The 'facts' tell surprising stories

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Over the years, I've learned to be skeptical of anyone who claims to be in possession of "the facts." Media messiahs are forever spewing overcooked statistics from half-baked sources. If you don't know the source, "caveat redemptor."

But there is one media source I trust: Harper's Magazine, which each month offers Harper's Index, a single page with 40 numbers, gleaned from a variety of sources. Where they differ is listing all their sources. They're also careful to note that "Figures cited are the latest available as of …" You might quibble with their sources, but at least you know where they came from.

This single page each month tells me more about the state of the nation and the world than the entire Internet (or the small percentage of information overload we're able to glean from it). Many of these stats might surprise you. They might even change your view of the world (of course, you have to want to change).

Here's a sample of some fascinating factoids that pulled the rug out from under my world view just in the last five months:

  • Percentage increase in average annual federal spending during the Obama Administration: 2.

  • Rank of that increase among the lowest under any president since Truman: 1 (that includes six Republicans)

  • Rank of the United States among the world's largest exporters of human sperm: 1

  • Number of hours worked annually by the average Greek worker: 2,032

  • Rank of this number among the highest in the Eurozone: 1

  • Minimum number of U.S. states whose constitutions forbid atheists from holding office: 6

  • Percentage of Americans who believe that anti-American speech should be protected by the Constitution: 45 (we should be grateful it's that large, but it's still fundamentally un-American)

  • Number of accidental 911 calls made in New York City last year by cellphones in pockets or purses: 3,910,373

  • Number of reopened U.S. felony investigations that have resulted in exoneration since 1989: 901

  • Average number of years each exonerated felon spent in prison: 11 (that's over nine millennia of wrongful incarceration)

  • Percentage of U.S. veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seeking disability benefits: 45

  • Average number of U.S. veterans who commit suicide each day: 18

  • Percentage of independent political spending on television advertising in the past year that came from anonymous donors: 91

  • Percentage of political ad spending during 2010 elections that would have been prohibited before the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling: 72

  • Estimated number of bats killed by white-nose syndrome since 2006: 1,000,000 (why should we care, you ask?)

  • Minimum amount the loss of bats will cost U.S. farmers in pest control this year: $3,700,000,000 (that's why)

  • Rank of the current U.S. teen pregnancy rate among the lowest on record: 1

  • Percentage of profits that GE paid in federal taxes in the past decade: 2.3 (wonder what percentage Mitt paid)

  • Percentage of the income gains in the first year of the recovery that went to 1 percent of U.S. earners: 93 (Mitt wants them to get even more)

  • Average cost of an American wedding: $25,631

  • Amount the average U.S. worker spends annually on coffee: $1,092

  • Value of loose change left at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints in 2010: $409,085.56

  • Estimated number of houses built or repaired in Haiti since the Jan. 2010 earthquake: 18,362

  • Estimated number of Haitians still living in displacement camps: 515,000

  • Estimated minimum net worth of Mitt Romney: $190,000,000 (some reports put it at $250M)

  • Estimated inflation-adjusted net worth of George Washington: $525,000,000

  • Age in years of the average car on the road in America: 10.8

  • Rank of that number among the highest on record: 1

  • Percentage increase in total U.S. health-care spending in 2009 and 2010, respectively: 3.8, 3.9

  • Respective rank of these annual increases among the lowest in the past 50 years: 1, 2 (so much for Obamacare costing more)

  • Percentage increase since 2001 in female participation in target shooting in the U.S.: 46.5 (so much for women being saner than men)

  • Percentage of Americans, by the age of 23, who have been arrested: 30 (you might want to read that one again)

  • Chances that an employed American works in the service industry: 6 in 7

  • Average annual tax savings for members of the top 1 percent of earners under the Bush tax cuts: $66,384

  • Average annual income for the other 99 percent: $58,506

  • Percentage of former NFL players who experience financial distress within five years of retirement: 86

  • Amount by which sales of ADHD medications increased between 2006 and 2010: $3,400,000,000

  • Percentage of Americans who believed in anthropogenic [human caused] global warming in 2001: 75

  • Percentage who believe in it today: 44 (this is not progress)

  • Number of private U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks in 2010: 15

  • Number killed by falling televisions in 2010: 16

  • Number of babies born in Alberta, Canada, last year who were given the name "Unique": 2


Reader Comments

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Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: August 20th, 2012 10:59 AM

Not to many years ago, social gatherings allowed people to talk and exchange ideas, news and just idol chatter. Now half the youngsters sit on a couch texting and the other half are talking on the phone. At the end of an evening they cannot even tell you who was there or how they added to the conversation. My 96 year old mother has a Kindle and an I-pad, she is on facebook to keep up with the kids, grand kids and great grand kids. At her age typing doesn't allow her to bend your ear fast enough and she worries about saying something to offend someone. Technology is great but it should never replace verbal communications or those interpersonal skills of looking the other person eye to eye.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 9:39 PM

Unfortunately, you have not been fooled by the the entertainment devices. They call cell phones smart phones. What's so smart about them? People will say you can talk and have your phone do what you want it to. You can if you don't expect it to do what you want it to do. A smart should be able to call you a cab, and tell the cab company where you are located at. It can't do that but the people who fall for it will tell you it can but they can't demonstrate it.


Posted: August 19th, 2012 7:16 PM

@Q - Several times I've been discussing how the recent "Electronic/Entertainment Age" is simply too much of a good thing and it is either distracting many of us from "real living" or substituting "real living" for us. @rj and RS - I agree with the local stuff (which are not what Hubbuch and KT write about) - perhaps we're just waiting for the 2013 donnybrook and we try to "replace" as many VMA candidates as possible? I'm a conservative, but I'll vote for Mr. Samuel's crew before many from VMA.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 3:05 PM

Ray Simpson, your grandfather and father had dedication to who was paying them and they received money to do what they wanted they wanted. You had very good examples to follow and so does your daughter. Your daughter is one out of 10,000. Two common words to know a person won't stay with a company. Trust me and I would love to.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 2:33 PM

Cont... an amazing source of verified information that people are willing to give without any thought to it. Drugs, smoking and alcohol are not easy to quit, but try quitting an addiction to a cell phone. No one will leave without their phone. It's their pacifier to handle the World. Just check how many people alone are either texting, talking or just checking their phone because they are not comfortable without it. Grown babies taking their pacifiers were ever they go, with them.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 2:30 PM

Cont... four years learning. It appears the colleges have learned it's better to keep the cash coming in, then trying to educate people. So the advances in developing the following generations is really about not teaching but how to navigate a cell phone, and sharing all of your business to a central computer that gathers and keeps everything. If you want to use facebook, you enter a valid phone number. That number can be traced back and it is verified information. So facebook Cont....

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 2:26 PM

Cont... doesn't think it is useless crap because when they do have to talk with someone, the talk is about the new app's available, and the newest must have phone. Going to college is nothing more then an excuse to keep the furthest from work, and when they finish college, there is no hurry to get a job, because they think the 4 year cruise will give them a big paycheck. Talk with people who just finished college about what they majored in. They know very little about what they spent Cont..

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 2:23 PM

Another fun experience to enjoy, Ray Simpson, is at the movies. How many times have you enjoyed a few people playing games on their cell phones during the showing of a movie? Happens all of time. Marketing is teaching people that thinking is not really necessary. You can get all you need from a phone. You can google, text, find directions to food, gas, and supplies all on from their phone. Apps are made to enhance the phone experience. So much useless crap is made, but the user Cont...

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 2:19 PM

Q- My grandfather worked for Westinghouse for 50 years and my father worked for Chicago Bridge and Iron Co for 45 years. They never dreamed of moving on and their companies never considered that they would work for someone else.I started working and the rules changed to 5-7 years and out. My tenure followed that schedule sometimes by my choice and sometimes theirs. My daughter has worked for the same show in Vegas for 7 years and would not think of changing. She listens to Beatles music 4 1/2 hours a day 5 days a week and still loves every minute of it. There is still some dedication in the world.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 2:17 PM

Cont.. a the same type of case and was able to send what the proper treatment was. That was very exciting advancements to link doctors around the World. Now you go to the doctor's and if the doctor doesn't know what it is, the doctor will say, it's common and leave it at that. The doctor may be to busy to research it because he is busy sending a picture of the car he wants to buy to another doctor. Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 2:15 PM

Cont.. They too will be sending their own pictures. Maybe a picture of what the meat balls and spaghetti looked like before some other young adult was about to eat it. Can you imagine the value a computer could really serve to benefit us? When the idea was first exposed to the public, it showed the benefits in medicine. One doctor in America was sharing with another doctor in another Country, something he was trying to figure out. The doctor from the other Country had experience with Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 2:12 PM

Cont... the phone camera. Now who really cares about this picture? No one, except they felt compelled to take it. After all, they were sharing their experience with their cyber friends. When you think for a second about it, that is very sad what they did. No one cares about the picture, and if everyone they send it to said that to them, they would stop posting pictures. But instead, the cyber World wants to be accepting of all pictures of really nothing of interest because they Cont..

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 2:09 PM

Ray Simpson, I'm not familiar with the movie, but that is a much better way of becoming aware of it. If you work with young adults, you will notice that there is a lot missing in their work ethics. I rather confident in saying that you may find 1 person out of 10 thousand who is willing to work for a company and want to build their career with a company. I observed to young adult females sitting outside on the mall. They moved close together, and one of the two females took a picture with Cont..

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 1:16 PM

Q - watch for the movie "Idiocracy" it shows up on cable every once in a while. Premise is that 2 people are put into a time capsule and don't wake up for a couple of generations. The dumbing down of the world is absurd but funny - we could get there!

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 12:36 PM

Cont.. text their friends with basically useless information for amusement. Cell phones and computers are mainly a device to distract people and turn them into idiots. They have no time left in their busy day and night to discuss events, unless it's the new repair center opening up in Oak Park to repair their toy's.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 12:31 PM

Unfortunately, Ken finds amusement in what people comment about, and it is rather interesting how people respond. When you talk about the millions of dollars wasted in Oak Park, from Pope and Raymond, it isn't something people really care about and they know it. That's why Pope and Raymond will continue doing what they do without anyone voting them out. It's a serious problem in Oak Park with the wasted money, and people prefer to play games on their phones Cont....


Posted: August 19th, 2012 12:05 PM

Unfortunately - I think we always have a wide assortment of local issues in the WJ. Just this week - RF Home Rule, OP Village board issues, Downtown OP issues, Madison St issues, OP police cars, Arts District, Hemingway, FLW, Shakespeare, dogs, pigeons, raccoons. Local gun laws, yard signs, taxes, & the last 12 years of local & national discontent are always sure to go viral when emanating from a liberal editor or liberal or conservative Viewpoint article. WJ needs a conservative editor also

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 11:44 AM

Percent of people who are qualified to vote but don't; approximately 50%. Don't vote for these two corporate sponsored parties. Vote for a truly independent party, the Green Party. See

Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 8:48 AM

Unfortunately- Many of us here believe that the problems of our federal government begin locally. We are, after all, the ones who sent Durbin and Davis to Washington to speak for us, even if they went without our personal vote. The Wednesday Journal is the pot belly stove in the general store of old and many of us old coots enjoy voicing our opinions. What are the odds of the Tribune or Sun Times sponsoring the robust discussions we have here? With a national election close at hand, isn't it your responsibility to gather the facts and the opinions of your neighbors to cast a knowledgeable vote. I know that in this community my vote is in the minority, but I cast it knowing that I have stood up for what I believe, just as I have defended several positions that are not popular with our liberal left village.


Posted: August 18th, 2012 8:42 PM

@Q - I think that KT writes about things to get people arguing - not "talking." @RJ and RS - but this is supposed to be a LOCAL PAPER - why are they arguing national issues? I'd rather that we'd MAINLY discuss matters that affect us directly and specifically. Y'know, OP and RF issues. Why do KT and Hubbuch seek to pull the chains of our community with nonsensical matters? But, yes, too often it IS entertainment. AGW? I noticed that many neighbors are running CAC right now!?!

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 18th, 2012 4:20 PM

rj, I just wouldn't put any trust in what a commie is telling us Good Ol' American's. Look what happened after we left Viet Nam, fighting the commies. China takes over producing things for us, because we were told we shouldn't waste our time with that type of work. Now we don't fight the commies anymore so now we have to fight the terrorist who want our indoor toilets, and I'm sure, one American to another, you aren't willing to give up your indoor plumbing.

Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: August 18th, 2012 3:41 PM

If we state our case with clarity and logic we might just make a couple people choose to change their allegiance or stay home. Florida proved how much each vote counts. Stay positive and be prepared to back up everything you say, the ensuing argument will be without credible sources and name calling reminiscent of a school playground.


Posted: August 18th, 2012 2:24 PM

Q- Whatever - another exercise in futility. Open your eyes - the truth is unfolding before your very eyes!


Posted: August 18th, 2012 2:16 PM

Unfortunately - I understand exactly what you're saying. Before we could respond on the WJ threads I rarely read the editorials because they were so infuriating most of the time. They will continue to spew their liberal bias whether we respond or not so why not let our views be known. Signs, comments, meetings - whatever it takes. I'll call it a right, a passion or civic duty. So don't stop - we need you.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 18th, 2012 1:57 PM

rj, the KGB are very tricky, even for us sometimes, but we figure them out. They don't have people who quit the KGB, so he must have gone to an acting school in Los Angeles, to learn how to act like he is telling the truth.


Posted: August 18th, 2012 1:03 PM

Q - If you actually saw the entire video you can see he was telling the truth as you can see their techniques have worked. Everything he spoke about has or is taking place. Four more years and "you will have no where else to go".

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 18th, 2012 11:55 AM

Unfortunately, it's fun to read what people write. Ken does a good job at selecting topics to write about that get people talking. Getting people to write about what they think helps share ideas to others and others will share their idea. The fun really gets going when people start trying to prove their point. If you don't like it, you can enjoy playing other games the internet provides for entertainment.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 18th, 2012 11:49 AM

rj, how do you know that KGB Agent Bezmenov was telling the truth. They are known to say things that are opposite to get people thinking incorrectly from what the facts are.


Posted: August 17th, 2012 10:13 PM

Perhaps I'm the wrong person to make this request, but I think that I am somewhat qualified because I've definitely fallen victim to "the disease" that I'm about to address: the seemingly intentional efforts by the WJ to solicit inflammatory comments by its online readership. Why is KT writing, again, about liberal national issues? What purpose does he or Hubbuch address that is locally based AND written to be positive or insightful? Does "more eyeballs" mean more $$ to WJ? Please stop. I'll try


Posted: August 17th, 2012 8:52 PM

Q - KGB Agent Bezmenov defected to Canada in 1980. That video interview was done in 1984 and he died in 1993. In 1984 he already saw the path we were on and the techniques used to bring us where we are today. Do you need more proof? It does matter who you vote for.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2012 7:11 PM

rj, how do you know that Former KGB Agent Yuri Bezmenov, is not really a former one but trying to convince people he is so people will believe what he is saying.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2012 3:44 PM

You got me there, Ray. I cancelled my subscription to the New Republic in 2003 after they endorsed the invasion of Iraq.


Posted: August 17th, 2012 2:59 PM

Former KGB Agent Yuri Bezmenov explains what Obama meant by "fundamentally transforming" the US. If you have less than 10 minutes please watch.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2012 2:33 PM

MichaelO - my turn to question your source!"The fact is, the ANNENBERG Public Policy Center (APPC), the sponsoring agency behind, is itself supported by the same foundation, the ANNENBERG FOUNDATION, that Bill Ayers secured the 49.2 million dollars from to create the Chicago ANNENBERG Challenge "philanthropic" organization in which Barack Obama was the founding Chairman of the Board for and Ayers served as the grant writer of and co-Chair of for its two operating arms." I picked this up from the New Republic but most of it has been reported before. Looks to me to be slanted at best but how would you know

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2012 1:54 PM

Bravo, Ray, finally a credible source. Thank you. Your interpretation, however, is a little off the mark. Let me share a report with you.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2012 9:31 AM

MichaelO - What- no snap back? I find it interesting that you question my arguments by demanding sources, yet, your side cites feelings and knowing better as your factual foundation - - sad!

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 11:04 PM

MichaelO - you may be right - anything coming out of the White House is probably a dishonest distortion of the real numbers. I assume you consider Obama's own figures to be reliable - even if your a*s has doubts and I would also assume that your political opinions originate there as well.

Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 10:54 PM

Specifically 2009 1.41 trillion 2010 1.29 trillion 2011 1.29 trillion 2012 1.32 trillion Your guys numbers not mine!

MichaelO from Oak park  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 8:23 PM

Once again, Ray, provide sources. Reliably reported my ass.

Percentage Of Left Wing Liberals Working At The Wednesday Journal  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 2:45 PM


Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 2:19 PM

Just a simple question - where did the other 4 trillion go? That is a pile of money that cannot fall through the cracks. It has been reliably reported that the deficit each year of Obama has exceeded 1.2 trillion of taxpayers money.

Kevin Cassidy from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 11:57 AM

Obama policies account for just under $1 trillion of the debt added since he took office, while Bush added $5.1 trillion in his eight years %u2014 mostly due to tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 9:32 AM

Kevin- sorry that excuse is just a hollow justification of what the business world considers Obama's free market incompetence. The spending for the last 2 years of Bush was directed by Pelosi and Reid, true - Bush signed on but you guys NEVER fault the architects of this disaster! When things are quiet at night ask yourself if the promises Obama made to you have been fulfilled or if you were lied to. Put the signs in your yard and defend Obama in this forum, but, in the voting booth - do the right thing - no one will know!

Kevin Cassidy from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 9:21 AM

@Ray Simpson - Obama's spending, frugal as it is, goes toward paying the bill for the malfeasance of the Bush administration.

Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 7:08 AM

Ken - in plain language, explain how Obama can be so frugal and spend a trillion dollars more than Bush every year of his presidency. If you include Bank bailout and the stimulus in the base line then your number might be right. The problem with that dishonesty is that it allows Obama to spend both bailouts every year without congressional oversight. That is the only way that your 2-3% number can be true. Technically you might be right, morally you are dead wrong!


Posted: August 15th, 2012 4:45 PM

Tom - "don't trouble their little minds with the facts". That's not nice - sounds like the attitude of the Democratic party and Obama referring to their dumbed-down constituency. You've been so far from the truth for so long - you have lost touch with reality.

Seymour Scagnetti  

Posted: August 15th, 2012 4:04 PM

Tom, your fantastic renderings of "so called facts," are intriguing, but invalid. Currently, the US is being deluded by propaganda and erroneously presented, "so called facts." You remind me of a pig with a silk hat. One can place a silk hat on a pig, but it still is a pig. One can ramble on about rubbish with a silk hat, but they still are full of rubbish.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: August 15th, 2012 3:22 PM

Ken Trainor, don't trouble their little minds with the facts.

Kevin Cassidy from Oak Park  

Posted: August 15th, 2012 2:29 PM

@Ray Simpson I think you'll get a kick out of the material at the following link


Posted: August 15th, 2012 1:32 PM

So Ken, you haven't pointed out that Mr & Mrs Teresa Heinz Kerry are worth over $1B, Nancy Pelosi $196M, Clintons $200M. Fifteen richest in Congress - 8 are Democrats, 7 are Republicans. We know - wealthy R's bad, wealthy D's good. They're always looking out for the little guy.

Ken Trainor  

Posted: August 15th, 2012 1:27 PM

Source for points 1&2: Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Pretty interesting, non-partisan group. Check them out. I noticed you didn't cite your sources.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: August 15th, 2012 1:23 PM

"Over the years, Ive learned to be skeptical of anyone who claims to be in possession of "the facts". Ken Trainor then goes on to state facts or factoids, therefore I should be skeptical of Ken Trainor. Which I am. Ken might be a media messiah,in his own mind. The only thing worse than a media messiah is a president messiah.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 15th, 2012 12:42 PM

What is so bad about women who choose to participate in competitive target shooting? It is a tough sport that requires a whole lot more concentration and strength than croquet. Women shooters can compete on an equal level with most men and look a whole lot better to boot.

Ray Simpson from Oak park  

Posted: August 15th, 2012 12:34 PM

I am pleased to note that 30% improvement of people who got smart about the global warming hoax. The remainder either live in Oak Park or read the WJ! That balance are people who listen to hysterical snake oil salesmen like Al Gore and nod their empty heads in absolute agreement. The data isn't there and will never add up to the Ken Trainor outcome - - so just make things up!


Posted: August 15th, 2012 8:55 AM

Net worth of the average American has decreased 40% from 2007 to 2012. ALL IS WELL!!! NOTHING TO SEE HERE!

NOPE 2012 from Oak Park  

Posted: August 15th, 2012 8:31 AM

Ken, RJ & Ray are correct about your #'s 1&2. But here are two more for you to think about: African American Unemployment rate in July 2008: 9% African American Unemployment rate in July 2012: 15.9% Hope and change.


Posted: August 15th, 2012 12:56 AM

Come on Ken - Federal spending has averaged 19-20 percent of GDP for decades. Obama's much bigger govt now at 24 percent GDP. His first 8 months, including stimulus, was not implemented in the calculation- was purposely shifted to the Bush column instead. When Obamacare is fully implemented GDP will be at least 32 percent. This is a disastrous spending binge. Figures will lie if liars figure. US debt increased more rapidly than any other president by $4T since beginning of Obama's term.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 14th, 2012 10:39 PM

If points 1 and 2 are even close to the truth how come our national debt is approaching 16 trillion dollars? And if the rest of the list is as bogus why would we believe any of it?

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