Wonkblog’s Graphs of the Year

January 1st, 2014 at 5:46 pm

If you’re looking for a few minutes of deeply nerdy fun and insight, you can’t do better than to browse through Wonkblog’s graphs of the year.  This year’s graphs are particularly diverse and interesting (I’ve got one in there too, on–you guessed it–full employment and the lack thereof), but there’s a meta-level of analysis here that I found particularly revealing: linking the graph with the person who chose it.

Hillary Clinton’s policy interests are so broad that it’s easy to forget her concerns about the disadvantages facing lower-income kids at the starting gate.  I’ve also thought those studies on how many words kids from different income classes hear at home are indicative of something important.

–Peter Orszag, with whom I worked back in the day, always suspected that common sense changes to uniquely wasteful incentives in the US health care delivery system could bend the health-case cost curve.  Though this is a dynamic process that continues to evolve, I think he was right.

–I liked Sen. Patty Murray’s graph showing that non-defense discretionary spending–which includes programs like Head Start, worker training, housing subsidies, college assistance–is not what’s driving future budget deficits, and not just because it’s true and I point I make here all the time.  I liked it because she’s the chair of the Senate Budget Committee and has the negotiating skills to do something about it.  (CBO chief Doug Elmendorf’s graph made a similar point re all non-interest, discretionary spending.)

–Bill Gates’ graph is worth a look too, not just because it’s about such an important topic–causes of untimely deaths–but because it doesn’t really show what he says it does (he asserts, and I believe him, that the number of those dying from communicable diseases is coming down, but how do you get that from this graph?) and it’s really complicated and hard to figure out, kinda like Windows (note all those little blocks you can’t really read, plus a bunch of blocks that don’t appear to have any writing on them at all).

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5 comments in reply to "Wonkblog’s Graphs of the Year"

  1. Tom in MN says:

    Mine would be a plot from 1945 to present of the following three values:

    Top income tax rate
    Growth in GDP (your full employment chart shows when this was good: not recently)
    Percentage of wealth owned by the top 1%

    The rich just got richer, with no extra growth to show for it. A top tax rate north of 50% with the funds spent on the safety net, infrastructure, etc, would solve most of our problems. While I’m dreaming might as well throw in a wealth tax to get back all those gains of the top 1%.

    • Jared Bernstein says:

      These figures kind of get at those points: http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/optimal-research-on-optimal-taxation/

      • Tom in MN says:

        They do and make a broader point. As an over-educated engineer I like to see the raw data and draw my own conclusions, but your type of graphs that give the trends directly may be better for general audiences (although I’m not sure comparing to other countries carries much weight with R’s). I noticed you made your graph of the year about as simple as it could be in terms of the data presented — three values. Definitely not the Bill Gates approach, he spent too much time on a computer with that one.

  2. Mark Jamison says:

    If there’s one thing that should be clear after automatic across-the-board cuts went into effect this past year, it is that all deficit reduction isn’t created equal. While allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans has bent our long-term deficit curve downward, and closing wasteful tax loopholes and responsibly strengthening programs that seniors and families depend on would do the same—

    Maybe I’m paranoid but given what Ms. Murray’s graph is showing, her comment about “responsibly strengthening programs that seniors and families depend on” seems a little like Third Way code for chained CPI and raising eligibility ages for SS and Medicare. I would be more impressed with the good Senator if she gave me a chart showing a path to full employment, which tends to solve a number of problems better and more equitably than recent budget discussions.
    O.k., that’s an unmitigated plug for you and Dean Baker and “Getting to Full Employment”.