Death and Taxes

Posted by – October 29, 2010

Readers of this blog know that I am a sucker for novel graphics and software that help you explore data. Today’s blog features one of my favorites, Death and Taxes, as created annually by Jess Bachman. It illustrates the 2011 US federal budget, where the size of the circles corresponding to each item are proportional to their funding levels. The percentage changes from both 2010 and 2001 for each item are included to reveal trends. I’ve embeded the online version below, which allows you to zoom and pan to your hearts delight:

It is formatted as a 2ft x 3ft poster, but works well as zoomable, pan-able image that allows the reader to explore the discretionary budget. It may be the busiest graphic since the USGS map of the Grand Canyon, but there is a lot of information in one place.

I have enjoyed looking at this, but I have to say that it has both strengths and weaknesses. What makes it captivating is that one can take in the graph as a whole and see how spending is divided, but also burrow down into each agency for additional detail. I think the Tufte perspective would be that the departmental/agency logos don’t tell the reader much – except that most agency logos were designed by committee. Instead of the central circle filled with text, mabe the total budget could be displayed as a shadow behind the entire image, rather than being relegated to the lower right corner?. And I don’t understand the sliver at the bottom that represents the National Debt. On the other hand, I’d bet I’ve spent a good man-week looking at this… required reading for would-be voters. Kudos to Jess!

-ddw

1 Comment on Death and Taxes

  1. […] Budget makes it easy by summarizing the categories and presenting it as a treemap. Other graphics I have reviewed more detailed presentations but I find this presentation more powerful because it uses less ink to display the data (e.g., no […]

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