We threw you a curveball today. Only two numbers? This is a great challenge.
I did play in Tableau for a while, but then began to think about what these numbers really mean, and what the goal of the original infographic was. The problem is that comparing national debt to anything else is like comparing apples to oranges. And if you do compare it to other things, you run the risk of suggesting that because it’s so large relative to other things that there’s a problem.
That isn’t necessarily true. National debt isn’t like household debt, or currency, or assets. It’s a funny old beast. Here’s 3 of many amazing articles about this:
- Nobody understands debt (New York Times)
- Public debt is not like a credit card (Reuters)
- Government debt: how much is too much? (Economist)
All of which isn’t too say that high levels of national debt aren’t a problem: they are.
My makeover’s goal was to make it clear that the different values aren’t the same kind of thing. Since there were only two numbers, it seemed right to pull out the pen and paper!
This week’s original
All of the above is one thing, but at the same time, I concede that the original wasn’t explicitly trying to say that US National Debt and, say, all the currency in the world, are similar. They were just trying to give you an idea of what the value represents. I do think there’s a lot of scaffolding around just a few numbers, but as an infographic to sit down and digest, it was a compelling read.