We’ve made the point time and time again that charts and graphs, though they feel official and true, can lie. Rarely do you get to see that at work, but the good folks at Hyperakt have sent us a prime case study in infographic deception. The subject, of course, is politics—and in particular, the raging debate over whether the rich should be made to pay more taxes. “Using the same data, very different stories can be told depending on different agendas,” says Deroy Peraza, one of the founders of Hyperakt.
A story from the Wall Street Journal’s far-right op-ed page gets us started, with a chart showing how much taxable income is made by Americans ranging from the rich to poor:
Looking at that, the conclusion seems glaringly obvious: The rich don’t make so much money! In fact, as a group, they seem to make about as much as the poorest Americans! Why on earth would you tax these poor souls? As Jonathan Chait points out:
The chart most certainly does not demonstrate the Journal’s point. It instead relies upon an optical illusion. Democrats have been arguing that their tax increases should solely effect income over $250,000 a year. The Journal makes that pot of income appear small by diving it up into seven different lines. See, the $100,000-$200,000 line is tall, and all the other lines to the right of it are short. That tall line must be where the money is!