suppose some the 50% who are working from home, and having to do childcare at the same time are not happy. Those of us, who suffer serious depressive episodes are almost by definition not happy. I think many people were not happy before covid and are not happy now. For myself, this is one of the most unhappy times of a very unhappy life.

Expand full comment
founding

All I can reply to this, Fred, is to give you a big hug. I’m so sorry.

Expand full comment

If you take the numbers at face value, one interpretation might be that the vast majority of Americans don't see government policy as affecting their quality of life. If that is the case, that bodes ill for passing progressive legislation such as Build Back Better.

Another takeaway: The horrible inflation that the news media keeps railing about is apparently not adversely impacting the lives of 85% of Americans.

In partial response to Harvey Graff's comment, it would be useful if pollsters followed up with some more detailed questions about personal satisfaction, and also why respondents disapprove of the direction the country is taking. Maybe those who responded to the poll, even anonymously, felt some pressure to assert that they personally are doing fine, the good old American rugged individualism, pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. When I see people angrily storming the Capitol, angrily disrupting school board meetings, holding vigils for loved ones killed by police or private gun violence, etc., when I read about so many people struggling to get by, these don't seem like happy, satisfied people, no matter what they tell pollsters. But maybe they are only the 15% of the population that has expressed dissatisfaction to pollsters.

Expand full comment

I think people are lying to the pollsters about their level of satisfaction in their lives. As you correctly state, why are people so angry if they are so happy with their lives?

Expand full comment
founding

So true. Cognitive dissonance.

Expand full comment

Maybe they are happy with what they now have and do not take it for granted, because they know it can be lost. Our government is going off the rails, seemingly.

Expand full comment

What you are describing here is the satisfaction with the personal life of an upper middle income worker who has already gone through many of the stages of life—-professional career, marriage, family, achievements that the young have not gone through.

I would like to see the satisfaction numbers broken down by age groups.

As you know from Vietnam a public policy event can completely change those satisfaction numbers even amongst the upper middle income and stable working class of which you are a part. So I want to know what those most effected are feeling. We know the Trumpers fear losing what they have to the “others” but what about the young?

Expand full comment
Feb 8, 2022·edited Feb 8, 2022

Prof Reich. Somehow, I find the social condition you describe in this morning's essay vaguely reminiscent of "The Hawthorne Effect." Even the gradual, but overall continual rise in satisfaction from '80 on in personal life - per the charts you provide - reminds me of the increase in job satisfaction in the experimental subjects at Hawthorne - perhaps not as dramatic, but nonetheless sustained. Even your discussion of how satisfied we are now that things have been "taken away" in the midst of the pandemic "smacks" of the increased productivity bump that resulted from having the perks of being in the study's experimental group taken away. I'm >not< suggesting any of what you discuss today is related to the Hawthorne effect in any meaningful way. I just find it eerily similar, or even parallel.

On the other hand, I'm concerned about the roughly 10% minimum the numbers suggest aren't so satisfied. If memory serves, it's generally held that around 3% of the population is responsible for roughly 90% of all crime. That 10% number seems to raise questions - to me - with regard to the current seeming spiking in crime, particularly violent crime.

However, another possible, and possibly more likely valid interpretation may suggest there's no "disconnect" between satisfaction with government and personal life. It may suggest there was never a "connect" between the two in the first place. Whatever else is going on with the voters, it doesn't appear they're necessarily "voting their wallets," per old-time common wisdom. On the other hand, I distinctly remember the old Republican pitch: "Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?" The Republicans are >definitely< not above attempting to take credit for that faux correlation, even if people's satisfaction with their lives would have increased anyway, since satisfaction with government and private lives seems to be - in that interpretation - a canard at the outset. Public perception is the key, here. In my interpretations here I took those numbers at face-value.

But I have some serious questions. I'd like to see the sample demographic. What regions were sampled? How many samples were taken on what sized regions? What was the "instantaneous" time-frame of the survey? On what date(s) was the survey conducted? What events were current at interview time? Is it a continuing survey, or is it a compilation of records? How long was the interview cycle? Does the survey graph the changing views over time of individuals in the sample? What were the dates of the records? Over how many iterations was that survey conducted? Exactly >who< responded to that survey and how was/were the sample(s) selected? What percentage of the selected sample(s) actually >responded< to that survey in the first place? I don't see any error margin or confidence interval numbers on the chart. It doesn't even show the sample size. How representative are those numbers? At this juncture, the numbers >I'd< be >most< interested in would be the number >and< demographic - not to mention, location - of those who >declined< to participate in this survey.

Gallup is a well-established, relatively reputable organization. That doesn't mean they're above a critical eye.

Expand full comment

The best way to impove everyone's security, enable them to climb Maslow's pyramid of needs and approach self actualization is to implement a 50% Discount/Rebate policy at retail sale thus immediately and permanently doubling their potential purchasing power. Change the monetary paradigm and change the world....for the better.

Expand full comment
Feb 8, 2022·edited Feb 8, 2022

If that's your take away from my comment, then OK. I was just making a comment on interpreting the the stat data Mr Reich provided with this morning's essay - no more, no less. For example, todays job creation numbers as announced on the news seem to me raw data. I'd like to see those job numbers broken out by income or tax bracket. That would tell us all a lot more, not only on how many new jobs were created, but of what quality, or livability those jobs newly created really are. For example, they say the lowest paid jobs are being paid more, but they fail to mention if that wage increase is commensurate with the inflation rate they turn right around an wring their hands over. That is, are the lowest paid workers getting an apparent wage increase, while in reality they're taking a pay cut ‽ Indeed, that may be true, across the board, for all income/tax brackets. Do some brackets get a genuine pay raise, or do some get a genuine raise while others take a corresponding pay cut after getting a raise?

At that, such a simple break-out will tell >nothing< concerning the geographic location where said jobs are being created, or even in what industries, or even government.

You see what I'm getting at here?

Expand full comment

I like this piece, Professor. It hits home. My take on this: See the Good.

Many of us are worried about climate change, the political divides and of course trying to cope with all of the changes & losses due to the pandemic.

Some of us adapted easily to being isolated -especially avid readers, folks who eat almost everything they prepare themselves and those who derive pleasure from the outdoors and music. My mother always told me I was “in good company when alone.” I have ALWAYS known that despite my troubles, there are so many people who are worse off and it is they who snap me out any doldrums.

Expand full comment

Yes, and DO the Good as well. Grace/graciousness is nothing more and certainly nothing less than love IN ACTION. Monetary grace as in Gifting with a 50% Discount/Rebate policy at retail sale would not only immediately double the purchasing power of everyone's wage it would continuously integrate graciousness into everyone's life every time they went to the store to buy a sweet potato. Change the monetary paradigm and enable the self actualization of gratitude into our lives.

Expand full comment
Feb 8, 2022·edited Feb 8, 2022

“In a perfect world…” however some of us are just getting by ourselves. We can give of our time and talents however our treasure? not so much.

Expand full comment

Giving/graciousness/love in action is what enabled humans to ascend from the mere struggle for survival. And it will enable us to survive the converging crises we face....if we're smart...and act.

Expand full comment

I am agoraphobic. And social phobic. Hence, as you can imagine, I live a reclusive life - a fact that before Covid caused me a great deal of inconvenience and shame. For me, the pandemic has been like a vacation. I don't have to make excuses for not going out or having people over. I don't have to feel guilty about it either. As an added bonus, the efforts I used to have to go to in order to have the things I need from the outside world delivered to me have been streamlined by the fact that EVERYONE now needs everything delivered and that process has been perfected across the board. Of course, the downside is that I'm more fearful than ever, and when going out is unavoidable - as my need for dental care has become urgent, for example - I am more panicked than ever. The outside world has actually become as frightening as I imagined, and people are scarier and more unpredictable in their fear and anger. I even quit social media at the beginning of the pandemic because of the anger there. I am very grateful to have a "safe place", a kindle, and my cat.

Expand full comment