All you ever wanted to know about government spending but were too afraid to ask.

Ex Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has opened a new site called https://www.usafacts.org/, which describes itself as “a new data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society.” It claims to be a non-partisan site that provides a public service.

Mr. Ballmer sees this endeavor as philanthropy, and also takes it seriously as an academic venture. The site has a team made up of experts from Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Lynchburg College that, the claim goes “help keep our data accurate and unbiased”. The site not only uses only numbers and data directly from government sources, but has a policy of information only: no judgments, no opinions—just the facts. They also intend to “engage a prominent accounting firm” to audit their processes and controls used to present the information on the site.

So, let’s say you want to see a breakdown of what was spent in 2014. You start with this screen:

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Once you decide to be curious about something else you follow the budget, which the site breaks down into categories found in the Constitution: Establish Justice and Ensure Domestic Tranquility, Provide for the Common Defense, Promote the General Welfare and Secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and Our Posterity.

2Choose which category that interests you, and you’ll be taken to the next screen that gives more detailed information. So, under “Promote the General Welfare” I chose “Health”. It gives raw numbers on the spending in that area,

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Then I can click to find an even more detailed breakdown of health spending.

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This site looks to become a go-to for seekers of accurate, helpful information on how the U.S. government spends our tax money.

If you’re interested in further reading NPR did a article on this site that may be found here.

Power to the People!

Power to the People!

2016 was a historic year for politics in the United States and more citizens have become involved in political action than there have been in a long time. To assist those interested in sharing their opinions with our representative politicians, this list identifies the key players in national affairs representing the region served by our fair institution, the Memphis Public Library and Information Center. Once you know who your representative is, you can contact them to voice your opinion on important matters, whether it concerns federal, state or local issues. This list will not be exhaustive, that is, it will not cover every possible government agency of every layer of government within the covered counties (so, for some examples, if you are wanting to petition the office of the mayor of Lake City, Arkansas, the school board of Independence High School in Tate County, MS or the powers that be in Yum Yum, TN, then I encourage you to do your own research into how you may contact those bodies). This list is a good start if you want to, for example, call your congressman to try to get them to vote the way you expect them to. To compile this list I used the region covered by the counties served by our LINC/211 service.

Each of the three states are listed alphabetically and include contact information for U.S. Senators and Congress members. Note that these representatives only accept and respond to constituents living within their own districts, so if you don’t live there, don’t waste your time trying to contact them directly.

Arkansas:

The state senators for Arkansas are:

John Boozman:            https://www.boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/home

Tom Cotton:                https://www.cotton.senate.gov/

Crittenden County is in Arkansas’ 1st congressional district, represented by Rick Crawford.

http://crawford.house.gov/

Mississippi:

The state senators for Mississippi are:

Thad Cochran:             http://www.cochran.senate.gov/public/

Roger Wicker:             https://www.wicker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/home

Desoto and Tate counties are within Mississippi’s 1st congressional district, and are represented by Trent Kelly:                                  https://trentkelly.house.gov/

Tunica County is within Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district, and is represented by Bennie Thompson:

https://benniethompson.house.gov/

Tennessee:

The state senators for Tennessee are:

Lamar Alexander:       http://www.alexanderforsenate.com/

Bob Corker:                 http://www.bobcorker.com/

Memphis and much of Shelby county is in Tennessee’s 9th congressional district, represented by Steve Cohen:               https://cohen.house.gov/

Parts of Shelby County, as well as Tipton, Lauderdale, Lake and Obion counties are in Tennessee’s 8th congressional district, represented by David Kustoff:

http://www.kustoffforcongress.com/

Happy Lobbying!