Consider what you've heard in the news over the past several weeks regarding the ongoing impasse over the nation's debt ceiling.
You've probably heard a great deal about spending cuts, versus tax increases, versus any combination thereof. You've likely heard about the August 2 deadline for raising the limit, lest the United States default on its debts and risk an economic meltdown. In the midst of this, you've almost certainly observed a soap opera of political posturing and bickering among members of both parties.
But what you probably haven't heard much about in the context of this debate is the group that stands to lose the most: the world's poorest, who literally depend on U.S. foreign aid for their survival. Their direct involvement in this issue may not be recognized as part of the dialogue, but that does not mean that they should be forgotten.
Last month, the U.S. House proposed cutting the federal budget for international food aid by $650 million. That's a 39-percent cut from the president’s request, and a 50-percent reduction from the average over the past 10 years for this account. If passed as part of an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, nearly 1,625,000 people -- a population about the size of Phoenix, Arizona -- would be affected.
Bob Zachritz, World Vision's director for advocacy and government relations, said this week that “[providing life-saving foreign assistance] is not a right-left issue. It’s a right-wrong issue.”
There are five reasons why he's correct:
- The International Affairs Budget is just 1.4 percent of the total $3.8 trillion in the fiscal year 2012 budget. Disproportionately cutting one of the tiniest line items won't make a significant impact on the nation's deficit -- but it could be devastating to those whose lives are saved by the programs that this budget funds.
- World crises illustrate the need to preserve this critical funding. The UN declaration of famine in parts of Somalia -- coupled with extreme hunger and malnutrition across drought-ravaged East Africa -- is just a recent reminder that children, families, and communities around the world are suffering and continue to need U.S. assistance through this very modest budget.
- The national debt is a moral issue. So are life-saving programs for those affected by poverty. Preserving crucial assistance for the poorest of the poorest is in the national interest of the United States, and it represents the compassion and goodwill of the American people.
- The return on investment justifies the funding. The programs sustained by the International Affairs Budget are cost-effective. For the small price of a pill, a piece of bread, a bed net, or a vaccination, you can save a child's life. There are few places in the U.S. federal budget where dollars translate so directly into lives saved.
- As Christians, we have a biblical mandate to care for the poor -- even when times are difficult. We can't understate the sacrifices that American families have had to make during these trying times; nor can we downplay the need for the United States to address its own challenges. But we should also remember what God calls us to do as His followers. By supporting the International Affairs Budget -- with its insignificant size but immeasurable impact -- we have the perfect opportunity to reflect our faith in the public sphere.
Please join us in our efforts to preserve international programs that fight poverty and save lives. Contact your members of Congress and ask them to oppose major cuts to the International Affairs Budget.