Steve Ballmer's new initiative: Gathering data on Uncle Sam's spending
Ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has kept busy since his 2014 retirement – and we don't just mean buying the LA Clippers. His latest project, USAFacts, went live online today in beta form. The site and its reports present a comprehensive set of data that tracks the spending of US government money from source to outcome.
USAFacts garners data from publicly available government resources and presents it in a number of clean, decipherable formats. As a non-partisan, not-for-profit initiative, USAFacts refrains from making policy suggestions and has no commercial or political agenda of its own. Rather, it provides this information as a free public service to fuel informed debates and decisions.
The USAFacts website is organized into a number of sections with several navigation options, but there's currently a flow chart-like user interface. Start by clicking "Where does the money come from?" to view a visual breakdown between government revenue and spending.
Then, to answer the more complex question "What are the results?" you can explore statistics and visual representations of specific finance topics, such as employment, balance sheets, government-run businesses and trust funds.
There are also facts on the US population, along with a national 2017 summary, report and 10-K, which together provide a dense, comprehensive presentation of the country's finances. While the current data set is already remarkably complex, USAFacts promises that it will be continually maintained and expanded.
Just to skim the surface, here is an example of the elucidating drilldown-style statistics: In the year 2014 the US government collected US$5.2 trillion in revenue and spent $5.4 trillion. 35.14-percent (or $1.9 trillion) of it went to Social Security and Medicaid programs. 14.22-percent ($772 billion) went to schools and other classroom-based education initiatives. 13.97-percent ($752.9 billion) went to national defense and support for veterans.
Ballmer reportedly founded USAFacts in response to his wife's request he perform philanthropic work during his retirement. He believed the first step in evaluating the needs of the public should be to determine how the government spends the money it raises to support the American people. Answering this question required a team of professional researchers to comb out the complexities – and so the project was born.