The Not-So-Dismal Science

In the 19th century, Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle dubbed Economics “the dismal science.” No wonder so many of us avoid studying economics and the economy.

But a recent Motley Fool article (as reprinted in The Huffington Post) provided 100 Mind-Blowing Facts about the economy. Some were clearly dismal, but many were just plain fascinating.

Here are a few that caught my attention:

  • Start with a dollar. Double it every day. In 48 days you’ll own every financial asset that exists on the planet — about $200 trillion.
  • There were fewer state and local education jobs in 2012 than there were in 2005, even though the number of 5- to 18-year-olds has increased by 600,000.
  • In 1980, there were 15,099 Americans aged 100 years or more. By 1990, there were 36,486, and by 2012 there were 88,510, according to the Census Bureau.
  • U.S. charitable giving was $298 billion in 2011, according to the Giving USA Foundation. That’s more than the GDP of all but 33 countries in the world.
  • Thanks in large part to cellphone cameras, “Ten percent of all of the photographs made in the entire history of photography were made last year,” according to Time.
  • From 2005 to 2012, total student loans outstanding increased by $539 billion, according to the Federal Reserve.
  • Two news headlines published on the same day last September summed up the U.S. economy perfectly: “U.S. Median Income Lowest Since 1995, ” and “Ferrari sales surge to record highs.”
  • The number of workers aged 55 and up is about to surpass the number of workers aged 24 to 34 for the first time ever.
  • The IRS estimates that illegal tax-evasion reduced government tax revenue by $450 billion in 2006 (the most recent year calculated). That’s roughly equal to what the government spends annually on Medicare.
  • Last year, Franklin Templeton asked 1,000 investors whether the S&P 500 went up or down in 2009 and 2010. Sixty-six percent thought it went down in 2009, while 48% said it declined in 2010. In reality, the index gained 26.5% in 2009 and 15.1% in 2010.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, 49.1% of Americans live in a household “where at least one member received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2011.”
  • Federal nondefense discretionary spending — all spending minus defense and entitlements — is on track to hit its lowest level as a share of GDP in more than 50 years, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office.

Mind-blowing, indeed. And as  fan, I was also interested in these facts about Apple:

  • One in seven crimes committed in New York City now involves an Apple product being stolen, according to NYPD records cited by ABC News.
  • In the first quarter of 2012, the number of iPhones Apple sold per day surpassed the number of babies born per day worldwide (402,000 vs. 300,000), according to Mobile First.
  • On Dec. 5, 2012, Apple stock lost $34.9 billion in market cap. According to CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, 417 of the S&P 500’s components had a total market cap of less than $35 billion that day.
  • Apple’s cash and investments are now equal to the GDP of Hungary and more than those of Vietnam and Iraq.
  • “Last year, for the first time, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and unusually big-dollar patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development of new products,” writes The New York Times.

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Today’s Fact Cetera

Need a ruler? A dollar bill is exactly 6 inches long.

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