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27 Shocking Numbers That Reveal the True State of the Union

Scary statistics on unemployment, inequality, climate change and more

President Barack Obama
Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images
January 28, 2014 11:15 AM ET

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

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

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