Numerology, the belief in a mystical relationship between numbers and physical objects or living things, makes for mildly interesting bar banter but has little practical application. It ranks up there with the occult and astrology in terms of credibility. I don't buy it. However, without even trying, I keep encountering a particular number wherever I turn lately. And it's never in a good way, which says something about the times we live in.
That number is 40, as in the forties. The figures are enlightening, some might say depressing. Without further adieu, here is a non-exhaustive list of recent examples:
- 42.9 million people collected food stamps last month in the U.S., up 16.2% since this time last year
- 41 cents of every dollar the federal government currently spends is borrowed (or, lately, simply printed)
- 40.4% of total income taxes collected by the federal government are paid by the top 1% of taxpayers
- 45% of American households will owe no federal income taxes in 2010, up from 39% five years ago. (As the Tax Foundation's Scott Hodge put it, we have a "growing class of Americans for whom the price of civilized society has been reduced to zero." And many nonpayers actually get a ‘refund', which is "not much different from a welfare check.")
- 44.4% of Americans lived in a household receiving some form of government benefits in 2008, a number that is most certainly higher in 2010. Such payments represent over 64% of all federal expenditures, up from 26.2% in 1960.
- 46% more federal employees were paid at least $100,000 annually as of June 2009 versus December 2007, according to USA Today. More than 382,000 federal employees are paid $100K or more per year. (Federal employees and retirees owe $3.3 billion dollars in delinquent tax payments.)
- 46% is President Obama's approval rating, according to Gallup. George W. Bush's current approval rating, retrospectively, is currently 47%.
Keep some of these facts and figures in mind over the coming days and weeks as the governing class and talking heads debate the pending tax legislation, which ultimately impacts all aspects of the federal government including its size and reach.