Nadia Hassan writes:
A lot of buzz in recent years about data journalism or quantitative journalism. There is a lot of issues to be worked out, but seriously clear graphics can help get ideas across and deserve to be prioritized to some degree.
As part of my educational mission, I will list some problems with this graph:
– Using areas to denote tax cuts is risky, because if there’s ever a tax increase in any category, it would have to be indicated by a negative area.
– The whole thing is hard to read because of the mix of numbers and pictures. Someone once wrote that a graph isn’t much of a graph if you also have to write every number that’s being plotted.
– Separation of groups into disjoint balls is illogical because income is a continuum. This goes with a confusing arbitrariness regarding which quantiles to use as dividing points.
– Bizarre lack of parallelism comparing Bush’s plan in 2015 to Trump’s in 2016. I guess the numbers from the two plans are coming from different press releases. But couldn’t the Vox reporter call up the organizations that supplied the numbers and get the info on both plans for a common year?
And the accompanying news article, by Dylan Matthews shows a distressing lack of “push.” For example, Matthews writes:
The left-leaning tax analysis shop Citizens for Tax Justice . . . conclud[es] that the plan would cost a whopping $10.8 trillion in its first decade. . . . The right-leaning Tax Foundation estimates that Bush’s tax plan would cost $3.6 trillion over 10 years on a static basis . . .
Ummm, what? It’s the job of a reporter at a site like Vox to evaluate such claims, not just let them sit there, no? If one group said the plan cost $4.1 trillion and the other said $3.8 trillion, sure, you can attribute this to slightly different assumptions around the edges. But, $10.8T compared to $3.6T? In a story that’s explicitly about the effects of these (hypothetical) tax plans, this seems like something you’d want to look into.
P.S. I do respect that infographics need to grab eyeballs, so I’m not necessarily saying that a simple lineplot would be the best choice here. Creativity is great; go for it! But this graph is so cartoonish, I think it is a loss of opportunity to share some information.