Kristine Hayes

I SPENT THE FIRST three years of my college career pursuing a degree in journalism. Any time I submitted an assignment that had even a hint of my own opinion inserted into it, my advisor would sternly remind me to report “just the facts and only the facts.”

These days, it’s increasingly difficult to find a piece of journalism that doesn’t have a personal edge to it. Between fake news and political propaganda, the distance between fact and fiction feels like it’s narrowing. Finding unbiased information, especially when it comes to government spending and taxation, seems nearly impossible.

Thankfully,—a website developed and financed by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer—has come to the rescue. Ballmer started USAFacts after his wife Connie asked him to become more involved in philanthropic work. Unable to find easily accessible, unbiased information about government spending and revenue, he set about creating a nonpartisan website to provide this data to the public. The site provides volumes of information in an easy-to-digest graphical interface. Visitors can explore a multitude of data generated by the U.S. government in a way that’s completely devoid of opinion.

I regularly explore the website just to see how well my own perceptions mesh with the facts. Want to know if property crime rates have increased or decreased over the last decade? USAFacts will show you. Want to know whether the number of structurally deficient bridges in the country has increased or decreased since 1990? That’s there as well.

The diversity of data included on the site makes it easy to spend hours surfing around. Whether you want information about obesity rates, mortgage rates or the national volunteering rate, you can find the information on the site. Links to the sources used to generate the graphs, charts and reports on USAFacts are included on each page. Options to download data, or share the pages on social media, are readily accessible as well.

Kristine Hayes is a departmental manager at a small, liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon. Her previous blogs include Perking UpAiming High and Hidden Gems.

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