Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft and owner of the LA Clippers, launched the interactive webpage USAFacts.org last month in an effort to present unbiased data about government spending and functions. It’s clean and interactive format intends to reach the common taxpayer and create a population that is more conscious of its government. Ballmer’s new project is a necessary step towards government accountability, transparency and a greater political awareness in the general population.
USAFacts.org allows users to navigate through government data with ease in a unique, nonpartisan environment. Ballmer created a team of writers, economists and researchers to organize the information displayed on USAFacts.org into the four missions of the constitution’s preamble: “Establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare; and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
The value of USAFacts.org to American citizens is unmeasurable because no other database has offered government information in such a simple and clean way. The federal government’s open database Data.gov makes available public information and statistics about government operations on a local, state and federal level. But unlike USAFacts.org, Data.org does not display the data on its portal. Instead, it redirects the user to other government agencies.
Although Ballmer’s idea was conceived well before President Trump announced his campaign, it follows the trend to preserve government data from possible removal under the current administration. In a little more than 100 days, Trump’s administration closed Open.gov, a page that contained financial information about the staff of the White House and other data about the presidency.
According to Wire Magazine, nonprofit organizations such as Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, Data Refuge and Climate Mirror joined the race to salvage data from a fate similar to that of Open.gov.
Fortunately for American citizens, nonprofit organizations and even corporations, a new bipartisan bill protecting data from destruction was recently introduced in Congress. The Preserving Government Data Act of 2017 was proposed by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO). If passed, it would complicate the process of data removal, as agencies would need to give a six month notice and an appropriate reason for the removal.
The efforts of Congress, as well as private citizens like Ballmer, are admirable and important under an administration removing valuable information from the public. However, this effort to keep the government accountable should not be limited to nonprofit organizations or politicians; every person within US territory can help in their own style. One of the most popular and effective platforms to share information is social media. Any person with access to internet can upload and share any type of information in an instant. However, people must be critical of the information they receive or share to avoid misinformation. Consequently, nonpartisan or non biased facts provide a more accurate portrayal of our reality as they are not distorted by any individual or political ideology. They are just facts.
Sebastian Suarez is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.