Finding Just the Facts in Government Data


(Image: Geralt/Pixabay)

(Image: Geralt/Pixabay)

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]

James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

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Re: Good attempt
  • 5/5/2017 10:56:01 AM
NO RATINGS

Our attitides, background and the "tribe" we belong to whether is be a political party or a nationality or religion unfortunately color what we believe and what we think is the truth or a falsity. I would think scientists and others trained to think rationally would be be considerably better at determining what are facts, but even so we all are susceptible to error from time time, even sometimes on purpose but mostly unconsciously.

Great info
  • 5/4/2017 2:18:55 AM
NO RATINGS

Thank you for providing Great tips. Will it show the Exact data info of goverment. Mehandi

Re: Good attempt
  • 4/30/2017 2:11:24 PM
NO RATINGS

Government statistics is a prime example of bias driven initiative. Ambiguity and confusion reigns, which serves the political animals well.

Re: Good attempt
  • 4/29/2017 6:57:25 PM
NO RATINGS

We can only hope, but government statistics often leave a lot to interpretation which causes issues when party wars erupt.

.

Re: Good attempt
  • 4/29/2017 3:18:28 PM
NO RATINGS

@tom That seems to be the case with many good initiatives, unfortunately. I hope we see a much different outcome here.

Re: Good attempt
  • 4/28/2017 10:29:15 AM
NO RATINGS

I don't think government can be run like a business because it's not a business the goal isn't to grow and increase profits the goal should be to create a country that is economically sound that serves and protects its citizens. (Sorry for the broad brushstroke) The idea that we can be run like a business is just not possible civil servants are not at will employees nor are they paid market scale, social services are also not profit centers. Additionally, protection is expensive and doesn't necessarily show an ROI until we need it. If we were run like a business we would need to close down many branches of government. 

Re: Good attempt
  • 4/27/2017 4:42:04 PM
NO RATINGS

Making government more transparent is certainly a goal worth pursuing as well as attempts to explain income and expenses as suggested. But, government finances, and all the ramifications of who benefits, who pays, and the co-existing programs and laws and regulations that go along with those expenditures isn't always a simple explanation and I'm afraid the organization's project will not fully realize it's goal to run government like as business.

Re: Good attempt
  • 4/25/2017 4:54:42 PM
NO RATINGS

Misconceptions and lack of understanding is the rule when it comes to government spending. So many agenda with no cohisive goals dictate the budget. I have a hard time hearing the term 'taxpayers money'. The fact is clear, once the taxpayer sends his tax money it's no longer his. True, the institution of government is and should be accountable, but we dont all agree on common goals and priorities. No easy answer here from Steve Balmer or anyone else. Just an at most times frustrating process.

Re: Good attempt
  • 4/24/2017 4:14:35 PM
NO RATINGS

I welcome new analysis that will make government spending clearer and less of a political football. I recently told someone that the government spends less than 1% on foreign aid and d they were sure I was wrong! The perceptions and the reality are not the same, American tax payers should know where their dollars go and have a say in the spend. Making the spend a mystery just causes misconceptions about how our tax dollars are spent.

Re: Good attempt
  • 4/21/2017 1:51:03 PM
NO RATINGS

I would imagine we would see more progress if money trails couldn't be hid.  So much money goes into a general fund and becomes used for other expenses and projects for which they were never intended. 

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