Forgetting Food Safety Bill Infographic – Poorly Executed Infographic

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The infographic to the left takes up a lot of space to say very little. The main point that the graphic makes is that the number $151 billion is larger than $1.6 billion. Putting two numbers on unlabeled axes can be misleading. The scale range can be manipulated to change how dramatic the difference looks. Below, I’ve replotted these two numbers on a different unlabeled axes. The difference between these numbers is less compelling, right?

On my replotted graph, the maximum point of the graph is at $5 trillion. Depending on the subject matter, this maximum might not be ridiculous.

I guess the other assumption this graphic makes is that the Government paying 1.6 billion would eliminate all of the cost associated with foodbourne illness. One would need to assume that this Government bill would be 100% effective in eliminating this cost.

The data sources listed indicate that we have numbers from two different partisan groups. Are these two numbers comparable? The 1.6 billion was proposed to be paid by the Government. I assume the other amount is paid by a combination of payers: medicare, medicaid, individual insurance, individuals, medical write-offs, and other sources. The Government could pay for a lot of things that might reduce the cost of things by a lot. Or have the opposite effect. If the Government bought everyone a new car, would that lower the cost of cars due to economies of scale or raise the cost due to demand and shortage of supplies. Would it cause widespread closure of auto-dealers since people looking for new cars would be so much diminished. Any of these things could occur.

Obviously, this infographic was designed with a point of view. Nothing is wrong with that, but whenever I see graphics like this, I start asking questions. Can a complicated issue like this be boiled down to comparing those two numbers in this way. It seems like the space could be better used.

[Infographic Source: GOOD – which by the way typically presents infographics that are usually quite good]

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