USAFacts is a new data-driven portrait of the American population, government finances, and the government’s impact on society. They are a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative with no political agenda or commercial motive. USAFacts provides information as a free public service and promises to be “committed to maintaining and expanding it in the future.”
USAFacts relies exclusively on publicly available government data sources without judgments or prescribing to specific policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether our quality of life is improving or getting worse – that’s for the reader to decide. Why? According to USAFacts, “We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government. Such debate is vital to our democracy. We hope that USAFacts will make a modest contribution toward building consensus and finding solutions.”
USAFacts says, their staff “is composed of dedicated people who are passionate about making information available to the public. Our work includes partnerships with academic institutions and experts who help keep our data accurate and unbiased. Our partners include the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Lynchburg College.”
USAFacts was inspired by a conversation Microsoft co-founder, Steve Ballmer had with his wife. She wanted him to get more involved in philanthropic work. He thought it made sense to first find out what government does with the money it raises. “Where does the money come from and where is it spent? Whom does it serve? And most importantly, what are the outcomes?”
With his business background, Steve searched for solid, reliable, impartial numbers to tell the story. He eventually realized the numbers were nowhere to be found. He assembled a small team comprised of economists, writers, researchers, data experts and others to build USAFacts.
“We soon discovered that dealing with something as big and complex as government,” says Balmer, “with its more than 90,000 jurisdictions and 23 million employees, required an organizing framework. What better place to look than the Constitution, and, more specifically, the preamble to the Constitution? It lays out four missions: “Establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare; and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” While we don’t make judgments about policy, we all agree on the broad purposes of government as laid out in the preamble to the Constitution.”
There’s more to USAFacts than their website. They also offer an annual report, a summary report, and a “10-K” modeled on the document public companies submit annually to the SEC for transparency and accountability to their investors.