Now that health care has passed with no Republican support it’s natural to ask whether this represents a Democratic takeover of government. Fortunately we don’t have to rely on the word of our elected legislators to shed light on this issue, there is another way. This is the last of the 5 Stories articles. Like many of the graphics in the 5 Stories series, this one uses fictitious or lightly researched data to illustrate the point. Some names have been obfuscated where the data is based in real-world examples. This helps underscore that the article is for illustrative purposes.
There were many alternative health care proposals circulating before the passage of Obama’s Health Care Bill. The Republicans said none of their ideas were included and the Democrats said that some of the Republican ideas were included. If only there was an easy way to tell who’s right. Turns out there is. Many journalists are turning to Natural Language Processing (NLP) to aid in understanding political issues. Mostly these techniques are used to learn about individual bills, but another use could be used to compare documents to each other. And in particular to compare the final ObamaCare Bill to every other health care proposal that had been in discussion leading up to ObamaCare. Three real proposals come to mind. The Wyden-Bennett bill, the Massachusetts plan, and the short GOP plan. To round out our mock analysis I also included Obama’s stated goals from the outset and 2 fictitious bills, one from a fake Democratic Senator and one from a fake Republican one.
Each of these plans discuss a variety of proposals and the degree to which their take on these proposals matches what was included in the final version of ObamaCare is illustrated by that proposal’s tag cloud, the more prominent the tag the more it agrees with the same issue in ObamaCare. For example, ObamaCare and the Massachusetts health care plan share many common features, most prominently the Universal Coverage clause. Additionally since this was passed while that state had a Republican governor we’re counting it as a Republican plan.
The easiest way to get datagraphics into the newsroom might be through NLP techniques and tag-cloud graphics like the proposed chart here. Word-oriented data graphics might be more approachable by traditional news media while also providing the deep content at-a-glance that all data graphics share. Only time will tell.
Resources for this article
- Free tag-cloud generator. Just randomize a supplied set of words. http://www.tagcloudgenerator.com/
- Analysis of several alternate health care proposals. http://www.newsweek.com/id/234174/page/1
- Image for the Capitol building came from here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capitol_Building_Full_View.jpg