Online Data Tools for Understanding Economic Policy

September 6, 2013

There are three interesting new online tools we’ve been looking at this week from people in the economics and public policy world. These interactive features can help users visualize and understand a large body of data that can otherwise be confusing or intimidating.

First is the new federal spending chart from Chris Edwards and the Cato Institute, which allows users to compare spending from any selected departments or agencies from 1970 until today (all helpfully adjusted for inflation).

Next we have the “Obamacare: Know Your Rates” map from Avik Roy and Yevgeniy Feyman of the Manhattan Institute. Avik described the project earlier this week in his Forbes column, The Apothecary:

Obamacare makes many significant changes to the U.S. health-care system, but one category of change stands out above all others: the degree to which the law reshapes the market for individually-purchased health insurance. Will the “Affordable Care Act” live up to its name and make health insurance less expensive? To help the public understand the impact of Obamacare on individual-market premiums, my Manhattan Institute colleagues and I have crunched the numbers and created an interactive, state-by-state map, where you can find out how Obamacare affects insurance rates where you live. The results may surprise you.

Finally, we have the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s data visualization “Long-Term Debt: An Unsustainable Future,” which looks at trends in the national debt and how various groups, including the American Action Forum, have proposed to bring it under control.

You can hear more about the first two in this week's podcast, and of course you can find the Tax Foundation's own online data tools at our interactive site.

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Inflation is when the general price of goods and services increases across the economy, reducing the purchasing power of a currency and the value of certain assets. The same paycheck covers less goods, services, and bills. It is sometimes referred to as a “hidden tax,” as it leaves taxpayers less well-off due to higher costs and “bracket creep,” while increasing the government’s spending power.