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Paint by Numbers

Look, I love a brilliant analysis as much as the next person, and probably more. But I watched some of the Iowa caucus debates (ugh) and what impressed me the most—far more than anything any of the candidates had to say—was the way the moderator, Carolyn Washburn, editor of The Des Moines Register, handled herself. She took zero crap from the grandstanding candidates, was not intimidated by some of the scarier antics and asked hard-hitting questions. It made me remember how important the media can be in politics—and how much good work it can do, in general, when it tries. So in that spirit of straightforward factuality—and shamelessly stolen in structure from Harper’s–some numbers, for your pleasure. Just facts ’n’ figures you might find interesting. I sure did.

10–Number of percentage points by which Rudy Giuliani promises to cut government spending across the board—non-military, only, of course. (Asked in the Iowa caucus debates what sort of sacrifices this might entail for ordinary Americans, our man Rudy replied, “Well, it would require them trying to figure out another way to do it. You know, not having the government do it for them.” Please do your part to ease the national debt by reminding your grandma that she’d better go out and earn those diabetes meds, damn it. The government’s not doing it for her anymore.)

2/7— fraction of President Bush’s vetoes spent denying children healthcare, in shooting down the revised S-CHIP two times. (When you consider that Harding was the last President to clock in with under ten vetoes, that somehow seems even more impressive.)

13—Number of government programs dedicated to preventing teen pregnancy (this information comes courtesy of Mitt Romney’s talking points and has not been independently verified by a non-waffling source)

3—percentage by which teen pregnancy has gone up between 2005 and 2006 (following a proceeding 34-point drop from 1991)

170 million—number of dollars spent on abstinence-only education by the US federal government in 2005 (bonus number: over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by over two-thirds of Special Projects grantees in 2003, contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.)

68—percentage of Americans under 65 who had private health insurance in 2005

30–number of seconds it takes someone in America to file for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem.

900 billion—number of dollars estimated to be held by China (If China decided to flood the market with dollars, our economy would take a pretty serious hit. Also, aren’t they supposed to be Communist or something?)

3—number of overall reviews that the President and NATO have ordered on the Afghan mission. (It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, it’s just…now? And because we don’t have a plan past 2008, don’t know how to keep the Taliban from resuming its strong hold and have no troops readily available? I think we can file this under “too little, too late,” don’t you?)

56—approximate percentage of eligible voters who clocked in for the 2004 presidential election. (Are you registered? Do you know where your polling site is? When your state’s primaries are held?)

6—the number of major corporations controlling over 90% of mass media in 2000 (according to journalist Ben Bagdikian—although this number has since fallen).

Support independent media—it’s absolutely vital. Find the facts—and fight them. The numbers are right there.

–Mel Weiss