Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has launched a new project aimed at providing a comprehensive database of government revenue and spending. The website, called USAFacts, brings together a wide range of financial data from various US government sources, compiled by a team of economists, professors, and researchers over the last three years. The site went live on Tuesday.
In an interview with The New York Times, Ballmer said USAFacts aims to “figure out what the government really does with the money,” describing the site as “the equivalent of a 10-K for government.” The former Microsoft chief and current Los Angeles Clippers owner spent more than $10 million on the project, according to the Times, which was used to assemble a team of researchers in Seattle and provide a grant to the University of Pennsylvania.
The nonpartisan site traces $5.4 trillion in government spending under four categories derived from language in the US Constitution. Defense spending, for example, is categorized under the header “provide for the common defense,” while education spending is under “secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity.” Spending allocation and revenue sources are each mapped out in blue and pink graphics, with detailed breakdowns along federal, state and local lines. Users can also search for specific datasets, such as airport revenue or crime rates, and the site includes a report of “risk factors” that could inhibit economic growth.
Ballmer, who first revealed the project in a November interview with Bloomberg, says he was careful to keep the site apolitical. His hope is to create an integrated resource that people can use to trace government finances and form opinions based “on common data sets that are believable” — something that could prove valuable in an era of fake news and hoaxes.
“I would like citizens to be able to use this to form intelligent opinions,” Ballmer told the Times. “People can disagree about what to do — I’m not going to tell people what to do.”