Category Archives: Cultural

ARE YOU TOUCH STARVED

What does it mean to be ‘touch starved”

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Louise Morales-Brown on January 19, 2021

Edited By Alex Santiago

Touch starvation refers to the longing for touch or physical contact from other living beings. It typically occurs when a person experiences little to no physical contact for a prolonged amount of time.

Humans are largely social beings, and some research suggests that many people feel comfort, security, and satisfaction from physical contact. Deprivation of physical touch may result in people experiencing negative sensations, such as feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

There may be a growing number of people experiencing touch starvation due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Physical distancing and social restrictions to limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are limiting exposure to other people and reducing physical contact between humans.

People may also refer to touch starvation as touch depression, touch deprivation, affection deprivation, touch hunger, or skin hunger.

This article will discuss what touch starvation is, its potential psychological complications, and some ways to help prevent it.

What does it mean?

Close up of a hand touching a large tree.
Sebastian Kopp / EyeEm/Getty Images

Touch starvation refers to the desire for physical contact that people may experience after receiving little to no physical interaction with others for a period of time. Some people may compare it to the desire for food during hunger.

Research has found that touch is important for humans when it comes to communicating emotions and maintaining relationships. Many studies emphasize the importance of social touch in human development.

Touch can activate particular areas of the brain and may influence thought processes, reactions, and physiological responses.

For example, research suggests that affective touch activates the orbitofrontal cortex. This area of the brain is involved with emotional and social behaviors, as well as learning and decision making.

Touch can also be calming and reassuring for people experiencing distress. One 2017 study notes that embracing and patting children in distress has a soothing effect. A 2015 study even suggests that human touch may help fight off infections.

Therefore, having a lack of physical contact may result in some people experiencing what many refer to as touch starvation.

Causes

Touch starvation may increase feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. In turn, this may trigger a variety of negative physiological effects.

For example, to combat stress, the body releases the hormone cortisol. This hormone can increase heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and muscle tension and suppress the digestive and immune systems, which could increase the risk of infection.

One 2018 study notes that skin can communicate positive and negative touch stimuli to sensory nerves, which convey the sensation of touch to the brain. In response to low intensity stimulation of the skin, such as touch or stroking, the body releases oxytocin, which some people call the “love hormone.”

Oxytocin has many potential benefits, such as contributing to everyday well-being and stress reduction. Therefore, regular touch may help maintain general well-being, while a lack of physical contact may facilitate negative psychological and physiological effects.ADVERTISEMENTTry a top-rated app for meditation and sleep

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Symptoms

It can be hard for someone to know if they are experiencing touch starvation. Most commonly, people will feel an overwhelming sensation of loneliness.

People may also experience:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • feelings of depression
  • low satisfaction
  • difficulty sleeping
  • fatigue

Furthermore, people may exhibit behavior trying to simulate touch. This could include taking long baths or showers, wrapping up in blankets, or cuddling a pet or cushion.

Psychological complications

The feelings of loneliness and isolation that accompany touch starvation are likely to result in adverse psychological complications. For example, a lack of physical contact may increase feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.

One 2017 study highlights that affectionate touch promotes psychological well-being. Therefore, it is possible that a lack of contact could put a person’s mental and emotional health at risk.

A 2020 study notes that touch can also reduce the feeling of loneliness. Therefore, a lack of physical contact may cause or worsen loneliness in some people.

Research also notes that those who report loneliness show dampened cognitive function and a higher chance of experiencing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.MEDICAL NEWS TODAY NEWSLETTERStay in the know. Get our free daily newsletter

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Remedies

Some methods that people can try to overcome or reduce the sensation of touch starvation include the following:

  • Using blankets: People can try to find comfort from wrapping themselves up in blankets. Alternatively, people can use weighted blankets. Using weighted blankets can mimic the sensation of receiving a hug, so this may help people feel a sense of peace and calm.
  • Self-massage: People can try practicing self-massage to reduce touch starvation. For example, people can massage their neck to try to stimulate the vagus nerve, which may help reduce stress.
  • Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR): This refers to the pleasant sensation that some people experience when listening to ASMR videos. These sounds activate the area of the brain that processes touch and may help people feel calm and relaxed.
  • Recounting previous contact: Research suggests that touch plays a role in memory. Therefore, people may be able to recall a previous instance of physical contact and focus on their senses to relive the situation.
  • Using body pillows: Using a body pillow may help some people feel more comfortable during sleep. This may also mimic the sensation of cuddling.
  • Hugging: Research suggests that even hugging an inanimate object, such as a pillow, can help reduce stress. If possible, people can also hug their pet. In fact, research notes that animal companionship can reduce distress and loneliness.
  • Communication: If possible, try to stay in regular contact with family, friends, and other loved ones. This could be through text messages, phone calls, or video calls. Research suggests a link between video calls and reduced feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
  • Exercising: Physical activity can help improve cognitive function and well-being. It can also help reduce feelings of stress and depression and improve sleep.

When to seek help

If a person experiences negative mental health symptoms, they should try to seek assistance. Without treatment, mental health can significantly worsen and affect a person’s quality of life.

However, it is important for people to respect and maintain physical distancing measures and not risk their health or that of other people.

If a person is unable to get help in person, they could consider trying teletherapy. This is any form of remote therapy that uses technology to allow the therapist and their client to communicate. This can include holding therapy sessions over the phone, by video call, or through instant messaging.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can call 800-799-4889.

Summary

Touch starvation refers to a sense of longing for physical contact. Humans are social creatures, and touch plays an important role in development and communication. For some people, the deprivation of human touch may result in negative mental health effects.

People can try different methods to mimic the sensation of human contact or try other means to promote positive mental health, such as exercising and regularly communicating with loved ones.

If a person is experiencing adverse mental health effects due to touch starvation, they should try to seek help.

RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD 2021

Top 10 Richest People in the World (Updated 2021)

Balwinder  January 13, 2021  

Edited By Alex Santiago

Pandemic has made all of us take a huge toll on our salary and business income. However, there are people in the world who have succeeded in maintaining their wealth during the last 6 months. Well, we are aware of the names. Starting from Jeff Bezos to Warren Buffett, all the world’s richest people have grown their net worth while most of us were losing it. So move to look in the list of richest people in the world.

Richest People in the World

Whatsoever, we aren’t aware of all the richest people in the world. With this article, we will find about the top 10 richest people in the world, along with their wealth and net worth and how they manage to grow it during this time.

Top 10 Richest People In The World With The Highest Net Worth:

Here is the list of 10 Richest People in the World:

1. Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Elon Musk, the co-founder of the world s largest EV manufacturing company – Tesla Inc., has surpassed Bill Gates to become the 2nd in the list of top richest people in the world. With his net worth solely growing from Tesla’s shares, there is no way anyone can beat him in this race. As per his prediction, the Tesla share crossed the $500 billion mark, which is the reason for his enormous growth. Well, many consider him the Tony Stark of the billionaires.

  • Net Worth – $195 billion

2. Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos, as of Jan 2021, is on the top when it comes to the world s richest people in the world. He is the co-founder of Amazon.com, which now has several subsidiaries all across the globe. His net worth is in billion and, therefore, tough for many to match. Unbelievably, Jeff Bezos’ net worth grew $72.4 billion during the last year and continues to do so without taking a halt.

  • Net Worth – $185 billion

3. Bill Gates

Bill Gates - Richest People in the World

Well, who hasn’t heard of Bill Gates. The former CEO of Microsoft is loved by everyone. It is his charitable nature that pulls him down on the list of the world s richest people. His age is 65 years and still believes in growing his net worth. His charitable nature has made him one of the kindest people in the world.  Bill Gates was ruling the top 10 richest people in the world’s list until Jeff Bezos took his place.

  • Net Worth – $132 billion

4. Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault is a hero for many people. His way of growing his wealth is phenomenal and, thus, loved by many, even after the decrease in the demand for luxurious goods. He has made sure to hold his position at 4th place among the top billionaires with an amazing net worth. He has invested heavily in his business empire and owns brands like Louis Vuitton and Sephora.

  • Net Worth – $110 Billion

5. Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg - Richest People in the World

He is the co-founder and CEO of Facebook Inc. He is the youngest billionaire and has made his way into Forbes numerous times. Two years ago, there was only 1 cent-billionaire (more than $100 billion); however, we have 5 now. Mark Zuckerberg invested heavily in Reliance Industries recently to convert India into a digitally free country. All of them have a marvelous way of investing in different ventures. Being one of the 10 billionaires in the world is indeed a great thing.

  • Net Worth – $100 billion

6. Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, is the classiest person that one can come across. His investment strategy is out of the box. With most of his wealth from the stock market, there is always something new to learn about the person.

At a very tender age, Warren Buffett understood the importance of investing and made his first 2 billion of net worth in a very short span. Currently, he is the largest shareholder of Coca-Cola Inc. and has a major investment in American Airlines, United, Southwest, and Delta. Apart from it, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have been great friends for a long time.

  • Net Worth – $85.2 billion

7. Larry Page

Larry Page - Richest People in the World

Larry, along with his partner, had an aim to make Google Inc., the biggest company in this world. Well, he succeeded in the same but had to leave his position to take care of his life. He is the co-founder of the holding company for Google, i.e., Alphabet. Larry stepped down from his position in December 2019. His innovative idea is one of the main reasons why he is one of the richest persons in this world.

  • Net Worth – $83.6 billion

8. Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison

At some point of time in life, we all must have come across the software giant Oracle. Well, Larry is the co-founder and chairman of this company. He has stakes in different companies and believes in investing heavily in futuristic companies. He is among the few people who’s wealth didn’t shrink this year.

  • Net Worth – $79.7 billion

9. Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer

Well, most of us might not have come across the name Steve Ballmer. He is the ninth richest person in this world and is renowned for his former CEO position for Microsoft. Being a basketball fan, he owns the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, which he invested in 2014. He bought the team for an amount of $2 billion and has loved it since that day.

  • Net Worth – $79.1 billion

10. Sergey Brin

Sergey Brin

The last one on our list of the top richest people in the world is Sergey Brin. He is the person who helped Larry Page form the ultimate software company, Alphabet. He recently stepped down from the position of President of Alphabet in the year 2019. Now, he is known for his wealth and his position as a board member for the company.

  • Net Worth – $78.8 billion

Well, most of you must be looking for the name Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries. Whatsoever, his wealth shrunk recently to $76.8 billion from $90 billion. This gave an opportunity to Steve Ballmer and Sergey Brin to take his position on the list. However, he is the owner of the company, which passed the $2 trillion mark in recent times.  Muskan Ambani has been on the list of the richest people and is looking forward to grabbing the same in the future.

THE ADULT ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY

Edited By Alex Santiago

As therapist John Woods recently wrote, pornography “is no longer just a private problem. It is a public health problem.”

It’s no secret that adult entertainment is one of the leading industries driving website traffic online. But just how much of this traffic is actually going to porn websites, and what locations is it coming from? We got an inside look alongside SimilarWeb to explore the murky world of online porn consumption. The results may surprise you—and also provide a fresh perspective on how online marketers working in this category maximize their returns.

Pornographic websites are responsible for 4.41% of all desktop visits on the internet worldwide. To put that in perspective, ExtremeTech surveyed usage data pulled from Google’s DoubleClick Ad Planner and discovered that the most popular porn site on the web serves up 4.4 billion page views per month. Reddit, by comparison, clocks in with just 2.8 billion.

The adult entertainment category ranks seventh on the list of leading categories on the internet, falling just below computers and electronics and surpassing a variety of other very strong categories, including games and sports.

Which countries have the most shares of porn sites?

Porn sites are clearly the unhealthy habit of choice for many, as it outranks gambling, beauty and fitness, travel, health, and recreation. The adult entertainment industry is known for driving huge profits, and is in fact twice as large as the online finance industry, in terms of traffic share, as we can see in the chart below.

Adult entertainment percentage desktop worldwide
Countries with biggest share adult entertainment

World average – 4.41%

According to SimilarWeb’s analysis, the top two countries with the highest share of adult websites are Iraq and Egypt, two very socially conservative countries that many wouldn’t have previously thought would factor in the top 10. Rounding out the category are predominantly European nations with the likes of Japan and Peru making up the Asian and South American contingent.

Which countries have the longest sessions, and visit the most pages?

Meanwhile on the list of countries with the longest average session time, East outranks West. Middle-Eastern countries along with those in Asia dominate the top of the rankings. Interestingly, neither the USA, UK nor Canada are ranked on the below chart, suggesting that there is a very lucrative market for adult websites overseas.

Countries longest sessions adult entertainment

World average – 0:03:16

Countries most pageviews adult entertainment

World average – 3.8

Once again Europe is dominating the list—and in terms of highest pages viewed per visit, specifically northern Europe. However, way out in front is Hong Kong, with its nearest Asian neighbor, Singapore, placed in fifth.

Which search engine is used to find porn?

Google is the clear search engine of choice for users looking for porn, with a whopping 83.48% of all adult-site search coming from the brand. Maybe this isn’t too surprising since Google is by far the biggest and most popular search engine, and with adult sites especially, people want a search engine they can trust. However, there have been suggestions that Google’s filtering results are sending more users to Bing.

Traffic source adult entertainment

Fun fact: our data shows that the social media channel driving the most traffic to adult websites is not Facebook as we had expected, but reddit.com. You might be surprised to see that Tumblr is missing from this list, but that’s because the blogging site is built on subdomains, and therefore each subdomain is counted as a separate website. (Analysis can be done on Tumblr alone, but this would warrant its own study.)

Social networks traffic adult entertainment
Top suppliers adult entertainment traffic
Why This Matters

The key takeaway here is that porn sites have absolutely flooded the web. And the more our society becomes sexually saturated, the more porn makers pump out harder and harder material to make sure they stay on the cutting edge.

“Thirty years ago ‘hardcore’ pornography usually meant the explicit depiction of sexual intercourse,” wrote Dr. Norman Doidge, in his recent book on neuroscience, The Brain That Changes Itself. “Now hardcore has evolved and is increasingly dominated by the sadomasochistic themes…all involving scripts fusing sex with hatred and humiliation. Hardcore pornography now explores the world of [violence], while softcore is now what hardcore was a few decades ago… The comparatively tame softcore pictures of yesteryear…now show up on mainstream media all day long, in the pornification of everything, including television, rock videos, soap operas, advertisements, and so on.”

And not only is there more porn to watch, but also there are more ways than ever to watch it. Today, not only do we have high-speed Internet, we’ve got it on tap for devices we have with us 24 hours a day. Families have gone from having one shared computer to often having multiple personal laptops, smartphones, and tablets. It’s now virtually possible to have an Internet-enabled screen in front of our eyes nearly every minute of the day.

As porn’s availability has risen, so have its devastating effects on people, relationships, and society at large. As therapist John Woods recently wrote, pornography “is no longer just a private problem. It is a public health problem.”

THE USA ECONOMY

U.S. Economic Outlook

Edited By Alex Santiago

The economy likely recovered robustly in Q3, after Q2’s unprecedented contraction due to the blow dealt by Covid-19. In September, the unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percentage points from the month prior while non-farm payrolls continued to rise, although they were still down 10.7 million compared to February. This, coupled with consumer confidence hitting a six-month high, likely boosted private spending, as suggested by a jump in auto and clothing sales in the same month. Furthermore, upbeat construction activity and a surge in housing starts in Q3 should have supported residential investment. Meanwhile, Joe Biden and the Democrats are currently leading the polls ahead of the presidential elections on 3 November. Under a Biden administration, economic growth would likely benefit from increased spending on infrastructure and social security, as well as a less disruptive foreign trade policy.

United States Economic Growth

Next year, GDP should rebound on the back of ample monetary and fiscal stimulus and as the impact of the pandemic fades. A lower unemployment rate and rising consumer confidence levels should support household spending next year. U.S.–China trade tensions and renewed lockdown measures are key downside risks to the outlook, however. Focus Economics panelists see GDP growing 3.8% in 2021, which is unchanged from the previous month’s forecast. In 2022, our panel sees the economy expanding 2.9%.

United States Economy Overview

Economic Overview of the United States

Despite facing challenges at the domestic level along with a rapidly transforming global landscape, the U.S. economy is still the largest and most important in the world. The U.S. economy represents about 20% of total global output, and is still larger than that of China. Moreover, according to the IMF, the U.S. has the sixth highest per capita GDP (PPP). The U.S. economy features a highly-developed and technologically-advanced services sector, which accounts for about 80% of its output. The U.S. economy is dominated by services-oriented companies in areas such as technology, financial services, healthcare and retail. Large U.S. corporations also play a major role on the global stage, with more than a fifth of companies on the Fortune Global 500 coming from the United States.

Even though the services sector is the main engine of the economy, the U.S. also has an important manufacturing base, which represents roughly 15% of output. The U.S. is the second largest manufacturer in the world and a leader in higher-value industries such as automobiles, aerospace, machinery, telecommunications and chemicals. Meanwhile, agriculture represents less than 2% of output. However, large amounts of arable land, advanced farming technology and generous government subsidies make the U.S. a net exporter of food and the largest agricultural exporting country in the world.

The U.S. economy maintains its powerhouse status through a combination of characteristics. The country has access to abundant natural resources and a sophisticated physical infrastructure. It also has a large, well-educated and productive workforce. Moreover, the physical and human capital is fully leveraged in a free-market and business-oriented environment. The government and the people of the United States both contribute to this unique economic environment. The government provides political stability, a functional legal system, and a regulatory structure that allow the economy to flourish. The general population, including a diversity of immigrants, brings a solid work ethic, as well as a sense of entrepreneurship and risk taking to the mix. Economic growth in the United States is constantly being driven forward by ongoing innovation, research and development as well as capital investment.

The U.S. economy is currently emerging from a period of considerable turmoil. A mix of factors, including low interest rates, widespread mortgage lending, excessive risk taking in the financial sector, high consumer indebtedness and lax government regulation, led to a major recession that began in 2008. The housing market and several major banks collapsed and the U.S. economy proceeded to contract until the third quarter of 2009 in what was the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression. The U.S. government intervened by using USD 700 billion to purchase troubled mortgage-related assets and propping up large floundering corporations in order to stabilize the financial system. It also introduced a stimulus package worth USD 831 billion to be spent across the following 10 years to boost the economy.

The economy has been recovering slowly yet unevenly since the depths of the recession in 2009. The economy has received further support through expansionary monetary policies. This includes not only holding interest rates at the lower bound, but also the unconventional practice of the government buying large amounts of financial assets to increase the money supply and hold down long term interest rates—a practice known as “quantitative easing”.

While the labor market has recovered significantly and employment has returned to pre-crisis levels, there is still widespread debate regarding the health of the U.S. economy. In addition, even though the worst effects of the recession are now fading, the economy still faces a variety of significant challenges going forward. Deteriorating infrastructure, wage stagnation, rising income inequality, elevated pension and medical costs, as well as large current account and government budget deficits, are all issues facing the US economy.

U.S. Economic History

The end of World War II marked the beginning of a golden era for the U.S economy. This period was marked by a surge in economic activity and productivity, a growing and more prosperous middle class, and the rise of the baby boomer generation. From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, U.S. GDP grew at an average annual rate of nearly 4%. By the 1970s, the structural change in the economy away from industry and manufacturing to services was in full force. However, after several decades of unprecedented growth, the economy began to show signs of slowing and a series of events, including the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, the 1973 oil crisis and increased global competition, precipitated important economic changes. The 1970s were marked by a period of stagnating growth and inflation referred to as “stagflation”.

The 1980s gave rise to Reaganomics, a series of economic policies promoted by President Ronald Reagan. The main objectives were reduced government spending and regulation, as well as lower taxes and a tighter money supply. Regan was highly successful in overhauling the tax code and pushing ahead with deregulation in several major sectors of the economy; and while growth and productivity increased, the government’s debt multiplied significantly. In a broader sense, Reaganomics marked a turn toward free-market supply-side economics and away from the Keynsian-inspired economics that had been favored since the Great Depression.

Increasing global integration and the rise of new technology, including the adoption of productivity-enhancing IT in the workplace and the surge of high-tech companies, helped fuel an economic boom in the 1990s. The period between 1993 and 2001 marked the longest sustained expansion in U.S economic history, and powered a steep rise in employment, income and consumer demand.

Moreover, the strong growth and low unemployment during this time were particularly remarkable because the government budget was reigned in simultaneously and actually achieved a surplus for four years between 1998 and 2001. The fiscal improvement was made possible in part by tax increases introduced by President Bill Clinton, but also thanks to the booming economy and surging stock market. The stock market was driven up by the rise of internet-based companies in what is known as the “dot-com bubble”, which generated vast sums of unanticipated revenue for the government on capital gains taxes and rising salaries. However, the overvaluation of dot-com stocks eventually became apparent and the bubble burst in 2000.

The first years of the 2000s saw a sharp drop in economy activity following the dot-com burst. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and several corporate scandals put a further damper on economic activity and business confidence. The Federal Reserve (the Fed), under Alan Greenspan, stepped in to counteract the struggling economy by introducing low interest rates. This move would later be considered a major factor in causing the massive housing market bubble that burst and precipitated the Great Recession that began in 2008.

United States’ Balance of payments

Over the past several decades, the U.S. current account balance has been heavily influenced by international trade flows, with the ongoing trade deficit resulting in a consistent current account deficit. Earnings on U.S. assets and investments owned abroad have a very small part in the current account, and a surplus in this category is not nearly enough to offset the large trade deficit. Overall, the current account deficit implies that the value of the goods and services being purchased from abroad by the United States exceeds the value of the goods and services being sold to foreigners. The U.S. current account deficit widened progressively since the 1990s and reached an all-time record and global high of 5.8% of GDP in 2006. The deficit has since narrowed due in part to increased domestic oil production.

The current account deficit is mirrored by a capital account surplus. The net amount of capital inflows received in the United States from abroad makes it possible to finance the current account deficit. Foreigners continue to invest in U.S. assets and companies, and so the net international investment position of the United States has grown over time. The United States is by far the top recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI). About 80% of FDI in the United States comes from a set of just nine industrialized countries. The UK, Japan and the Netherlands are the top sources of FDI in the U.S. The U.S. manufacturing sector draws about 40% of FDI.

United States’ Trade Structure

The U.S. is the 2nd leading exporter of goods and services in the world and the number one leading importer. The U.S. has consistently run a trade deficit, mainly due to the dependence on foreign oil to meet its energy needs and high domestic demand for consumer goods produced abroad, however thanks to advances in domestic oil production, the energy gap is closing. The main trading partners of the U.S. are Canada, China, Mexico and Japan. Canada is the main destination for U.S. exports, whereas China is the main source of imports.

The U.S. plays a major role in the international trade system and is generally seen as a proponent of reduced trade barriers and free trade agreements. The United States currently has more than a dozen free trade agreements in place. Among them are the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was created in conjunction with Canada and Mexico in 1994. The United States is also an active member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Exports from the United States

Although the United States has lost some of its competitive edge in recent decades, material goods still represent two thirds of its total exports. The United States mainly exports high-value capital goods and manufactured products, including industrial machinery, airplanes, motor vehicles and chemicals. In 2015, the U.S. exported USD 1.510 trillion in goods.

The United States is the world’s leading exporter of services. This includes financial and professional business services as well as other knowledge-intensive services. Travel, transportation and tourism services are also a major export. Services represent about one third of total exports.

Imports to the United States

More 80% of total imports brought to the United States from abroad are goods. Roughly 15% of these imports are in the form crude oil, fuel oil and petroleum products. Industrial machinery, supplies and equipment represent another 15% of imported goods. Almost 25% of imported goods are capital goods, such as computers, computer accessories, electronics, medical equipment, and telecommunications equipment. Consumer goods represent another 25% of imported goods. Cellphones, pharmaceuticals, toys, household equipment, textiles, apparel, televisions, and footwear are the main types of consumer goods imported to the United States. An additional 15% of imported goods are automotive vehicles, parts, and engines. Food and beverages represent only about 5% of imported goods. Services represent only 20% of total imports, and are primarily financial services, as well as travel and transportation.

United States’ Economic Policy

The U.S. government has faced the momentous task of reversing the effects of the recession with a combination of expansionary fiscal and monetary policy. On the fiscal side, government stimulus spending and tax cuts prevented further deterioration of the economy. On the monetary side, the Federal Reserve has tackled economic weakness with both traditional and unconventional policies.

The United States is typically regarded as the home of free-market economic policies. However, the U.S. government exercises a significant amount of regulation over economic, commercial and financial activities. Following the recession, the government stepped up its oversight in the financial sector. The Dodd-Frank act, passed in 2010, represents the most comprehensive reform of financial markets regulation since the Great Depression.

United States’ Fiscal Policy

The U.S. government tends to spend more money than it takes in, and thus has incurred fiscal deficits almost uninterruptedly during the past several decades. The only time when the government managed to balance a budget in recent history was between 1998 and 2001, when the strong economy resulted in higher-than-usual tax revenues. The fiscal deficit reached the highest point since 1945 in 2009 at 9.8% of GDP, but has improved progressively since then; the deficit dropped to 2.4% of GDP in 2015.

The largest portion of government spending is mandated by existing laws, with a large amount of funds allocated to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicaid. Mandatory spending represents nearly 60% of total government spending. The remainder is referred to as discretionary spending, and is determined by the annual federal budget. About half of the discretionary budget is spent on the military and defense, with the other half spent on government programs and public services.

Nearly 50% of tax obtained by the U.S. government comes from income taxes on individuals, with an additional 10% coming from income taxes on businesses and corporations. Another 35% of collections come from payroll and social security taxes. Excise taxes charged on goods such as liquor, tobacco and gasoline bring in a smaller amount, less than 5%. Tax revenues equaled about 18% of GDP on average between 1970 and 2010. Total tax revenues as a percentage of GDP were about 18% in 2015.

The stimulus package introduced by the Obama administration in 2009 included USD 288 billion in tax cuts and incentives. Less than two years later, Obama announced an extension to the tax cuts that had been introduced during the Bush administration at a cost of more than USD 400 billion over two years.

United States’ Monetary Policy

The U.S. Congress has established that the monetary policy objectives of the Federal Reserve are to promote maximum employment and price stability in what is known as the “dual mandate”. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the Fed’s monetary policymaking body. The FOMC meets about eight times a year to discuss developments and the outlook for the U.S. economy and to debate different policy options, including the level of interest rates. The federal funds rate, the main interest rate managed by the Fed, is the rate which deposit banks charge each other to trade funds overnight in order to maintain reserve balance requirements. The federal funds rate is one of the most important in the U.S. economy because it influences all other short term interest rates.

During the years since the recession hit, the Fed has been very active.. Interest rates were initially supposed to be kept low only until the unemployment rate dropped to 6.5% or inflation surpassed 2.5%. However, this specific forward guidance was revamped in March 2014 when the Fed announced that any future decisions to hike interest rates no longer depended on previously-established quantitative thresholds, but rather on the assessment of a broad range of more qualitative information. In an additional response to counter the effects of the recession, in December 2012, the Fed announced an unconventional policy known as “quantitative easing”. This policy involves the purchase of vast sums of financial assets in an attempt to increase the money supply and hold down long-term interest rates.

United States’ Exchange Rate Policy

The U.S. dollar is often referred to as the world’s currency because it is by far the most used currency in international transactions and also the most widely held reserve currency. Almost two thirds of currency reserves held throughout the world are in U.S. dollars.

Although the Treasury Department has the primary authority to oversee international financial issues, the Treasury’s decisions regarding foreign exchange are made in consultation with the Federal Reserve. However, U.S. intervention in the foreign exchange market has become increasingly less frequent. U.S. authorities typically let the open foreign exchange market and domestic monetary policies determine rates.