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Infographic of the Day: Will the Coming Tax Changes Hit Your Wallet?

With Bush-era tax breaks set to expire in 2011, Congress gears up for battle.

 With Bush-era tax breaks set to expire at the end of the year, Congress is gearing up for a knock-down-drag-out fight over whether to extend all of them, some of them, or none at all (and just in time for mid-term elections!). The Washington Post has a fun–albeit visually misleading–interactive infographic on how the options will affect your wallet. (More on the misleading bit below.)

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The question is: Are we willing to put the country in deeper debt, to keep our taxes as they are now? The Post‘s infographic shows three scenarios:

Letting all cuts expire
That would mean that our government incurs no extra debts. But it also means that most Americas will pay a bit more in taxes:

Extending all the cuts
This is the favored plan of most Republicans. It would cost the government $3.7 trillion over ten years in forgone revenues.

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Letting cuts sunset only for those earning more than $250,000 a year
This is what Obama and many Democratic leaders are agitating for–here, the richest Americans will shell out about $310,000 more a year (which comes to about 1.7% of their income). Those in the middle class won’t pay more. The government still loses money, though — about $3 trillion over the decade.

In other words, there’s $700 billion at stake: Republicans want the wealthiest Americans to keep that money; Democrats want to apply it to the national debt. Which one’s best? Depends if you think the rich really do pay too many taxes — or if you think they can afford to pay 1.7% more.

But there is one thing to note. The charts, as good as they are, actually break one of the fundamental commandments of information design: Representing change in the proper relative context. There’s no axes for the tax rates that show the zero point on the left hand. Thus, they make all of the tax increases look huge — even though we’re taking about increases of just a couple percentage points in all cases. That inherently favors the Republican point of view. Which goes to show that every chart, no matter how neutral, can mislead.

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[Via the Washington Post]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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