What if the U.S. government had to file a 10-K, an annual report required by the SEC that provides a comprehensive summary of a company’s financial performance?
It was that curiosity which led Los Angeles Clippers’ owner and businessman Steve Ballmer to launch USAFacts, a comprehensive database on the American population, government finances and their impact on society. It combines data from more than 50 government sources on the federal, state and local level.
“I got interested in the context of learning about the way government serves kids who group in disadvantaged situations. And it was hard to find the numbers I was looking for. And I thought, jeez, if it was a company I’d look for the 10-K. And I couldn’t find anything like that,” Ballmer said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.”
While the former Microsoft CEO acknowledged that the government isn’t a business and is evaluated based on its impact, not its profit and loss, Ballmer said the 10-K format made sense to him, particularly because he couldn’t find the financial information in “any digestible form.”
In order to decide which facts to include, Ballmer said his team started with the structure of the Constitution.
“The preamble of the Constitution lays out the missions of government, and then we developed a structure for submissions, if you will, and then started pouring numbers in. There will be more things we want to add. But we had two goals: We wanted to be comprehensive. We wanted to have great context,” Ballmer said.
According to USAFacts, as of 2014, there were 23.3 million government employees across the country. Almost half of them, Ballmer said, are employees in the education system. “That felt good to me, as an example,” he said.
But Ballmer and his team aren’t stopping there.
“I got asked a question earlier today: What does it cost to run the national park system? It is not in our database. On the other hand, we can tell you how many acres of land are in the national park system or managed by the National Forest Service. We have that. We’ll continue to extend the database,” Ballmer said.
Ballmer stressed that USAFacts is “entirely nonpartisan.”
“The numbers are the numbers. The one thing about numbers that make them better than adjectives? Adjectives can get partisan. Numbers can’t get partisan,” Ballmer said.