Visual Media

Death & Taxes Poster

Revealing our collective priorities

I’m a chart hound. I love the way one large intelligently designed single image can open up a world. My studio walls are covered with such portals. (For previously-reviewed cool charts see the Histomap of World History and A Correlated History of Earth). Recently I’ve add to my walls the 2009 “Death & Taxes” poster. In one large sheet this chart shows how your federal (US) taxes are currently divvied up among various agencies and programs. No matter what we claim our values are, how we spend our hard earned money speaks a thousand times louder and more truthfully about our real priorities. The immensity of military spending is made plain in this chart; the paucity of science funding equally vivid. But there are lots of other surprises: The size of health related spending, and highway funding. The numerous large sums for things you’ve never heard of.

A democracy needs informed citizens. This chart can quickly educate you about your government in a new way, a way in which a long list of incomprehensible budget numbers can not. The brilliance of this chart is Tuftian way it diagrams quick sense out of the complexity of a superpower’s government and yet rewards close scrutiny.

You can scroll through this chart at close quarters via the online version, but you’ll miss the punch of the big picture. Before you vote this election, spend some time with this guide to see how our national priorities shape up.

-- KK 11/11/08



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