Ratings reversal. Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity predicted a Mitt Romney landslide in the presidential election. When that didn’t happen, Hannity’s audience abandoned him in droves. According to Nielson numbers, Hannity has lost about half of his audience since the election. This sort of drop is not unusual. News shows generally have higher ratings in the months leading up to elections. But compare Hannity’s numbers to Fox colleague Bill O’Reilly’s. O’Reilly lost about 30 percent of his audience. Both Hannity and O’Reilly still have numbers that top 2 million viewers per night, so they’re still cable powerhouses. But Rachel Maddow on liberal MSNBC will now occasionally beat Hannity. This ratings reversal would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, when Hannity regularly had an audience two or even three times that of Maddow’s.
Bad deal. Though the House passed a deal that averted the fiscal cliff, the fight is not over. For one thing, this deal solves none of the nation’s long-term problems. The Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday said the legislation would add nearly $4 trillion to federal deficits over the next decade. Because the debt continues to rise, expect a fight over the debt ceiling in the weeks ahead. President Obama has said he won’t “negotiate” over debt ceiling legislation, but he’ll have to. At least 10 vulnerable Democratic senators will be up for reelection in 2014, and challengers are already lining up in some of those states. So as much as Obama wants to “take the politics out of politics,” he will be unable to do so.
Minimum wage hikes. On New Year’s Day, the minimum wage increased in 10 states. Rhode Island’s minimum wage rose because of a new law. The other nine states saw automatic cost of living adjustments kick in. The state of Washington has the country’s highest minimum wage, at $9.19 per hour. Perhaps not coincidentally, Rhode Island has unemployment at 10.4 percent, among the highest in the nation. Washington’s unemployment rate, 7.8 percent, is also above the national average. Neighboring Idaho, by contrast, has a lower minimum wage, and a significantly lower unemployment rate of 6.8 percent.
Spiritual, not religious? Increasingly, I hear people describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” When I hear that, I never know quite what it means. Now, British researchers explain that these people are more likely to have a wide range of physical and psychological problems. Professor Michael King, from University College London, surveyed more than 7,400 people and divided them into categories: 35 percent described themselves as “religious.” These people attended a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple. Christians made up the overwhelming majority in this group (83 percent). Almost half (46 percent) described themselves as neither religious nor spiritual, 19 percent were in the “spiritual but not religious” category. According to The Telegraph of London, “Members of this final group were 77 percent more likely than the others to be dependent on drugs, 72 percent more likely to suffer from a phobia, and 50 percent more likely to have an anxiety disorder. They were also 40 percent more likely to be receiving treatment with psychotropic drugs, and at a 37 percent higher risk of neurotic disorder.”