Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Information design, federal budget and politics

So, if you're not in the mood for political talk, feel free to skip this blog post. I recently came across this chart showing the percentages of discretionary spending here.

It's a really well-designed graphic. Simple, easy to read. There is power in information design. On this site, they say: the military eats up a lion’s share of the spending, while social priorities fall by the wayside. Looking at this graphic, it is obvious where it'd be easiest to trim from the budget. And indeed, one of the things they hope to accomplish is to have more of the federal budget allocated for social priorities.

But wait. Let's look a little closer. Let's examine the truth.

Funny how MOST of the federal budget spent on welfare, unemployment, health insurance programs, social security, medicaid and medicaid AREN'T EVEN INCLUDED in this graphic. Aren't those considered social priorities? I think they are. But this chart shows only discretionary spending, NOT ALL SPENDING.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the American population strived to know whole truth, to look at as much of the picture as they can? This reminds me of someone going through a book with a highlighter, marking swear words, and then starting a campaign to ban the book because it has a BAD WORD in it. Never mind that the book is THE BOOK THEIF and perhaps one of the most beautiful books ever written with a message of peace and hope. They just see the bad word and they don't read those words in CONTEXT to the entire written work.

It's possible this image was created in ignorance, but I'm thinking more likely it was done with the intent to deceive and to hide the entire truth.

Rachel to the rescue.

I decided to take 10 minutes and create a complete picture of the entire budget. Here's what President Obama's budget looks like until December 16, 2011. A few more bills need to be voted for by Congress, but this is what the 2012 budget looks like as of now:

Looking at the complete picture, I'd say the lion's share of spending IS being spent on social priorities. How has that been working? Is that helping to create jobs? To foster self-reliance? To bolster American health care? To eliminate poverty?

Things to think about when you vote for your political leaders.

ETA: Please know that I believe ALL political parties and ALL news stations are guilty of putting forth incomplete pictures to prove their points and some time or another. I just happened upon this example today. And I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the way the money is being spent on the federal budget. I'd definitely like to see more spent on education, but If I had to cut a program, it would be really hard to choose where to cut. Just like it's hard to say "no" to a new pair of pants for your child or to a meal out when our family doesn't have the money in our budget to spend on those kind of things. Do you cut veterans' health benefits? Do you cut disability for the sweet lady who had a stroke in her late 40's? I don't know.

I don't know everything about all the issues either. Probably no one does. I just wanted to make a point about how lots of information we're being given is misleading but it doesn't take long to do a little research and find the whole story, or at least MORE of the story.


  1. While I'm not sure how I feel about this particular issue (as in enough to discuss it), I do agree that we need to seek the whole truth and not just take things out of context. It's one of the reasons I hate Fox News so much. They're notorious for taking things out of context and using fear-inducing tactics to relay the news. I know the other news stations aren't much better, but at least they are a little bit (at least that's what I tell myself so I can sleep at night).

  2. I am not in the mood for political discussions... I had enough of that at mom and dad's a few weeks ago. It was intense. But back to your post, it made me laugh. Ha ha. I don't even know why because the out of control spending isn't really that funny. The best line was "Rachel to the rescue." I get angry when I see stuff like this totally misguides the viewer. TOTALLY. For the record, I'm kind of glad we spend that much on defense because if we are all dead, who cares what else we spend our money on. I didn't mean for that to sound so dark, because I don't really think we'd all die at once. Just trying to make a point so I can end this far too lengthy comment.

    PS Yes I want you to do my front door. I want to sand it and stain it brown and darker. How do you feel about that? I feel real good about making a decision all by my big girl self.

  3. I love it. And I agree. Completely.

  4. The first graphic made me think, "wow that is really eye opening" the second almost made me fall out of my chair. Thanks for opening my eyes and putting it in perspective like that.