Quantation: It's Not Just for Business Anymore

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money.

—Attributed to Sen. Everett M. Dirksen (R-Ill) (1896–1969)

Most of the examples and discussion in Painting with Numbers focus on business. But there are plenty of other areas in life where clear, meaningful quantation is essential to decision making. The arenas of politics and public policy top this list, in such critical areas as fiscal management, taxation, healthcare, education, public safety, and national security. Because good quantation skills are critical in every place where numbers are presented, this chapter will focus on how good quantation can affect an audience's understanding of the underlying issues in public policy.

The specific topic we will examine is individual income taxes: how they're calculated, who pays them, and the extent to which things have changed in recent years. Income taxes are relevant and important to everyone, and effective quantation can be a huge help in understanding the issues and the facts behind taxation. We will be using publicly available data, and focusing on how the rules and techniques we've discussed so far apply in this area, just as they do to business reporting. Some of the quantation skills we'll touch on include:

  • Putting numbers on the page so that they are easy to understand and organized to make intuitive sense (see Chapters 1 and 2)
  • Making sure that the words included in the presentation are ...

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