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Critical Thinking Is Still Important!

Here’s a lesson on taking things at face value. Ezra Klein shares a graph that is possibly misleading.

I’m generally very sympathetic to the liberal cause (it’s why I call myself a liberal). Generally, the Center for American Progress does good work. However, this graph is just completely hilarious. You can, essentially, take a number of different meanings from it for a couple of simple reasons:

  1. There are only two variables, which are without historical or sociological context.
  2. The Marginal Income Tax rate laid out along the x-axis is arranged from least to greatest tax rate, not by chronological order of the years that these rates were current. You could look up the years yourself, but for a graph that’s trying to illustrate a thesis, it’s pretty sad that it doesn’t have this context.

Historical context is extremely important here, as the chart covers the years 1950-201o. What years were there recessions? What about the presidents in power and changing economic agendas and philosophies? There are just too many variables to make this graph worth much of anything. I mean, what can you really argue about a graph that shows that average employment growth was just about the same at the 39.5% marginal tax rate and the 69-80% marginal tax rates?

Indeed, it’s bracing evidence that someone knows how to make vague and possibly misleading graphs.

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