In a few political and data-visualization blogs the past several days, there has been a kerfuffle
concerning this bar chart
that the Wall Street Journal
published. The gist of the chart is that the bulk of the taxable income in this country is earned by households in the $100,000-$200,000 range, and the argument made is that increasing taxes on the richest Americans won’t raise enough money to eliminate the budget deficit.
The liberal-leaning magazine Mother Jones
responded with this graph
, with the objection that the WSJ
’s graph was drawn to imply that the rich weren’t really all that rich.
I don’t like either graph. Neither is particularly useful. But neither one is “wrong.”
Both graphs seem to have been created with the intention of making a political statement. Which is OK for political blogs because we all know that information presented by pundits has the potential to be biased. But what about graphs that are supposed to be objective – ones we see on the news or ones that we send in reports to our bosses? Is there a standard of ethics for making graphs?
Google is surprisingly silent on the issue, at least using the several searches I tried.
Here are a few items I thought of to help us improve the quality of the graphs in our lives.