Things they don't teach you at Harvard
Another take on 9-9-9

9-9-9 data deserving a chart

Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan has attracted lots of attention. Paul Krugman cites a Tax Policy Center study that shows the plan penalizes middle and lower income households.


The main idea is that there are people who will pay more taxes and those who will pay less under every income group. The impact of the tax policy depends on the mix between those paying more and those paying less.

The data table is far too cumbersome to bring out the message. Here is a visualization:


For example, for the top 20% income group, about 50 % will see an average tax cut of 3900. But about 80 to 90% of the other 4 quintiles will experience tax hikes.


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Eh. Better than the table, but I don't love it. I'd put in a vote for a small-multiples graph instead of overlays. I'd also suggest replacing the lines with two boxes, one below the line and one above. (That is, fill the lines you've already drawn.) That would lead to an interpretation where the area of each box would be the total increase or decrease from each quantile.




HarlanH: Thanks for the thoughts. Unlike others, I have a distaste for box charts (mosaic charts, treemaps, etc.) because when both the length and the width of a box are changing, it's tough to judge the relative areas of boxes. Small multiples I think can work well here.

Tom: That chart ignored the important information that half of the top quintile has tax breaks while only < 20% of the other quintiles get tax breaks (as opposed to tax hikes). The challenge here is how to fit that information in without making the chart too complicated.


I like this chart, but you have almost completely changed the focus of the data, by switching to the dollar amount of the cuts on the Y axis, rather than the % of after tax income.

The most critical point in the original analysis was the right-most column - the impact of the tax increases on the household income would be radically higher for the lower quintiles. In this chart, the amount of the tax increases appear to be roughly 'equal' across the quintiles. It also amplifies the apparent 'benefit' of the tax cuts on the higher quintiles, since the cuts would be a smaller proportion of the household income.

Your chart now shows the overall fiscal impact of the cuts - definitely interesting, but it is a different point than the original.


I don't know. I think the table is clearer on this one.

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