Managing complexity: encoding the tax code

I put together an interactive tool to explore the U.S. individual tax calculation.

Here is a screenshot of the most basic tax form. You can click through to and add components for kids, check the boxes to add components for a mortgage, student loans, rents and royalties, and so on.


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bringing calm to american discourse

Jeff Gates is an artist among other things. He conceived of this piece of art to bring some calm to the political system in the US these days. He also started the Camomile Tea Party.

I like that the poster is placed downtown in a location that will see many people walking by. Lots of bureaucrats there. Unfortunately, people ignore the ads these days.

Hat tip to

house republicans and s.679

One of the most intriguing and unexpected aspects of the July 31 House passage of S.679, the Presidential Appointment Act, is the roughly 100 Republican Yes votes. I gather that, without the votes to win passage, supporters of the legislation like Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) turned a few no’s  to yes’s. Who are the Republican yes votes? Another project I don’t have time to tackle, but perhaps someone else is inspired to tack a look at the roll call (which, by the way, is here) – and I’m certainly open to whatever wisdom exists out there.

infographic: the doing-a-lot-of-nothing congress

Businessweek continues to elegantly distill information into easy-to-read infographics. (Click here to see the original.)

Now is not the time to go into this, but there was a time, not that long ago, when Congress did their work. They passed the budget on time. The worked on important laws, not changing the names of Post Offices. More on this in another post. For now, just note what your Congress has completed recently.

death and taxes

Death and Taxes: 2012 by mibi

A few years ago, on a trip to Vermont, I stumbled upon a great visualization of the entire US Budget. Please check it out below. The artist keeps updating it yearly. I find you can really understand where the money is going more easily this way, but that all of the details are included. But the details matter. Click through below to check it out.

Happy Independence Day!

public sector employment

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein sheds some light on current debate about the role of public sector employment in the slow recovery. He explains:

I ran the numbers on total government employment after the 1981, 1990, 2001 and 2008 recessions. I made government employment on the eve of the recession equal to “1,” so what you’re seeing is total change in the ensuing 54 months, which is how much time has elapsed since the start of this recession.

Based on this analysis, at least, the current recession shows a clear departure from the historical pattern – rising government employment cushioning the recession’s impact. Except for a short spike coinciding with hiring for the decennial census, public sector employment has steadily declined during the current recession.

geography of incarceration

Wow. This amazing Prison Map developed by NYU grad student Josh Begley offers a striking new perspective on one of the critical issues facing American government – mass incarceration. In the Atlantic Cities blog:

“A lot of times we’ll just use numbers to talk about this idea of mass incarceration,” Begley says, “and I thought that there maybe was something powerful about using no numbers, no words and just having the images.”