Published on
Rolling Stone

27 Shocking Numbers That Reveal the True State of the Union

Scary statistics on unemployment, inequality, climate change and more

In tonight's State of the Union speech, we're likely to hear a lot about the nation's continuing recovery from the Great Recession, and about President Obama's determination to run an executive end-run around obstructionist Republicans in order to kick the economy into a higher gear.

But as the nation pauses for this annual moment of reflection on our fiscal and social health, too many leading indicators get short shrift. Here are 27 statistics – on unemployment, inequality, the drug war, defense spending, climate change and more – that underscore the troubled reality of America in 2014:

1. New income generated since 2009 that has gone to the top 1 percent: 95 percent

2. Financial wealth controlled by the bottom 60 percent of all Americans: 2.3 percent

3. Record combined wealth of the top 400 richest Americans: $2,000,000,000,000

4. Real decline in median middle-class incomes since 1999: $5,000

5. Percentage of Hispanic and African-American children living in poverty, respectively: 33.8 percent; 36.7 percent

6. Amount that food stamps will be cut in 2014: $5 billion

7. Federal minimum wage: $7.25

8. What the minimum wage would be if it had kept pace with gains in worker productivity since 1968: $21.72

9. Number of U.S. workers laboring at or below minimum wage: 3.6 million – the near equivalent of the population of Los Angeles.

10.Stealth taxpayer subsidy to the fast-food industry, paid out as safety-net benefits to McWorkers earning poverty wages: $7 billion

11. Global carbon dioxide levels measured in parts per million: 397

12. Maximum concentration of the greenhouse gas that scientists deem sustainable: 350

13. Years since the turn of this century that have ranked among the warmest 15 on record: All 13


Our Summer Campaign Is Underway

Support Common Dreams Today

Independent News and Views Putting People Over Profit

14. Rank of 2013 on that list of the warmest years on record: Number Four

15. U.S. defense spending as of 2012: $682 billion

16. Dollar amount by which that surpassed our nearest plausible military rival, China: $516 billion

17. Federal deficit last year: $680 billion

18. Number of Americans disenfranchised from voting for felony convictions: 5.9 million

19. Share of those disenfranchised voters who are African-American: 37 percent

20. Number of Americans arrested annually for marijuana possession: 658,000

21. Total incarcerated U.S. population: 2.3 million

22. Total population on probation/parole: 4.8 million

23. States that could be entirely filled by all of the Americans under correctional supervision: Nevada and Kentucky

24. Official unemployment rate: 6.7 percent

25. Alternate rate including Americans who've given up looking for work, or have only been able to secure part-time employment: 13.1 percent

26. Number of jobs the United States is still down from 2008 employment peak: 1.69 million

27. Number of Americans who were cut off from long-term unemployment benefits at the turn of the year: 1.3 million

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Tim Dickinson

Tim Dickinson

Tim Dickinson is a journalist and contributing writer for Rolling Stone magazine.

Share This Article