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An Insufficient Respect For Charts

Brian Beutler catches House Minority Leader John Boehner trying to make the graphical case against cap-and-trade. It's a doozy:


"This is how the process will work," said Boehner, although, as Brian archly observes, the chart describes no process whatsoever. It's not a flowchart. It's just...boxes. Near to one another. Like what would happen if you showed someone a flowchart, didn't let them read it, and then asked them to draw one.

You'll notice that there's a legend in the bottom right corner explaining what the color of each box refers to. But it only defines four of the nine colors. Instead, each row looks like notes from a particularly boring round of Taboo. Row three, for instance, was clearly prompted by the clue "household expenses." And the final answer was wrong.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 26, 2009; 9:31 AM ET
Categories:  Charts and Graphs , Climate Change  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Tab Dump
Next: The State of Play in Finance


Come on Ezra, give Boehner credit. This is way better than their "and then a miracle occurs" charts. It has detail, great and alarming colors, and no meaningful information.

Posted by: wvng | June 26, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

"Propaganda is the use of magic by those who no longer believe in it against those who still do." -- WH Auden

Posted by: bdballard | June 26, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

It is, however, also a little disingenuous to claim that cap and trade has little or no cost to average people when the reason there is little or no cost is a refundable tax credit. "Extra cost reimbursed by taxpayers" is not the same as "no cost".

Posted by: tl_houston | June 26, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Republican pols do not care about truth, logic or reality. They will say or do whatever it takes to prevent any change that might cost the status quo corp elites any thing at all. Dems keep thinking that rational argument means something - it does but not to the Republican political establishment.

Posted by: loki251 | June 26, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

They... they also appear to have misspelled "intense." (For 4, far right).

Posted by: Mike_Russo | June 26, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I swear to God, if you showed one of these guys the electrical wiring chart for their automobile, they'd faint away. "Too complicated! Never work!"

Posted by: Bloix | June 26, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

So let me get this straight. You're criticizing the Republicans because their propaganda intended to show that the Democrats' plan is incoherent looks very incoherent?

I truly don't understand what you're criticizing. This is not a case of a Republican attempt to create something clean and elegant that makes no sense. It's a representation of organizational chaos; you can't bash it because it's chaotic!

Posted by: wovenstrap | June 26, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The problem isn't that it looks confusing. The problem with this chart is that it's being used by Republicans to support their contention that this bill is overly complicated and a bureaucratic nightmare. "Trust us," they say, "look at this chart of how it's supposed to work!"

But this isn't a chart that shows how it's supposed to work. It's a chart that contains a bunch of words, boxes, and lines that in no way add up to a flowchart or a description of the policy or process being considered. The fact that it's a mess does nothing to support the contention that the bill is a mess -- rather, it supports the contention that whoever made this chart is very bad at making them and should probably be sacked.

It's not a representation of organizational chaos, because there's no actual representation being done.

Posted by: Mike_Russo | June 26, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Mike: Of course it's a representation, it just happens not to conform to your expectations of a flowchart, which is 100% irrelevant. I didn't say it was accurate, persuasive, or honest, I'm saying it's a poor opportunity to make fun of anyone's incompetence at making flowcharts (the overwhelming emphasis here). It wasn't their intention to make an intelligible flowchart. As such, the chaos is probably a pretty good bit of scare tactics. What bothers me is that the liberals here are crying "LOLZ! GOP = dumb!" when the proper response is "D'oh! GOP = liars!"

Posted by: wovenstrap | June 27, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

They don't seem to understand the difference between flow charts and org charts, let alone how either one works. To be generous, this is much more like an org chart than a flow chart.

It's still totally wack, though.

Posted by: ajw_93 | June 29, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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