Hmm, should we maybe reduce funding for the Pentagon?
October 31, 2000 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Edward Tufte, please call your office. Chartjunk off the starboard bow.

Yes, I agree that that 15% -- and more -- should be cut, but this chart isn't why.

I mean, if we put the NEH in there, it'd be an eensy-weensy tiny little bar, so thin you could barely see it. Or what about the President's salary? That wouldn't be very wide, either. Or, maybe if we broke down the Pentagon bar into sub-bars for ships and berets and toilet seats it wouldn't seem like all that much. Just choosing which bars to display biases the impression given off by the chart. Pie charts are a more honest for this sort of infographic because you can group and ungroup wedges in your head a lot more easily than you can side-by-side bars.

And this is without even mentioning that the Pentagon bar is over twice as thick as the others . . .
posted by grimmelm at 10:48 AM on October 31, 2000

There were some good thoughts on the Move Our Money site a few months ago.

I'd rather have healthcare and children get fed than a huge stash of nuclear weapons, but it'll never happen in this country.
posted by mathowie at 10:50 AM on October 31, 2000

Not with Gore/Bush running things, that's for sure.
posted by snakey at 11:00 AM on October 31, 2000

grimmelm: yes, it's making an ideological point rather than attempting to display pure statistics, but that's OK. Propaganda is useful, even if it isn't as pure as the straight numbers. The point they're making is a true point: military spending in the United States occupies a staggering portion of the national budget. They agree with many people who think it is out of proportion to actual needs.

They're not trying to claim it's anything other than propaganda, as far as I can tell, so the graphical fudging doesn't seem like it's too big a problem. If the IRS printed this in the back of the 1040 booklet, then I'd be annoyed.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:04 AM on October 31, 2000

Call it nitpicking, but the length of the bar looks somewhat off, to me -- the first division in the pentagon bar should represent 34.2 billion dollars, but it is longer than the Health & Human services $43.4 billion budget.

As much as I agree with the message, I wish these guys would cite sources and have accurate charts. Not doing so only hurts their credibility.
posted by snakey at 11:21 AM on October 31, 2000

propaganda is useful
-- thank you for your support! Remember everyone, Truth is what *I* say it is! Three-quarters of one-half of a percent of people in the first percentile know that, and half of them are in my direct employ.

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posted by aramaic at 11:29 AM on October 31, 2000

I don't want to let "propaganda" off the statistical hook -- why should we leave the people we're trying to persuade with an easy way out? Unless it's backed up by the facts, then it's just propaganda, and easily dismissed.
posted by grimmelm at 11:32 AM on October 31, 2000

If you're interested in more information about what could be cut, Molly Ivins had a good column a few weeks ago about how to build a stronger military for less money -- and why neither candidate wants to.
posted by harmful at 11:59 AM on October 31, 2000

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