Published on Apr 15th, 2022
US public companies are required to file an annual 10-K report with a summary of finances, key metrics, risk factors, and more. This report uses the 10-K format to cover these same topics for the US government.
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As the economy continues to rebound from the pandemic and struggles against inflation and millions of open job positions, this year’s 10-K report provides an accounting of how the nation fared in the decade after the last major economic emergency: the Great Recession.
This annual USAFacts Government 10-K is a central source for a full accounting of the results of the programs the government enacts, cuts, and extends. Modeled on the required form for assessing performance, financial condition, and risk factors that publicly traded US companies annually submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission, this report helps citizens judge the state of the nation. This report uses government numbers and only government numbers. No government, federal, state, or local, supplies this comprehensive overview on its own, so USAFacts is back for a sixth year to provide it for the American people.
This 10-K combines data from more than 90,000 different government entities. Due to the slow nature of government reporting, the state and local financial data is three years old. Therefore, this report primarily covers 2009 to 2019. Much happened, including, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP, which involved bailouts for General Motors and Chrysler and mortgage relief for homeowners; the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which raised federal matching rates under Medicaid, expanded food benefits for needy families, added new tax credits, and much more.
Where possible, USAFacts has included recent available metrics to add current context to this decade of data.
Whether the country was served well by these programs and many others, that’s for you to decide. But all Americans deserve comprehensive metrics from their governments to understand outcomes and decide on a path ahead.
This entire report is well worth your time, but here’s some of what I found interesting:
The number of people enrolled in many government programs rose over the decade — but increasing program costs outpaced enrollee growth. For example, partly driven by the expansions allowed by 2010’s Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (or CHIP) enrollment grew 48% between 2009 and 2019. Yet, Medicaid and CHIP payments rose 90%, up by $298 billion.
A bit of a counter example, the cost of veterans’ pension and disability benefits rose 18% or $16 billion and medical expenditures went up 9% or $6 billion, despite the nation’s veteran population declining by 3%. The same goes for Social Security: enrollment rose 22%. This includes 11.2 million more Americans receiving retirement benefits and 400,000 more on disability insurance. Social Security costs were up $332 billion, or 59%.
It is important to note these rising program costs. Government debt per person doubled in the decade before the pandemic and coronavirus response spending has pushed it even higher.
Median wages increased between 2009 and 2019, outpacing inflation by 1%. Jobs started to pay more, with the number of workers paid at or below minimum wage decreasing 55% over the decade. Total employment (the number of people working for themselves or as a paid employee) increased faster than the working age population: the working age population grew 3% and total employment grew 10%. Senior employment also grew, up 69% from 6.11 million to 10.34 million. The nation’s senior population grew by 36% (14.4 million people) over the same period.
Some Americans left the workforce during the pandemic and have not returned — as of March 2022, there are 174,000 fewer people in the labor force than immediately prior to the pandemic. And inflation is eating into workers’ gains: consumer prices rose 8.5% in March 2022 compared to a year prior, the highest level in 40 years.
Of all the Americans experiencing poverty in 2019, a third of them were kids. There were 10.45 million children in poverty that year, down from 15.45 million in 2009, but the impact was uneven. Over the decade, the poverty rate ranged from 8% to 12% for non-Hispanic white children and from 21% to 33% for Hispanic children. The percentage of non-Hispanic Black children in poverty ranged from 26% to 37%, the highest rates of any group.
As in last year’s report, the number of children experiencing homelessness grew even as child poverty dropped. At least 1.39 million children were homeless in 2019, up from 915,000 in 2009.
The federal government increased the Child Tax Credit in the 2021 American Rescue Plan. Last July, the number of children in families that received the first monthly payment totaled 60 million. These disbursements had a maximum of $250 to $300 per child, depending on their age. These increased payments stopped in December 2021. The government metrics that might provide insights into the impact these payments had on child poverty and homelessness aren’t timely. Americans need clear data about the results of the payments to understand how to move forward. While the nation made progress from 2009 to 2019, we have further to go, all of which is complicated by lingering instability from the pandemic.
Coronavirus has left its mark in many ways, from the 986,042 Americans who have died of the virus as of this publication, to students’ learning loss due to school disruption, to businesses that couldn’t survive the economic downturn. And by the end of 2020, COVID-19 caused US life expectancy to fall by 1.8 years.
Yet, health issues were already trending in a disconcerting direction before the pandemic. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2019, up 30% from a decade before. The rates at which Americans died from heroin use (14,000 in 2019, up 367% from 2009) and other synthetic narcotic use (36,000 in 2019, up 1,100% from 2009) increased by much more than cancer and heart disease rates — the nation’s leading causes of death.
There are other indications of declining health, including more Americans dying in highway crashes, and rising asthma, diabetes, and obesity rates. The nation is grappling with a decade of downward health trends colliding with a once-in-lifetime pandemic.
This decade in American education is a tale of pluses and minuses. The percentage of adults 25 or older with at least some college experience rose to 62%. More students who opt for college are graduating: the graduation rate at four-year institutions rose from 58% in 2009 to 63% in 2019 and from 28% in 2014 (the most recent year for which data is available) to 36% in 2019 for two-year institutions.
However, differences by race persist from grade school to post-secondary education. Disparities in math and reading proficiency between non-Hispanic white and Asian American students, versus non-Hispanic Black and American Indian/Alaska Native students start early and are pronounced by eighth grade.
Asian Americans had the highest four-year institution graduation rates: 75%. Meanwhile, American Indian/Alaska Native people had the lowest rate at 41%.
Another thing to keep in mind when considering these metrics: wages for people with bachelor’s degrees are up 5% since 2000, compared to 0.1% for people with some college or an associate degree (according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data in a separate USAFacts article).
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed on November 6, 2021. The legislation calls for, among other things, an additional $110 billion in funding to repair roads and bridges. This 10-K reveals that an increasing share of roads are in unsatisfactory condition and congestion is getting worse — delays on urban highways increased 11 hours per commuter, per year, over the past decade. Bostonians have it the worst with a full 24 hours per year increase. The nation’s bridges improved from 2014 to 2019, however, from 9% in poor condition to 7%. The bill also aims to reduce the traffic fatalities mentioned earlier in this letter.
This physical infrastructure affects citizens every day. They experience substandard roads, see the improvement projects, and should watch these metrics to assess progress.
Billion-dollar natural disasters increased 75% over the decade: 2019 was the fifth consecutive year in which 10 or more separate billion-dollar disasters occurred. Actually, 2019 had 14 of them: eight severe storms, three major inland floods, two tropical cyclones, and one wildfire.
The decade’s disasters were particularly destructive. Inland flooding across Central states in 2019 cost $20 billion. In 2018, Americans endured Hurricanes Michael ($25 billion) and Florence ($24 billion) and a record-setting Western wildfire season (nearly $24 billion). 2017 and 2012 were two of the three costliest years for disasters on record ($306 billion and $116 billion, respectively.)
With half a decade of 10 or more annual billion-dollar storms, the data suggests a trend, not a fluke. The infrastructure bill also contains more than $50 billion to protect against droughts, floods, and wildfires. It’s in Americans' financial and physical interest to follow government numbers and hold policymakers accountable for how they will invest the funds.
USAFacts will continue to urge US governments, from federal to local, to work toward data that’s timely and transparent. Americans, the shareholders in this democracy, deserve an accurate accounting of how tax dollars are collected, spent, and the related outcomes.
Accessible US government metrics like this 10-K empower citizens to bring unbiased facts to their daily discussions. And with midterm elections coming this fall, the facts are crucial to having educated debates and making informed choices as voters.
Voter participation in midterms declined from 2010 to 2014, down from 46% to 42%. In 2018, it grew to 53%, a jump so large that it resulted in overall growth in participation for the decade. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and democracy is only successful when it’s grounded in truth. It is my hope that when aided with sound nonpartisan numbers like these, this upswing in participation will continue.