Hopes for the Obama Presidency
By Michael Milken

The Wall Street Journal
January 21, 2009

My hopes for the new administration are in two areas: deployment of financial capital to lower mortgage interest rates so struggling homeowners can keep their homes; and development of human capital through education, immigration reform, disease prevention and medical research.

All qualified citizens can attend our world-class universities with assistance from government Pell grants. We need equivalent access to excellence through Pell-type grants in K-12 programs and, even more importantly, in early childhood education. We should also alter immigration restrictions that exclude many of the world’s brightest students, entrepreneurs, artists and scientists. Their contributions as citizens would create millions of new jobs without threatening American workers.

Second, as a physically fit role model, President Obama can provide leadership on the health and economic benefits of disease prevention through an active lifestyle and sensible nutrition. This will raise productivity and lower medical costs. If the average weight of Americans simply returned to early 1990s levels, the reduction in chronic-disease costs would boost our economy annually by an estimated $1 trillion—at no cost to the government. And if we invested a small portion of that health dividend by doubling medical-research funding, the economic effect would be worth trillions more, in addition to the incalculable benefit of lives saved.

Mr. Milken is chairman of the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, Calif.