In a public-policy speech on Wednesday, Bill Gates warned President-elect Barack Obama against using the economic freefall to cut spending on U.S. schools or on health and antipoverty programs overseas.
Mr. Gates, who is increasingly using his pulpit as arguably the country’s best-known businessman and philanthropist to influence American policy, said that programs supported by his foundation, and by the U.S. government, have proven that investments in those areas do produce results.
“If you look at the stock market, business activity, or business deficits, things are dark,” said Mr. Gates, speaking before a crowd of policy experts, grantees, and college students at George Washington University. “But if you consider our capacities and opportunities, our passion and vision, the outlook is bright.”
Mr. Gates said the U.S. government could afford to expand its programs to help American students and people overseas by developing a new “fiscal vigilance” that would include reducing waste and inefficiencies, and emphasize spending on proven programs.
He called on Mr. Obama to make investments in recruiting talented teachers, align state educational standards with top international standards, and reward students who complete college.
“Today’s economy doesn’t mean education will be less important for the future, so a down economy doesn’t mean we should cut back on education,” said Mr. Gates.
He also urged the president-elect to honor a pledge he made during the campaign to double U.S. foreign aid, to $50-billion by 2012. Many people, including vice-president elect Joe Biden, have raised questions about whether Mr. Obama can maintain that commitment amid the deepening financial crisis.