Former Microsoft CEO Launches New Tool For Finding Government Data

This Tax Day, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer launched a new tool designed to make government spending and revenue more accessible to the average citizen.

The website — USAFacts.org — has been slow and buggy for users on Tuesday, apparently due to the level of traffic. It offers interactive graphics showing data on revenue, spending, demographics and program missions.

For example, the site prominently features an infographic created to break down revenue and spending in 2014. Revenue is broken down by origin; spending is broken down by what “mission” of government it serves, based on the functions laid out in the Constitution.

It’s a big-picture view of where U.S. tax dollars come from, and how they’re spent. But click on a subcategory and you’re taken to a more detailed, granular view of that spending.

Ballmer didn’t create the site because he was an expert on government data. Quite the opposite, according to The New York Times’ Dealbook.

The Times says that Ballmer’s wife was pushing her newly-retired husband to get more involved in philanthropy. Ballmer said — according to his own memory, as he described the conversation to the Times — “But come on, doesn’t the government take care of the poor, the sick, the old?”

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What’s Behind the Inventory Crisis of 2016?

The last time the inventory-to-sales ratio was this high was 2009, when we were in the throes of the Great Recession – people lost jobs, businesses closed, nobody was spending, nobody was growing.

What does it mean that inventory levels are this high in 2016? Are consumers not spending? Are we headed for another recession? Or are other forces at work?

Well, in April the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that consumer spending experienced its biggest gain in six years. And while JPMorgan recently reported an increased probability of a recession in the next 12 months, no one’s sounding the alarm bells quite yet. Besides, inventory levels have been high since last fall.

So what else could be at work?

The Marketplace

Traditionally, a drop in consumer demand would cause a short-term build-up of inventory. But businesses would eventually compensate by cutting orders and manufacturers would produce less. But as we’ve seen, demand isn’t going down. And yet, inventory isn’t moving. Why?

One major culprit is the way consumers shop. Their expectations have changed. This is the age of Amazon Prime, Instacart, Uber and Lyft. Free shipping. In-store pick-up. 1-hour delivery. Easy exchanges and returns. Above all – convenience. If it isn’t convenient for a customer to buy something they want, they won’t buy it – or they’ll buy it somewhere else. Fulfillment has usurped the throne of customer satisfaction.

Traditional retailers have struggled because of this. As young, tech-driven start-ups bite into market with the luxury of fresh starts, traditional retailers have tried to stay competitive. One common tactic has been to keep buffer inventory on hand. Out-of-stock inventory kills customer loyalty. Not being able to fulfill quickly kills customer loyalty. But having lots of inventory doesn’t equate to efficient fulfillment. That requires having a modern, flexible supply chain. Without agility, retailers often lack the competence to satisfy customer demand, let alone fulfilling profitably.

Read more at  What’s Behind the Inventory Crisis of 2016?

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