Wednesday, June 28, 2017
 
Will Steve Ballmer’s New Database Change How We Look at Government?

NEW YORK, NY April 17 (DPI) – Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has spent the last few years quietly funding the development of a free database on government spending, and the site, USAFacts.org, will be unveiled this week.

For years economists, policy wonks and everyday people have complained about the lack of information about government spending on all levels – federal, state and local, as well as all layers of education, the military, etc.

Mr. Ballmer’s new database may go a long way in helping the American public develop a better understanding, if not a new healthy respect, for how its government operates.

Ballmer, 60, has been retired from Microsoft for three years, and after spending a record $2 billion for an NBA franchise (Los Angeles Clippers), he set out on a useful project. He has spent about $10 million of his own money to develop the database, and he said he may spend $3-$4 million annually to maintain it.

Ballmer pulled back some of the curtain today for New York Times economics columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin:

 

Mr. Ballmer calls it “the equivalent of a 10-K for government,” referring to the kind of annual filing that companies make.

“You know, when I really wanted to understand in depth what a company was doing, Amazon or Apple, I’d get their 10-K and read it,” he told me in a recent interview in New York. “It’s wonky, it’s this, it’s that, but it’s the greatest depth you’re going to get, and it’s accurate.”

In an age of fake news and questions about how politicians and others manipulate data to fit their biases, Mr. Ballmer’s project may serve as a powerful antidote.

Much was made in Sorkin’s column about the non-partisan nature of Ballmer’s initiative. But you can be sure that partisans of all stripes will glean from the easily accessed information what they want, to serve their own agendas. Still, such a free reference may be a revolutionary tool for public discourse and policymaking.

 

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