Published: Wed, April 19, 2017
Sport | By Fredrick Flores

Steve Ballmer launches USAFacts — GeekWire

Steve Ballmer launches USAFacts — GeekWire

But first the backstory, which is a valuable prelude to a description of the project itself. His wife Connie encouraged him to get into philanthropy, which he pooh-poohed because, as he saw it, "doesn't the government take care of the poor, the sick, the old?" The one thing about numbers that make them better than adjectives?

Ballmer replied, "No, I'm not".

"What really happens?" Ballmer said.

The USAFacts team includes economists, writers and researchers who produce the reports.

The fledgling database features clearly labeled and supported numbers, outlining the spending and revenue in the local, state and federal governments. Or you could look up parking ticket revenue. How much money do we spend? And he's doing it by publishing data structured similarly to the 10-K filings companies issue each year - expenses, revenues and key metrics pulled from dozens of government data sources and compiled into a single massive collection of tables. "I think on the cloud side with Office 365 and Azure the company's got a real shot, but not a birth right", Ballmer said. Regardless, you can all agree that it might be nice to know where your money goes.

There's a debate in the United States about the problem of "fake news" in the wake of president Trump's election, so Ballmer's project is timely. He has just launched USAFacts.org, a website overflowing with information on such spending. At the very least, it could settle a lot of bets made during public policy debates at the dinner table. But, he said, people ought to base their opinions "on common data sets that are believable". Academic experts from Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania and Lynchberg College also helped.

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"Let's say it costs three, four, five million a year", he told the Times. "I'm happy to fund the damn thing". "That felt good to me, as an example", he said. "We wanted to have great context", Ballmer said.

Ballmer said that he "would remain open to offers if they come in". Much like his new data, Ballmer won't say. The 10-K doesn't highlight the quirks of the U.S. Congress that render it hard to pass legislation, the slow-moving nature of the rest of Washington, or the role of corporate executives - Ballmer included - to fund political candidates for those very offices. You'll be able to uncover how almost 24 million work for the USA government, and as The New York Times notes, what percentage of overall tax revenue is paid by corporations.

One of Ballmer's biggest research surprises was to find that about 23.2 million Americans work for the government. "I mean it's amusing, but I didn't realize all these not-for-profits were in a sense nearly like government contractors".

The data accessible on Ballmer's new website, spans across a wide range of areas like government spending, national arrest rates and the total amount of visas granted in a given year. But this created its own challenges.

"The preamble of the Constitution lays out the missions of government, and then we developed a structure for submissions, if you will, and then started pouring numbers in". "I can't show it!" I'm shocked! But the N.R.A. apparently has lobbied in such a way government can't report the data. "And I'll stand by the notion that Jack's a very creative, innovative guy, as well evidenced by the fact that he started two incredible companies".

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