WASHINGTON -- The Internet revived the @ symbol. Cellphones personified the : ) and ; punctuation marks. Twitter has pounded new life into the # sign.
And now the 2012 election is making the % sign a star.
The leaked video of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was the latest event to send people scrambling for the top row of their keyboards as he criticized the 47% of Americans who don’t pay income taxes.
The attention paid to his comments this week helped solidify the 2012 race as the % election.
It’s no surprise that a contest shaped by the financial crisis, the Great Recession and acute economic fears is dominated by numbers. And many of the most important numbers come with a % sign attached.
Here they are, from the bottom up:
0-.25% -- The short-term interest rate set by the Federal Reserve, in place since late 2008 and set to remain there through mid-2015 to try to entice people and businesses to spend money instead of save it.
1% -- The top 1% of American households, by wealth. The Occupy Wall Street movement accused them of greed and corruption in causing America’s economic problems.
3.49% -- The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in July, a record low, according to Freddie Mac, which has lured more people to refinance or buy a home.
8% -- The level at which the unemployment rate has been above for 43 straight months, through August, the longest stretch since the Labor Department started tracking the figure in 1948.
47% -- The percentage of people who don’t pay income taxes (actually 46.4% in 2011, according to the Tax Policy Center). Romney derided them as dependent on government.
39.6% -- The tax rate President Obama wants for income over $250,000, up from the top-level 35% rate set by the Bush-era tax cuts.
99% -- The percentage of Americans who are not among the wealthiest. Occupy Wall Street has used the figure as code for average Americans.