The budget debate is in full swing on Capitol Hill, with Congress finally passing a bill to fund the government for the rest of Fiscal Year 2011, and getting ready to look at the 2012 request. Funding for alternatives to war—diplomacy, development, humanitarian aid—has been a major target for Republican leadership in their short-sighted budget slashing.
Rajiv Shah, the head of the US Agency for International Development, tried to make the consequences of these cuts abundantly clear in congressional testimony last month, arguing that the budget reductions would result in the deaths of 70,000 children around the world:
“Of that 70,000, 30,000 would come from malaria control programs that would have to be scaled back specifically. The other 40,000 is broken out as 24,000 would die because of a lack of support for immunizations and other investments and 16,000 would be because of a lack of skilled attendants at birth,” he said.
The Republican bill, known as H.R.1, was passed by the House, and would fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2011. It would effectively cut 16 percent from the Obama administration’s original fiscal 2011 request for the international affairs account.
In the end, the international affairs budget for 2011 saw an $8.7 billion decrease from the president’s request—a disappointing cut, but better than the 19% decrease in the Republican leadership’s budget passed in the House earlier this year that Shah referred to in his testimony.
This money will go to programs that make real differences in people’s lives and build the global community that we as peace-loving people want to support over our nation’s constant military misadventures. The budget includes money to feed hungry people, fight AIDS and malaria, contribute to international peacekeeping and the United Nations, assist victims in the wake of disasters like the Haiti earthquake and the Japan tsunami, and much more.
If we want to keep moving toward a budget that funds nonmilitary tools so we don’t throw brute military force at every problem, now is the time to gear up for the fight over the 2012 budget. There is widespread support for these programs on both sides of the aisle, and from unusual suspects like the military and the business community. Unfortunately, that support for smart spending hasn’t resulted in full funding in Congress. Many members of Congress think Americans oppose spending money to help people overseas, but much of the responsibility for major misconceptions about foreign aid spending rests with Capitol Hill. Politicians have spent so much time grandstanding about the foreign aid budget that Americans think it accounts for 25% of federal spending, as opposed to the measly 1% we actually spend.
Your efforts to push Congress to make this funding a priority, while cutting wasteful spending like the bloated Pentagon budget, can make all the difference. Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy magazine reported that Kay Granger (R-TX), chair of the subcommittee that deals with this budget, declared the 2012 request “dead on arrival.” The next few months will be crucial in pushing back. We will contact you when your voice is most needed.