Just The Facts, Ma’am…

Shades of Joe Friday!

There really are incredible resources on the Internet. Granted, it can be hard to locate them  in that ever-burgeoning sea of spin, propaganda and conspiracy theories, but they exist. Last week, I blogged about “ProCon,” a site that presents the arguments made by contending sides on so-called “hot button” issues.

Today, I want to highlight USA FACTS, a site devoted to presenting a data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society.

We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative and have no political agenda or commercial motive. We provide this information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding it in the future.

We rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources. We don’t make judgments or prescribe specific policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether our quality of life is improving or getting worse – that’s for you to decide. We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government. Such debate is vital to our democracy. We hope that USAFacts will make a modest contribution toward building consensus and finding solutions.

The site offers a brief description of its genesis:

USAFacts was inspired by a conversation Steve Ballmer had with his wife, Connie. She wanted him to get more involved in philanthropic work. He thought it made sense to first find out what government does with the money it raises. Where does the money come from and where is it spent? Whom does it serve? And most importantly, what are the outcomes?

With his business background, Steve searched for solid, reliable, impartial numbers to tell the story… but eventually realized he wasn’t going to find them. He put together a small team of people – economists, writers, researchers – and got to work.

Ultimately, Ballmer partnered in this effort with Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Lynchburg College.

The site does something I have long advocated–it collects numerical data about America’s state and federal governments that has previously been available only through a patchwork of reports and agency sites, and assembles it in a usable, comprehensible (and comprehensive) format. Want to know how much government took in in taxes last year and the year before? Where those dollars came from? What was spent? What a “trust fund” is and what its assets are? How many people work for government? What governments owe?

It’s all there, along with population demographics.

The charts are simple, the text understandable.

The next time one of the talking heads on cable makes an assertion about job creation under President X, or deficits amassed under President Y, his numbers can be checked in real time. (Like the t-shirt says, “Trust Data, Not Lore.”) (Star Trek fans will get that…)

These days, it sometimes seems as if partisans are uninterested in those pesky things we call facts; indeed, they seem to resent those of us who prefer to deal with accurate data. This site isn’t for them–but it is definitely a great resource for the rest of us!


  1. The Governmental Research Association (GRA) has been in existence since 1914. Members provide the kind of research that citizens can rely on for a host of issues in their cities and states. I’m on the board of this organization and recommend that the public take notice of what the member organizations publish. The site is http://www.graonline.org.

    My own member organization is http://www.parcalabama.org. We are nonpartisan, nonprofits with a long history of getting it right.

  2. Ballmer and Connie are to be congratulated for this service to the public weal, as are you, Sheila, for letting us know about this apolitical source for fact. Gracias! Imagine – spinless facts!

  3. I was going to ask you to put the link on your sidebar of “sites you follow” and was happy to see, it’s already there! Thanks!

    Yes, Willliam, Single Payer is the way to go (after reading your comments from yesterday). I believe Bernie is going to or has a bill all ready to go to congress. I don’t know where you live but you need to join the Indivisible group in your area. These people are progressive and want to push our Members of Congress (MOC) to present a progressive agenda in ’18 and 2020. If you’re on facebook, do a search of ones in your zip code.

  4. It seems like hope for democracy comes through the same media as did the biggest threat to democracy but sponsored by those with an eye towards the success of it rather than its destruction.

    Here’s what’s yet to be determined. Will it foster the return of common sense or the further intellectual polarization that was yesterday’s topic?

    No matter. It is huge progress and hope at last.

  5. I just watched that classic old movie, “Inherit The Wind” which usually saddens me; today it scared me as we wait for Betsy DeVos’ fully sanctioned plans for our nation’s once public education system to be put into action. What “facts” can we expect from the current “…government’s impact on society.” when it begins. It turns out there were few “facts” regarding the famous “creation vs. evolution” Scopes trial to work with by either side. We, who are inundated with”facts”, “alternative facts” and “fake news” regarding too many “hot button” issues to count as DeVos, et al, prepare their “God’s Kingdom” national education system to force creation “facts” only into young minds of our future leaders as our current “leader” asks if he can legally pardon himself. But he hasn’t yet specified which of his questionable actions he needs to be pardoned for. Below I have copied and pasted the Wikipedia description of the “Monkey Trial”; is this our past coming back to haunt us as our future? Whose facts will be acceptable when the president has the legal right to finagle “alternative facts” to fire the investigator investigating him and seeking the route to pardon himself before any of the facts are known? The 1st Amendment is being repealed without the actual repeal being written and submitted to our court system for action. Rather like McConnell’s refusal to hold the Constitutionally required hearing on President Obama’s nominee to SCOTUS. Approval is not required; merely the hearing; an actual, undisputed FACT in our Constitution. Evidently, “we don’t need no stinkin’ facts!”

    “The Scopes Trial, formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes and commonly referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial, was an American legal case in July 1925 in which a substitute high school teacher, John T. Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which had made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school.[1] The trial was deliberately staged in order to attract publicity to the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, where it was held. Scopes was unsure whether he had ever actually taught some evolution, but he purposely incriminated himself so that the case could have a defendant.[2][3]
    Scopes was found guilty and fined $100 ($1366 in 2016), but the verdict was overturned on a technicality. The trial served its purpose of drawing intense national publicity, as national reporters flocked to Dayton to cover the big-name lawyers who had agreed to represent each side. William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential candidate, argued for the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney, spoke for Scopes. The trial publicized the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy, which set Modernists, who said evolution was not inconsistent with religion,[4] against Fundamentalists, who said the word of God as revealed in the Bible took priority over all human knowledge. The case was thus seen as both a theological contest and a trial on whether “modern science” should be taught in schools.”

  6. Rand Paul, one of the conservative senators who has helped to hold up Republican healthcare reform, on Sunday derided the current Senate bill as a “monstrosity” and a “porkfest” and said he would not vote for it to proceed to debate this week.

    In another article I read: Message to Democrats: Get on Board With Medicare For All or Go Home.

    On Tuesday, a coalition of dozens of progressive organizations announced the launch of a new initiative called “The Summer of Progress” with the goal of pressuring House Democrats to support, among other legislation, Conyers’ H.R. 676 – health care that includes all medically necessary care, such as primary care and prevention, dietary and nutritional therapies, prescription drugs, emergency care, long-term care, mental health services, dental services, and vision care.

    Will, “The Summer of Progress” have any effect on the Corporate Establishment Democrats, or will they just ignore, foot drag, or keep telling us how bad Trump is?

    The facts are Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan all pay less per capita in health care compared to the USA. These same countries have a greater Average life expectancy at birth in years, compared to the USA.

  7. Can anyone give me a good reason why Jared Kushner is appearing before Congressional intel committees this week without being sworn in?
    Demand sworn testimony from these guys…no free passes.

  8. OMG; I am going to just take a guess here. Would someone who has testified without being sworn in, need a pardon later if found to have lied? What form of legal questioning by government and/or judicial representatives does not REQUIRE being sworn in? Trump’s questioning his right to pardon all, including himself, raises many legal questions regarding his family’s testimonies whether sworn in or not. It is also a tacit admission of guilt to thinking people…but under today’s circumstances, which guilty act is he concerned about pardoning the whole bunch for?

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