If the U.S. government actually were a business, it’d have to issue a 10-K filing with regulators — a report to shareholders — and we’d all get a look at how the business is doing.
This morning, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the results of his project to do just that and it landed with a bit of a thud.
While Ballmer issued his 10-K — called USA Facts — he struck out and the one thing missing: a narrative to summarize how we’re doing.
Ballmer divided the country’s expenditures into four constitutional mission, CNBC reports:
* Establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility
* Provide for the common defense
* Promote the general welfare
* Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
The most expensive mission of the United States, according to Ballmer’s breakdown, is securing the blessings of liberty. That includes the nearly $800 billion in government spending on education at the state and local level, programs like Social Security and Medicare, programs advancing civil rights and economic mobility, as well as environmental protection and agriculture.
Promoting the general welfare encompasses programs maintaining standards of living like public housing and transfer programs, public health initiatives, economic programs and government-run businesses like post offices and hospitals. The armed forces, foreign affairs and border security fall under the “common defense” mission, while the justice system, consumer safeguards, child safety and emergency services are in the segment dedicated to establishing justice.
The lack of any analysis is by design, Ballmer told CNBC. It’s intended to give people with different political agendas the same set of “facts.”
The goal is to answer: (1) Where does the money come from? (2) Where does the money go? and (3) What’s the outcome?
“One of the problems with today’s political discourse is people snatch one number out of the air and not put it in any historical context or the context of other numbers,” he said.
Ballmer said he was surprised that there weren’t “that many bureaucrats” and that the number one sector of employment in our shared company is education.
The government is the top employer, compared to U.S. companies. Walmart is second.
It has more revenue, debt and more assets than any corporation, of course. But it trails in “executive compensation” because the top salary is about $400,000.
It’s taken Ballmer three years to do the research. His USAFacts website went live this morning. Almost immediately, it crashed.
Will it change the political discourse in the country? No. It would still require Americans to read and research factual data. That’s not the customers’ forte.