Death and Taxes, and a Boing Boing story

Jess Bachman creates very large posters that graphically display exactly where American tax dollars go. When you're dealing with sets of information this massive and abstract, presenting that data in a way someone can make their way through without feeling overwhelmed is a big design challenge, and Jess nailed it.

I first blogged these posters in 2006, and he recently wrote in to let us know there's a new 2009 edition out. If you'd like to order a poster, Jess kindly offers a buy-one-get-one-free special for BB readers: "enter BOING when you have two posters in the cart and it takes the price of one off."

I'd say "whee, great!," but then I got all sad looking at where that 33ish% of my income goes — a lot of war our kids can't eat, for starters. Then, I read the rest of Jess' email. I'm reprinting it here with permission. We don't receive stories like this every day here at Boing Boing, and when we do, they're very meaningful to us. Thank you, Jess.


Many moons ago, actually 795 moons ago, you blogged about a poster called Death and Taxes which visualized the federal budget. Your post is here. I never thanked you for that, which is shameful, considering how much you have changed my life.

You see I created that poster in 2004 on a lark, never intending publicity or financial gain. You picked up on it two years later and the people loved it. I sold a bunch of prints and realized how important this information is, and how uninformed we are as citizens about our taxes. The boingboing post prompted me to create another poster for the year 2007.

That was such a big hit that I was able to quit my job working as an industrial sewing machine operator. As a full time (well, almost full time) budget poster maker, I was able to develop the 2008 version of the poster along with the website which has had over 1/2 million visits. Sales from the poster now support me and my family, and I have sold thousands of posters to schools and concerned citizens, even 40 members of congress. I have been in magazines, art galleries, and national television. Last month I was on the Martha Stewart Show to talk about the poster and taxes, it was surreal.

So really, Xeni, it thanks to you, that I've taken this venture as far as I have.

The 2009 version is worlds apart from the 2006 version which may still linger in your neurons. There is so much more in the six square feet of paper this time. Over 500 line items of federal budget awesomeness. Increased accuracy and aesthetics as well. I am really trying to educate the populace on their investment in the government. Especially since the actual numbers differ so much from the rhetoric. Renewable energy spending cut 27% next year! This is important information, and responsible citizens need to know it. It's my experiment in DIY government over-site.

I hope you like the new version. Cheers and many a thank you,