Technical Story: Best Chart of US Federal Budget

The NYTimes has done it again- produced the best online  graphic of the US Budget available anywhere. And the Times did it one day after the release of the budget proposal by the White House. Even more interesting is how they did it.

This graphic tells the story of the budget in 6 ways [click on screenshot to go directly to chart] :
1)The budget is displayed in blocks by department and category with sub-blocks within each;
2)The size of the block represents its percentage of the total budget;
3)the color of a block shows growth or decline year over year;
4)Hovering over any block pops up budget details;
5)There are extensive zoom controls;
6)The sidebar activates on/off various budget groupings.
This is the fastest way to become informed about the US Budget realities. See how big the mandatory and entitlement programs are. See where the growth is.See why arguing over Foreign Aid, often the only leverage the US has in various World hotspots is only a pittance. Get a measure of discretionary spending. See how much is spent per citizen on various items. This is where the government is at spending your tax dollars – get an idea of what the federal  budget looks like versus your own.

Whats Behind the Chart

Ye editor fully expected to see some Flash magic behind the graph. Nope. Okay, Microsoft Silverlight? – well there are serious cross platform, cross browser problems with that.  HTML5? – could probably be done but again cross browser and newness presents problems. Okay, a JavaScript framework like mootools, EXTjs, DHTMLx or others? Very close. But it looks like the NYTimes has done a home brew using jQuery JavaScript plus  extensive, clever HTML+CSS. The key is the zoom feature and data display/hint scripts. And for all the diehard HTML+CSS fanatics – yes indeed this is one case where <div> and <span>s are much more flexible than using <table> tags. Overall a virtuoso and timely  performance by the NYTimes graphics crew – congratulations.

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