The Billion Dollar-o-Gram 2009

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

The Billion Dollar O Gram 2009 | David McCandless |
See the image on its own

The Billion Dollar-O-Gram 2009. The latest version of our fabled treemap of billion dollar amounts.

All the data and more billion dollar amounts:

A little context

This image arose out of frustration with media reporting of billion dollar amounts. That is, that they’re meaningless without context. But they’re continually reported as self-evident facts. 500 billion for this war. 50 billion for this pipeline. Literally mind-boggling amounts of money.

So here we’ve scraped reported figures from The New York Times, The Guardian, and other news outlets and visualized them as a treemap (?). So you can see in one place figures that would otherwise be scattered across multiple news reports.

(**Sorry it’s taken me so long to update this image from the original version. I’ve revised and updated all the figures. Sourced some new numbers. And researched new ideas suggested by visitors. Thanks all!**)

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  • jess

    This graphic was brilliant the first time around, and is so again. I only with the updated version wasn’t 6 months out of date.

    • Jim

      This is probably the most powerful dataset and image in the whole book and it gives people perspective. I want a poster of this to pin up on my office wall.

      Come on, of all the interesting infographics to make a poster out of, this has to be number 1!

      • Joar Torgersen

        Yes, indeed. Where can I get this poster??

  • Miles. B

    This is really interesting, but would be even more useful as if you could drag the boxes around to compare one to one instead of overall.

  • Standback

    Lovely and interesting as always :)

    Any chance of providing a key to different boxes? A lot of the titles are so terse, it’s difficult to understand what they mean. For example, 21B to “save Amazon” is very sketchy: it’s for a specific project, not all-purpose saving-the-Amazon-from-all-harm; it’s obviously an estimate at best (not necessarily of the cost, but of the funds they hope to be able to raise); and quite frankly, I was wondering for a minute if this was some kind of bail-out figure for…

    Similarly – Iraq wars total eventual cost as of now, or a revised estimate of the total until it’s all over? NASA what? Video games revenue or profit? Lift 1B people out of extreme poverty how (I assume the answer is not “give each one 300 dollars”), and what’s “extreme poverty,” and how much higher than “slightly less extreme poverty” are they lifted?

    I love the graph, but this version has a lot of pretty confusing labels :-/

  • Vincent Breslin

    Ive been following your posts now for a few months. The images illustrations are amazing, ive awakened to the power of picturing information! This one in particular works very well. Well done!

  • Tim

    How can the GFC have a ‘cost’? In what sense did that money ever exist?

    (Of course, I don’t blame IIB, since you’re simply representing what was reported…)

  • Jeff

    Interesting how bill gates and world wide porn industry are valued equally. Even more interesting how he helped usher in a PC in virtually every home in America. In other words, would porn industry be what it is today without the home PC? (Probably not, Thanks Bill Gates!)

  • Pedro Pononui

    I just wanted to say that I love your work. I think information can be a very tangible, malleable thing, and it’s critical that people have ways to interact with it, especially if it breaks them from their standard channels.

    I don’t think I would have written anything here except I want to comment on the second half of the image. We’ve come to learn that by the continued revaluing of asset classes, most of that eleven thousand billion we lost in the financial crisis wasn’t really money to begin with.

    We can and should argue that debt is real, because it’s what keeps us working. But if this money was lost, from where? And where did it come from in the first place? And if any people truly lost that much money, how could the top half of the image make any sense, as in, how is any of that possibly paid for? If we really did ‘lose’ that, wouldn’t the rest of that spending necessarily shut down?

    Well here I am having a conversation with a comment box again. I didn’t mean all that just for you alone, but as you can see, the graph had an effect on me. Keep it up.

  • Michael

    I love the design! What did you use to create it? Just Photoshop or some other tool?

  • Matt

    Super graphic.

    it makes me wonder however, if it would cost a total of $364bn to lift 1bn people out of extreme poverty and eradicate AIDS worldwide, and if the total of Foreign Aid Payments and annual donations made by Americans to charity (before even considering donations to charity from non-Americans) is $428bn, why haven’t we already eradicated extreme poverty and AIDS?? Is aid spending so inefficient, poorly targeted, or wasted?

    Of course, once you start trying to understand the logic of spending priorities, you can get yourself horribly confused … how, after all, can one justify expenditure on wars that many disagree should even have been started, when that money would appear to solve such important social human issues.

  • Richie

    Interesting chart, and found the footnote “…slight visual cheating to make things fit” humorous in light of the stated goal. Also not sure how fair it is to show an older projected total war spend number (this is an 08 contested estimate from Joe Stiglitz – we are going to hit $1T by the end of 2010, and Obama has stated we will have troops out of Afghanistan soon with a continuous draw down in Iraq) vs year end 09 numbers for everyone else; especially given projected healthcare reform costs of at least $1T assuming Congresses estimates are accurate (most Medicare projections were way off and a lot of the programs cost significantly more).

    Also curious if the stimulus money is baked into the $11T number at the bottom.

  • Jack Frosst

    Very Interesting – Gifts to Doctors by the Pharma industry – it’s no wonder they still can’t (shouldn’t or wouldn’t) cure most major diseases.

    I wonder how gifts to propagandists …err politicians, by lobbyists would compare – of course those come from many industry groups so in effect, all of the electorate must be fairly represented under the $1=1 vote Constitution of the Great Plutocracy.

    I also wonder how these sums are earned – If I earned $1/min, worked 60hr’s/wk., 50wks/yr, spent nothing and paid no taxes, I couldn’t earn a $1B until I was into my 70′s. So just how are the taxpayers going to pay off these debts and why should they? The sums are more than imaginable for most citizens of the world; they can hardly be considered responsible for the decisions made that resulted in these debt sums; neither are they beneficiaries of the benefits derived from the ludicrous & irresponsible decisions made. No good can come of this.

  • vanderleun

    I just love the feel-good stuff like “lift people out of poverty.”

    How about trying that concept on its own with “out of what sort of poverty” and “into….” what precisely? Just over some global/national poverty line? Well over it?

    Stare at that “out of poverty” box for a bit and see if it tells you anything at all other than that, hey, if you can’t be accurate, be arbitrary.

  • simone

    on energy consumption: why don’t you build one of these with his data? would be cool indeed (he all writes using the same measure unit, so you could split each part of a giant square (12k kwh per day per person consumption) with smaller squares (representing each energy alternative, wind, solar panels, nuclear etc.)

  • Paul Melnikow

    This is really lovely.

    A suggestion: it’d be fabulous to include the total bn for the whole map, perhaps at the bottom.

  • Mike Alesso

    Is it really helpful to have a graph that represents some items total costs and others yearly costs. For example, showing the total eventual cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars next to the yearly budget for Medicaid & Medicare (Social Security is not listed either.) would possibly leave an uniformed viewer to think the War in Iraq was more expensive than the social welfare state in America. In the seven years so far Medicaid & Medicare have been far more expensive. Also how can people living under corrupt regimes operating on Aid money lift people out of poverty if given more money?

  • SirTapTap

    Interesting graphic. Somehow out of it all the amount wasted on alternative medicine ticks me off the most.

  • Chris Romer

    Great visualization. Please add the U.S. National Debt. Please clarify, is the interest on the deficit which is the annual difference between what the government takes in and what it spends or is it the interest on the U.S. debt.? Can this be animated over time so we can see how some of this has grown over time and how some of it has popped to life? It would also show if giving is growing or shrinking.

  • chet

    This graphic is Garbage. Iraq war measured in total cost. Medicare measured in annual cost. Not a true comparison.

    • david

      These are figures reported in the media. Not calculated figures. The image is a tapestry of numbers as presented in the press. Thanks! D

  • Andy

    This graphic is great man. Dont listen haters, all of use love it :)

  • Akihiko Hirasawa

    Wonderful! Without such a visualization, it’s difficult for me to feel the huge numbers of dollars. By the way, unit of numbers ($) excluding the first one ($bn) seem wrong.

  • Tim

    This new xkcd comic might well be mentioned here.

  • Brahim Talbyne

    This is one of the best infographics ever. However, it would be very interesting if you guys could post the same structure on flash or java showing these same criteria and their evolution from 2008 to 2011.
    thank you and keep up the good work,

  • Andrew

    Should include amount of money spent by each party in the upcoming US presidential campaign next to the figure of solving the debt crisis.

    Awesome graphic though.

  • Bryan

    Let’s look at apples to apples for comparison. When you look at the total eventual cost of the Iraq – Afghanistan war, the number is very large. But let’s compare that to the total taxes paid by businesses and by individuals for that same time frame. Just looking at the market value of one corporation is interesting, but what about the market value of all S&P 500 companies or all of the Dow 30 or all of the Nasdaq. When you compare huge numbers over 10 years, against numbers over shorter periods of time, it skews the effect. I believe that in complete context we can understand this even better.