Is the U.S. government well run?

By Kevin Theissen

Stop rolling your eyes. The Economist reported Steve Ballmer, former head of a large tech company, has been working on a new project—completing Form 10-K for the United States of America. The project is called “USA Facts: Our nation, in numbers.”

If you’re not familiar with Form 10-K, it is the global gold standard of corporate disclosure. United States regulators require public companies to provide comprehensive overviews of their businesses and financial condition each year, including audited financial statements. The information is provided on Form 10-K.

“USA” Facts aggregates publicly available data from federal, state, and local governments. It then groups the data into four operating divisions based on the ‘missions’ described in the U.S. Constitution:

“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”

After reviewing “USA Facts”, The Economist wrote: “Governance is poor. The country is not managed using a coherent taxonomy. So, for example, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House each split the job of running America into roughly 20 operating divisions. But their categories are different, meaning crossed wires and insufficient accountability…”

The findings aren’t much of a surprise. The government does not compare favorably to corporations. It has a profit margin of negative 3 percent. (The S&P 500 average is 8 percent.) It invests more in the future than most companies. Research and development and capital expenditures are 12 percent of revenue. (The S&P 500 average is 8 percent.) And debt is 289 percent of tax revenues, which are a proxy for sales. (The S&P 500 average is 77 percent.)

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Positivity check

With these types of reports, it is easy to conclude that the world is quickly going to hell in a handbasket.

But, also remember, we are living longer, healthier, safer, richer, freer lives than any people on the history of the planet. Look around you at the peace and prosperity, the time-saving devices, the huge variety of goods and services available, and all the small luxuries that permeate our lives.

There are bound to be surprises, setbacks and challenges ahead. But don’t forget to celebrate our accomplishments and look positively towards the future.

Kevin Theissen is principal and financial advisor at Skygate Financial Group, located on Main St., Ludlow. Email

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