Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Federal Budget Infographic

Here’s a tremendous infographic from The New York Times. It shows the 2011 (and 2010) federal budgets.

The entire set of budget outlays is laid out in blocks. The cabinet level spending amounts are in big rectangles, and the subdivisions of those are the smaller rectangles on the inside.

What I don’t like about this graph is the emphasis. To me, the primary factor is which spending accounts can actually be cut. It is secondary whether programs have gotten bigger or smaller; what good is it to know that something has gotten bigger when you can’t cut it if you want to.

So, for me, the primary thing to look at is found by clicking on the “Hide Mandatory Spending” button. Click that, and most of the chart goes white. This shows that most of the budget is actually untouchable. Click it again, and it all comes back.

Personally, I don’t like the default coloring. It shows which programs are growing (greener) and which are getting smaller (pinker or even marooner). When you click on the button to show the 2010 budget, the shading goes away. Click back on the 2011 budget button, and the shading does accentuate the blocks that have changed. Cool, but this is of secondary importance.

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