Microsoft founder Bill Gates speaks at the TED Conference today in Long Beach, California. He previews his remarks on his blog at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website. He writes:
This time, I wanted to share some of what I’ve been learning about state budgets. I got interested in them because states supply most of the money for public education in the United States. What I’ve been learning, though, is that states are under increasingly intense budget pressure, and not just because of the aftereffects of the economic recession, although that has made things worse.
There are long-term problems with state budgets that a return to economic growth won’t solve. Health-care costs and pension obligations are projected to grow at rates that look to be completely unsustainable, unless something is done. But so far, many states aren’t doing much to deal with their fundamental problems. Instead they’re building budgets on tricks – selling off assets, creative accounting – and fictions, like assuming that pension fund investments will produce much higher gains than anyone should reasonably expect.
Eventually they’ll have to make some hard decisions about priorities, and I’m worried that education will suffer, even more than it is suffering already because of budget cuts. The issues are complicated and obscured by the complexities of accounting, so most people don’t fully understand what’s going on. More people need to investigate their state’s budget and get involved in helping to make the right choices. My TED talk is sort of a call to action for citizens, taxpayers, parents, everyone.
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