At first glance, I’m sure the site is broken. Printing Money, the result of two weeks of work by data-visualization artist Neal Agarwal, imagines various hourly rates of pay as a printing press, which streams dollar bills across the page as they’re earned.
Spotted by FlowingData, the graphic is an effective way of understanding how much money you actually earn moment-to-moment in various professions, ranging from flipping burgers to computer programming. But as I’m staring at the first row, examining the $7.25 per hour dictated by the federal minimum wage, I can swear these dollars aren’t moving at all. Perhaps the site is frozen, I think. That is, until the row shifts over a few pixels, and I realize with painful precision how hard it would be to earn so little an hour again.
Scroll down the page, and the dollars tick away a bit faster. It feels like teachers, at $16/hour, are making a few cents every few seconds. A physician, at $90/hour, can almost hold their breath long enough to afford a latte. And CEOs, at $4,000 an hour, literally appear to be printing money, as crisp dollar bills stream by at a rapid pace—so fast you could barely stuff your pockets with them. Never before have I seen the difference between the 1% and the other 99% articulated so clearly. (And if you have the gumption, there’s even a field where you can enter your own salary to see how it stacks up—or doesn’t.)
“A lot of huge numbers have been in the financial news lately—and in my experience people have a hard time visualizing anything after $10 million,” says Agarwal, who has gotten lots of anecdotal feedback for his popular visualizations such as Spend Bill Gates’ Money. “I wanted to find a way to visualize different rates of money all the way from minimum wage to the national deficit. Eventually I found that a printing press analogy was the best way to do it.”
Indeed, if you think the pay of CEOs is insane, keep scrolling. That’s when the cute dollar bills are replaced with stacks of $1,000s. Facebook money rolls in like a blitzkrieg of tanks, at $8 million an hour. Around this point the dollars blur away and appear to be something more akin to race cars. The $59 million earned by Walmart each hour zooms by your eyes, and soon the gimmick becomes too hard to visually process. By the time you reach our military spending budget, at $84 million an hour, the flow and churn of dollars is enough to actually give you a headache. It’s perfect.