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For a few weeks now, the Washington Post has posted a gallery of charts to help explain what is meant by the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ (http://goo.gl/V46U6). Although the 7 charts are a collection of simple bar charts, from a data visualization perspective they leave a lot to be desired. In this slide deck, I've redesigned all 7 charts.

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the fiscal cliff explained in charts a critical

The ‘Fiscal Cliff’ explained in charts

A critical review of a recent gallery of charts

from the Washington Post

Jonathan A. Schwabish

jschwabi@yahoo.com

@jschwabish

the set up

The Set Up

For a few weeks now, the Washington

Post has posted a gallery of charts to help

explain what is meant by the ‘Fiscal Cliff’:

http://goo.gl/V46U6

Although the 7 charts are a collection of

simple bar charts, from a data

visualization perspective they leave a lot

to be desired

the challenge

The Challenge

This slide deck contains my redesign of all 7

charts.

I followed 5 basic rules:

1. Use the actual data

2. Do not overly modify text or labels

3. Use a single color scheme and font

4. Only use Microsoft Excel

5. Apply good data visualization principles

use the actual data and do not add extra data

Use the Actual Data

(and do not add extra data elements)

Except for Slide #6—”Sequester cuts to

the FEMA budget”—all of the data were

either available on the source websites or

in the gallery itself (for slide #6, I eyeballed the

values)

do not overly modify text or labels unless

Do not overly modify text or labels

(unless absolutely necessary)

Even though some of the labels were

shorthand or incomplete, the objective of

the challenge was to improve the

visualizations, not correct syntax

use a single color scheme and font

Use a single color scheme and font

The gallery is a collection of charts from

multiple sources (4 appear to have been

made directly by Post staff) so the color

schemes vary as do the fonts

A single design scheme can improve the

appearance and clarity of the gallery

(I use the ‘Corbel’ throughout)

only use microsoft excel

Only use Microsoft Excel

Because many people use Excel

extensively, I wanted to show that

creating quality data visualization does

not require complex software or

knowledge of programming languages

apply good data visualization principles

Apply good Data Visualization

Principles

My redesigns incorporate simple

strategies:

• keep data and labels close together

• deemphasize tick marks, gridlines,

axes (i.e., ‘chartjunk’)

• where possible, include data directly

on the chart

final notes

Final Notes

Each of the redesigned charts is preceded by a

copy of the original chart, either from the

source website or as a screen shot from the

Washington Post (hence the blurriness in some

of the images)

These redesigns are a start. Please feel free to

add comments to this SlideSharepage or

contact me directly with thoughts, critiques,

or suggestions

a detailed parenthetical

A Detailed Parenthetical

I just wanted to insert a detailed note about the first two charts from

the Tax Policy Center (TPC). In the first chart, I chose to focus on the

distributional analysis and sacrifice the imagery of the rising average

federal tax rate as incomes rise (that is, the height of the bars). I didn’t

get much of the distributional story from the original TPC

distributional chart because it was just a mess of stacks and colors. The

second chart—Average Federal Tax Rates by Income Quintile—tells me

that basic story more clearly anyways. An alternative approach would

be to use several small charts (‘small multiples’) and stack them

together in some way, but I chose to stick to the spirit of the challenge

and only redesign the single chart. Plus, had TPC made a series of

small charts, it’s not clear to me the Washington Post would have

picked it up.

the fiscal cliff explained in charts

The ‘Fiscal Cliff’

Explained in Charts

fiscal cliff components percentage

Fiscal Cliff Components

(Percentage)

AMT Patch

2001-03 low/middle cuts

Estate Tax

Extenders

Stimulus Credits

2001-High Income cuts

2003 -High Income capital

gains and dividends

Health reform taxes

Payroll Tax

Lowest

Second

Middle

Quintile

Fourth

Highest

80-99%

Top 1%

All

average federal tax rate by cash income

Average Federal Tax Rate, by Cash Income Percentile, 2013

(Percent)

40

Increase due to tax changes

7.2

Baseline

30

5.8

5.1

5.0

20

4.2

3.8

31.2

25.2

22.8

4.1

10

19.4

17.4

14.0

8.0

3.7

0.6

0

Lowest

2nd

Middle

4th

Highest

80-99%

Top 1%

All

Quintile

size of components of the fiscal cliff billions

Size of Components of the "Fiscal Cliff"

(Billions of dollars)

Bush Tax Cuts

221

Payroll Tax Cut

95

Debt Ceiling Deal

65

AMT/Other

65

Unemployment Benefit Expansion

26

ACA Taxes

18

"Doc fix" expiration

11

0

50

100

150

200

250

marginal tax rate increase under the fiscal cliff

Marginal Tax Rate Increase Under the Fiscal Cliff, by Income Bracket

(Percent)

Thousand

dollar

increments

<10

64.4

10-20

26.5

20-30

5.6

30-40

2.8

40-50

2.2

50-75

7.8

75-100

16.7

100-200

8.5

200-500

6.2

500-1,000

26.2

>1,000

16.4

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

economic impact of fiscal cliff zandi multipliers

Economic Impact of Fiscal Cliff, Zandi Multipliers

(Billions of dollars)

500

435

Budget Impact

Economic Impact

400

300

201

196

200

181

158

150

130

100

69

60

50

30

29

23

20

0

Tax Cuts

Sequester

Jobs Measures

AMT Patch

Tax Extenders

ACA Taxes

Doc Fix

sequester cuts to the fema budget millions

Sequester Cuts to the FEMA Budget

(Millions of dollars)

600

580

400

200

175

75

25

25

0

Disaster Relief

State, local programs

Salaries and expenses

Emergency food, shelter

Flood hazard mapping

effect on fiscal cliff components on deficit

Effect on Fiscal Cliff Components on Deficit and GDP

Effect on GDP

(Percentage)

Effect on Deficit

(Billions of dollars)

24

Payroll /UI

0.4

40

Bush cuts (high)

Bush cuts (low/middle)

42

0.4

0.1

108

Nondefense

0.7

Total Effect:

$503 billion

Total Effect:

2.9%

Defense

288

1.3

contact me

Contact me

www.slideshare.net/jschwabish

jschwabi@yahoo.com

@jschwabish