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Assessing America’s Mood

The Global Assessment of Functioning Scale has been around for many years. It is a tool used by mental health professionals to quantify how well persons who suffer from mental illness are functioning on a day to day basis.  A person’s level of functioning is measured on a scale of 1-100, with scores of 91-100 indicating “superior functioning in a wide range of activities and life’s problems never seen to get out of hand.”  A score of 61-70 indicates “some mild symptoms, such as depressed mood or mild insomnia, or some difficulty in social, occupational or school functioning, but generally functioning pretty well. You can see the entire scale here.

I have found that this assessment tool may also be used on a much broader scale regardless of the presence of a diagnosed mental illness.  In my own experience, most days, I would rate myself in the 91-100 range.  But I confess, there are some days when my score would definitely be lower.

So how would you rate the level of functioning of America today?  What if we use the GAF scale to rate the functioning of America on what we might call the Assessment of American Functioning Scale?

In a Rasmussen poll from July 6, only 25% of those surveyed thought the country is headed in the right direction. Before you nod your head in agreement and think Trump has failed the nation, the report also points out that the same metric ran in the mid 20% range throughout 2016, Obama’s last year in office.

Gallup also runs a monthly tracking poll measuring “Satisfaction with the Way Things Are Going in the US.”  In February, pre-COVID, 45% of those surveyed said they were satisfied, a 15 year high. In June, that number is pegged at 20%.

Since Spring, the US has been faced with one challenge after another.  The nation and the world are still knee-deep in the COVID-19 pandemic.  The number of cases is rising again, and many fear that the states that have begun to reopen their economies will be forced to backtrack, which will inevitably lead to more economic carnage.  That has to be worth at least 10-20 points on the scale.

Gallup noted that the downturn in their satisfaction poll has come in two waves, one with the onset of the COVID pandemic and the other after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Peaceful protests over that event have morphed into violent riots in some cases. Anarchists are tearing down or vandalizing monuments and statues of historical figures all over the world. In most cases, they are removing statues of persons who were slaveowners or who, in their estimation, were white supremacists or who engaged in racist, unjust or oppressive behavior during the lifetimes.  On the other hand, if anyone knows why persons agitating for racial justice would tear down a statue of Frederick Douglass, please drop me a note on Twitter.

Regardless of what you think about the demonstrations or the demonstrators, they are having a depressive effect on the country.  Cities run by Democrats are aggressively cutting back on police department budgets or have moved to disband police agencies altogether.  People are feeling less secure.  As a result, firearm sales in the country have soared.  According to a CNN report from late June:

More than 6.5 million gun-sale background checks were conducted from January 1 through April 30, according to the latest NSSF research, which showed a 48% year-over-year rise from the same period in 2019. Firearms retailers surveyed by NSSF in May estimated that 40% of their sales came from first-time gun buyers.

Insecurity and fear should certainly count for a 10-20 more points on the national assessment of functioning.

And then there’s the Presidential election. Most Conservatives are hoping and praying that Trump is re-elected. Some Republicans are worried that Trump might actually be re-elected. According to current polling, Joe Biden is coasting into November with a double digit lead over the president. Although Democrats won’t publicly admit it, they have to be concerned with Biden’s stumbling and bumbling public appearances on the few occasions that Dr. Jill Biden actually lets him out of their basement.  Most progressive voters will vote for Biden despite their concerns because of their overriding hatred for Donald Trump. Needless to say, there is much hand wringing across the political spectrum.  More uncertainty and fear.  More points on the assessment. 

I am tempted to rate America’s current level of functioning in the 40-50 range, but my generally optimistic outlook won’t let me do that.  I am hopeful that America and Americans can see past the challenges that are in front of us and regain the hope and optimism that were surging at the beginning of the year.

I invite you to do your own assessment of America’s current level of functioning.  Let me know what your scoring would be on Twitter @jaljr.

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