Why I’m Excited about the New USA Facts Website

Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, recently launched a new site called USA Facts.

The goal of the website is to aggregate historical data from local, state, and federal government sources into one centralized location to provide a non-partisan fact based data source to show how our government is doing. The mission was to come up with a business like 10-K statement to report out three key things:

1) Where the money for the government is coming from
2) How the government spends that money
3) What results are we getting out of that money

A high level sample set of the type of data on the website is provided below:

USA Facts 1.JPG

In the era of “fake news” and anecdotal generalizations on social media, looking at a set of factual data over time is critical to understanding what is actually going on. For example, here are a couple of tidbits of information that would have been useful during the last presidential election.

1) Annual Crime in 2015 has significantly decreased since 1980 (13.4M to 9.2M). This runs directly contrary to Donald Trump’s claim that crime is at an all-time high under Obama.

2) Our annual healthcare expenditure as a % of GDP has increased from 8% in 1980 to 16.5% in 2015. This suggests that the problem with healthcare is not how much money we spend but how we spend the money.

3) The annual social security deficit has increased from -12B in 1980 to -405B in 2015. This suggest that social security will become insolvent unless we make drastic changes (like raising the retirement age).

4) The top 1% earners pay 24% of all US taxes and the top 40% earners pay 84% of all US taxes. Depending on your political beliefs, you can interpret that both ways but those are the facts.

The list goes on, but you get the idea. I highly encourage everyone to use and share USA Facts as baseline to support intelligent debate.

Can a Divided America Heal?

Here is a very engaging TED talk on whether a divided America can heal after the 2016 election. Jonathan Haidt does a good job framing some important issues through a social psychology lens.

There are a couple points that are worth paying attention to when watching this talk:

  1. The relationship between parochial vs non parochial world views
  2. The relationship between culture and race
  3. The relationship between immigration and social capital
  4. The relationship between culture and socialism
  5. The moral matrix