The shy and retired former executive Steve “there’s a kind of hush” Ballmer is apparently not interested in quietly retiring.
Ballmer owns the Los Angeles Clippers, teaches at Stanford and USC and now has created a new start-up called USAFacts.
The start-ups aim is to improve political discourse by making government financial data easier to access.
A small “army” of economists, professors and other professionals will be looking into and 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.
The nonpartisan site will trace $5.4 trillion in government spending under four categories derived from language in the US Constitution.
Défence spending, for example, is categorised under the header “provide for the common defence,” 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.
Apparently the idea came from a conversation with his missus Connie who was trying to get him interested in some of her philanthropic efforts.
He thought that since he seemed to be paying rather a lot in tax it should be the government who is providing all the aid and health care to the great unwashed.
She pointed out that it does not work like that because there are things government does not get to do in the US and he was missing out on knowing this.
Ballmer is not one to take that sort of comment lying down, or standing up, particularly there is a chair close to hand, so he sought to figure out what the government really does with the money.
He might not like the results. A big chunk of US tax money appears to go on defence and the rest goes to propping up American corporations.
His database will give more detail and answer questions like how many coppers are employed in various parts of the country and compare that against crime rates
Revenue is brought in from parking tickets and the cost to collect. The percentage of Americans suffer from diagnosed depression and how much the government spends on it.
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. It’s wonky, it’s this, it’s that, but it’s the greatest depth you’re going to get, and it’s accurate.”