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The Economy: Weirder Than Ever

Posted by Josh Rothman  April 10, 2012 12:34 PM

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At the investment website Motley Fool, Morgan Housel has put together a truly incredible list of economic statistiscs in a post called "50 Amazing Numbers About Today's Economy." They really are amazing numbers, too -- here are a few of the best:

50. The S&P 500 is down 3% from 2000. But a version of the index that holds all 500 companies in equal amounts (rather than skewed by market cap) is up nearly 90%....

35. According to Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill, China's growth creates the equivalent of a new Greece every 90 days....

30. Americans age 60 and older owe $36 billion in student loans....

28. Just five companies, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, and Pfizer, now hold nearly one-quarter of all corporate cash, equal to more than a quarter-trillion dollars....

27. In 2011, the federal government took in $2.3 trillion in tax revenue, and spent the exact same amount on military, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone....

17. In 2010, President Barack Obama set what looked like an unrealistic goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015. After growing an average of 16% a year since, the goal is on track to be met ahead of schedule....

3. The combined assets of Wal-Mart's Walton family is equal to that of the bottom 150 million Americans....

1. Household debt payments as a percent of income are now the lowest since 1994.

A useful reminder, especially in an election season, that the reality of the economy is more complicated than any simple narrative makes it out to be. More at the Motley Fool.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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