Former Microsoft CEO Launches New Tool For Finding Government Data


And each section comes with a tableau of "key metrics", like statistics on the number of US veterans and the cost of providing them care. But click on a subcategory and you're taken to a more detailed, granular view of that spending. That data is used to create a "10-K for government", modeled on the form public companies file each year with the SEC, an Annual Report, a Summary Report and a user-friendly website. Footnotes at the bottom of the table reveal that Michigan's governor accepted only one dollar of his salary; New York's governor "voluntarily reduced his salary by 5 percent"; the governor of Tennessee hands his salary right back to the state; and Alabama's governor was refusing his salary until his state's unemployment rate drops (though he resigned last week amid scandal).

Companies typically organize revenue into segments, and Ballmer's USAFacts team has done the same.

"Take the mortgage deduction", he continued.

Ballmer's wife suggested there was more to the story than he understood. You'll be able to uncover how almost 24 million work for the U.S. government, and as The New York Times notes, what percentage of overall tax revenue is paid by corporations.

Surely it was out there somewhere, he thought.

After a conversation with his wife about taxes several years ago, Ballmer decided he would attempt to create an integrated database of information about the USA government that includes information similar to the details included in annual corporate 10-K filings. Then he tried Google. And so on. One hopes that Ballmer's old friends at Xbox could turn all this data into an entertaining and instructive video game called "Taxes Versus Spending".

Her answer: "A, it won't, because there are things government doesn't get to, and B, you're missing it". So while Ballmer isn't the first, it's good to see more people getting interested in the benefits of open data.

But the tech site argues that Ballmer's project stands out for its use of custom graphics to make abstract, complex numbers quickly comprehensible.

Aside from an attractive design, the site claims that its data is "factual and unbiased", and it doesn't "make judgments or prescribe specific policies".

Balmer was careful remain personally objective on the project, noting to the New York Times that he didn't use the project as a tax write-off.

But data never exists in a vacuum, and as Wired says, "infographics are inherently editorialized". You can check out his website here.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.