Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's latest venture offers an interesting twist on the aged argument that government should be run like a business. I'm sure you've heard that point of view multiple times in every election season of your adult life.
Most invocations of the "government as a business" pledge focus on how a candidate for office plans to slash government spending and make government many times more efficient. Of course, the candidate who makes that pledge soon becomes the politician who discovers that cutting costs often means cutting services that certain voters want, as well as the fact that government isn't a for-profit business. Said politician then complicates matters by sponsoring or enacting new programs -- promoted by campaign contributors -- that actually add costs.
Everyone wants to see government spending -- and taxes reduced -- but they don't want the spending cuts to impact them. With that in mind, Ballmer takes a new tack, focusing on using business concepts to gain a better understanding of government finances.
He announced USAFacts Institute, a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, Lynchburg College, and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Ballmer reportedly invested $10 million in the project.
USAFacts hopes to enhance our understanding of what the US government spends, where the money comes from, and where the money goes. The work is based on two well-known but very different types of documents. First, it draws on the language of the preamble of the US Constitution. Second, it is modeled on the US Securities and Exchange Commission's 10K form, which you probably recognize as the detailed annual report form for public companies.
[Read the full story at InformationWeek.com]