Earlier this month, the White House released its first-ever, open-sourced federal budget and invited tech-savvy folks to create their own visualizations from the data. Here at OpenGov, we decided to take the White House up on its invitation.
Just seven man hours, three scripts, and one hundred lines of code later, we stood up a proof of concept of the nearly $4 trillion federal budget on the OpenGov platform (https://whitehouse.opengov.com).
Data geeks, rejoice: You can now explore the President’s proposed budget and related historical detail, from high-level trends to department-specific spending to account-level detail, with a few clicks of your mouse. You can also delve into more than fifty years of historical revenue and spending data and five years of the President’s budget forecast (through 2020) in a dynamic and easy-to-use format.
To help you get started, we’ve highlighted some frequent points of interest on the left side of your screen, such as: “How big is the federal budget expected to be in 2020, according to the President’s budget proposal?” Answer: about $4.9 trillion.
The powerful filter panel enables you to break free of static interfaces (think Summary Tables) and places you in the driver’s seat to get the precise level of detail you want. Here are a few tips for navigating the filter panel:
- On the left side of the screen, click “Filter.”
- Select whether you want to show revenue, spending (i.e. “Expenses”), or the difference of the two (“Revenues & Expenses”).
- Choose how you want to slice and dice the data under “Broken Down By.” If you’re exploring revenues, you’ll want to select “Receipt Source.”
- If you’re exploring spending data, you’ve got a few options: Under “Broken Down By,” you can select mandatory or discretionary spending under “Spending Category,” view outlays by “Agency,” or delve into hundreds of accounts under “Expense Type.”
- If you are looking for a specific account, we suggest using the search function in the “Filtered By” panel.
But wait, there’s more. The budget data released by the White House is represented in nominal dollars, which means historical data would include fluctuations due to inflation rather than real increases in spending or revenue. As specialists in public sector finance, we thought that it would be interesting to add a second report, which allows you to compare revenue and spending over time in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars. So we grabbed the CPI price deflators from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and performed the inflation adjustment. You can see the resulting data in our second report, called “Federal-Real.”
Before you head off to the races, we want to provide a few additional caveats and helpful hints:
- Our platform is flexible, sharable, and interactive. You can share any graphical snapshot via your social media channels or export data selections into a .csv file for further analysis.
- The site is a fully-functional proof of concept. The data can be easily accessed and analyzed using the powerful tools that our platform offers. That said, when our first municipal client comes to us with 58 years of data to display, we’ll be sure to have graphical labels optimized accordingly.
- We preserved the integrity of the data as it was provided to us through GitHub. Since the White House data included transfer payments, they are included in the data on our platform. In other words, if, for example, the Treasury Department paid the Department of Agriculture $4 million dollars in 1992, that would be counted in both the Treasury Department’s spending and the USDA’s revenues for that year.
- We followed the White House’s “Public Budget Database User’s Guide” when we uploaded the data. You can read it here.
Here at OpenGov, we have the pleasure of working with more than 250 state and local governments across 36 states who are leading the way in bringing transparent, data-driven government to their citizens. As the leading provider of government financial transparency, data visualization, and business intelligence software, we’re thrilled to see that the White House is making strides to make federal budget data accessible, transparent and interactive for citizens, too.
To learn more about the OpenGov platform, join our next OpenGov Platform Overview.
Published: February 25, 2015