“It’s the greatest depth you’re going to get, and it’s accurate.”
Steve Ballmer isn’t going quietly into the night. The former Microsoft executive has already spent $10 million of his vast personal fortune to create what may be the coolest new tool to better understand how government works.
The site is called USAFacts and it basically looks like a generic search tool. But rather than being Bing 2.0, the site lets you search to see how every tax dollar collected by the government is spent.
“I would like citizens to be able to use this to form intelligent opinions,” Ballmer told The New York Times. “People can disagree about what to do—I’m not going to tell people what to do.”
With a quick search of “military spending” you can find out how much money the United States gives to other countries for “military assistance.” Or, you can see how much of your tax dollars are being spent on education, law enforcement, medical research, or any other category you want to know more about.
“We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit civic initiative and have no political agenda or commercial motive,” the new company said in a statement. “We provide this information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding it in the future.”
And while Ballmer says it’s purely meant to be nonpartisan, The New York Times says it sounds as if the project may have changed some of Ballmer’s views on how the government is structured and the value it can provide to average citizens versus how much is currently being done for the economically elite, like himself.
“Take the mortgage deduction,” he told the Times. “This is to stimulate homeownership amongst people who are already going to own homes. That is worth, to a middle-income family, a hundred bucks a year. I was a little surprised by that. You can have your own reaction; I was a little surprised by that.”
Of course, browsing through budget numbers probably won’t change many (if any) minds on either side of the political spectrum. But the next time you’re having a debate about where the federal government is—or should be—spending your hard-earned cash, you can at least go into the argument with a powerful new tool at your disposal.