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Steve Ballmer says he won’t inject politics into his government data project

Steve Ballmer says he won’t inject politics into his government data project


Good luck in the current political environment

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Photo by Asa Mathat / Recode

Steve Ballmer may be working on a giant new project that utilizes government data, but he’s made one thing clear: he really doesn’t want to politicize it.

Speaking at Recode’s annual Code Conference, Ballmer told journalists Kara Swisher and Kurt Wagner that he believes the database he’s been working on for the past few years, called USAFacts, shouldn’t be politicized because “numbers are not political... I’m not going to be partisan for what we do with USAFacts, I’m going to be partisan for the facts themselves.”

“Numbers are not political.”

During the interview, Ballmer pulled out a Microsoft Surface tablet and stylus and showed a chart that compared US family income and taxes by income level in 2000, to the same data from 2015.

“Some people will say, ‘Twenty-four percent of the taxes are paid by one percent of the people. That’s too much,’” Ballmer said. “Others will say, ‘The middle class is getting hollowed out, that’s bad.’” The point of his project isn’t to take one side versus the other, he claimed, but just to make the data available in a way that the government is not — to not “fool us with the numbers,” he added. “Don’t screw around with the numbers.”

Ballmer, who is best known for a long tenure as chief executive of Microsoft and his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, first revealed this ambitious data project in April. He told The New York Times then that he had been working on it for three years with academics, economists, and other experts, and did say at the time that he wanted the project to be “completely apolitical.”

But Ballmer, with his characteristic vigor, vehemently underscored this in his conversation with Recode, saying he “steadfastly refused for it to be political with two exceptions.” The first is that Ballmer’s a business person that doesn’t believe in running deficits for all of time, and that he thinks budgets should balance. And his second exception is that “every kid in America deserves an opportunity to advance from where their parents were economically.”

When asked whether he had his own political ambitions, he replied, “Zero. None. Nada.”