Mission: To provide a data-driven portrait of the U.S. population, the government's finances, and government's impact on society.
Background: Inspired by a conversation former Microsoft CEO and philanthropist Steve Ballmer had with his wife, Connie, Ballmer decided to find out what government does with the money it raises; where that money comes from and how it's spent; whom it serves; and the outcomes of all that spending. Realizing that it wouldn't be easy to find solid, reliable, impartial numbers from a single source, Ballmer put together a small team of economists, writers, and researchers to take on the task. Because the public sector in the U.S. is big and complex, with more than 90,000 jurisdictions and 23 million employees, the team quickly realized that a new organizing framework was required and that the framework needed to be nonpartisan and non-commercial motive. To that end, the team worked with academic institutions and experts to keep the data accurate and unbiased, including the Penn Wharton, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and Lynchburg College.
Outstanding Web Features: Visitors to the site are encouraged to start their exploration by clicking one of four tabs grouped under the rubric "Our Nation, in numbers": How does the money flow in and out of government? (finances); Who are 'the People'? (population); What is the impact of government" (metrics); and What are the questions to ask? (reports). From the homepage, visitors also can access facts related to how much is spent (as well as some of the big-picture outcomes) in specific areas, including child safety, crime and disaster aid, education, energy and the environment, foreign affairs and foreign aid, national defense, and wealth and savings. In addition, visitors are encouraged to check out a call to action portal, watch videos, browse or download a dozen or so reports, and learn more about the data sources and methodology behind the site.