Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., offers his thoughts on today’s election — and the challenges and responsibilities that will be faced by the president of the United States during the next four years.
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An election is like a romance.
There is the drama of which suitor will be chosen, while the candidates woo the electorate. Finally, on Election Day, the voters make their choice, and plans begin for the big day.
While it is the election — or the romance — that draws all the attention, it’s actually what happens afterward that really matters.
Over the next four years, we will be negotiating our common life as a nation. And there are big issues at stake.
Political commentators have said that no domestic issue is more important than getting the country’s finances in order. But our leaders’ budgetary decisions will affect no one more than the children and families who suffer from extreme poverty — both here and around the world.
The next president and Congress will have tough choices to make. Trimming the budget will force the country to prioritize what is most important. Setting priorities among healthcare, defense, education, infrastructure, and humanitarian aid reflect moral decisions. Just as a family’s budget reflects its values, so does our national budget.
This is the issue that we must address: How can we lift up the poor and most vulnerable, both here in the United States and around the world, while also living within our means?
Consider this: The U.S. International Affairs Budget makes up a tiny 1.4 percent of our overall federal budget. But it funds critical interventions that literally save lives around the world — including programs like HIV and malaria prevention and treatment; food security and malnutrition prevention; child and maternal health; child mortality prevention; and more.
Around the world, 19,000 children still die every day from preventable causes like diarrhea, and 870 million people don’t have enough to eat. That’s why the next administration needs to protect our foreign assistance budget from devastating cuts that would set back the progress we’ve made in fighting these consequences of extreme poverty.
Budgets are moral documents. It’s no exaggeration to say that there are children who wouldn’t be alive right now without this crucial funding. Considering its size, cutting these programs do almost nothing to balance the budget.
But such cuts would end the lifeline now supporting millions of families.
As Christians, we must ask what Jesus would do if confronted with the same budget dilemma we face — and then try to align our choices accordingly.
Would he cut programs that directly help the truly vulnerable? Would he seek to increase military spending? Would he protect programs that provide basic healthcare for America’s poorest children? Would he reduce taxes? How would Jesus prioritize these spending decisions?
These are not black-and-white choices, but they are the choices every nation must make. How we make them speaks to who we are.
Caring for the poor and vulnerable expresses our deepest values as Americans. It builds our standing internationally as a compassionate nation that cares about fighting poverty. It reduces the chance of military intervention, because it creates friends and because desperate poverty is often a key motivator of conflict. It helps us foster our relationships with foreign allies and forms the foundation for building new ones. It opens up new markets for trade as communities escape from poverty and become economically active.
When all of these factors are considered — our national interest and the millions of lives at stake — it’s clear that we can’t separate America’s economic health and overall well-being from our commitment to fighting poverty and injustice, both on our own shores and abroad.
After today, regardless of the results, we all deserve to take a break from the politics that have dominated the past year. But let’s not forget that seemingly minor budget and policy decisions can have huge consequences for the poor and most vulnerable.
As Christians, and as Americans, we have a duty to hold our elected leaders accountable. Over the next year, as these decisions are being made, become an advocate. Let our national leadership know your values. Express the American and biblical values of lifting up the poor and ensuring justice for all.
Let’s hold our leadership accountable to the moral values of our country.
Read related articles:
Begin your advocacy for the poor and vulnerable today — before the results are announced.
Send a message to President Obama and Governor Romney. Tell them that you support cost-effective, life-saving international aid programs. Drastic reductions to these programs would have a devastating impact and do little to address our budgetary challenges.