If you are like most people your mind is increasingly on the Thanksgiving holidays and concerns about all of the arguments you will have on politics, politicians, elections, and attempting to avoid saying something stupid that your relatives will hold over you for years. Yep I’ve been there too and while in prior years you might have been able to dodge this stuff, this year is a trifecta of impeachment, presidential elections, and recessionary warnings. With Boomers referring to Millennials as immature children and Millennials using “OK Boomer” to imply Boomers are senile, it should be a wonderful holiday season.
Given you can’t avoid this mess Steve Ballmer, who was once CEO of Microsoft, has created a tool called USA Facts. You see Steve is not only a numbers guy, one of the smartest I’ve ever met, but he really, really hates to lose arguments, so he has launched a website that is all facts, real facts, but no analysis. He leaves the analysis up to you which means the facts can be used by anyone.
Let’s talk about USA Facts this week because you and I know that this close to the holidays another piece on PCs, Servers, Services, or the stuff you are interested in the rest of the year won’t be as interesting.
USA Facts – The 2019 Annual Report
We are clearly up to our necks in Fake News as both sides tend to cherry pick information depending on the point they want to make. And this site won’t change that, but at least it will allow you to have a verified source for the numbers you use to support your position.
One of the more interesting places to start is the 2019 annual report. What makes this interesting is that you would expect a report like this to come for our government because it breaks down whether we are profitable as a Country or not. Big surprise, we aren’t.
The report is an impressive piece of work and was produced with the help of Penn Wharton (University of Pennsylvania), Lynchburg College, and Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR). If I were going to argue a point, I’d likely just point the Stanford reference because their title is the most impressive.
Some of the interesting non-volatile (won’t get people angry) facts are that Boomers are around 16% of the population but those under 18 are 23%, which is down from a high of 28% but kids are still more numerous than us old folks and the vast majority of both groups either haven’t yet or have stopped earning a living. A little more volatile if you want to argue economy is that the middle class is making 9% less on average than they did in 2000, but they are also paying 12% less in taxes. The stats are kind of scary for the elderly who saw their income go up 13% because more of them are still employed and have not retired or have post-retirement jobs. So, if you want to argue things are better, taxes down by 12% is a decent statistic. If you want to argue things are worse then the declining income and more old folks having to work would be pertinent.
On diversity if you want to argue things are still bad then you can point to the fact that on average for every dollar a man earns a woman earns around $.80. If you want to argue things are getting better, that is up from $.74 in 2000.
Now if you want to scare the Boomers or just get their attention pointing out that healthcare costs have increased a whopping 59% since 2000 and while we are paying more our life expectancy is falling.
Wrapping UP: The Bigger Picture
I was just cherry picking some of the stats but Steve in his opening to the report points out his reasoning behind the site and that is that with the proliferation of hard facts we seem to be using less of them. We have an unprecedented access to data, yet we are often still making our decisions based on our gut, particularly when it comes to elections. Steve believes, and I concur, that if more of us looked at the facts we could make our own decisions and not have our parties or politicians make them for us.
So, using a site like this over the holidays to make points should drive others to look at the facts as well and I too believe that a better-informed population will lead to a better run government. And, if you are like me, our overall concern about the dysfunctional governments both here and abroad is keeping you up at night.
Learning to use and make decisions from data will not only be critical to our careers (particularly if we are in the data business) but to our lives. Have fun this Thanksgiving and, check the site out, you might learn something. I did.