With Foreign Aid Cuts, US Loses Ability to Inspire
The proposed cuts hurt the mission to end extreme poverty and make the world less safe.
One of America’s greatest strengths, according to General James Mattis, is “the power of inspiration.”
These words from Gen. Mattis are truer today than ever before. And yet, the Trump administration, with its 2019 proposed budget that calls for 30% cuts to foreign aid spending, continues to defy this mandate for soft power diplomacy that Mattis and 151 other retired three- and four-star generals advocated for in a letter they signed and sent to Congress last year.
Take Action: Call Your Member of Congress on Foreign Aid
I oppose cuts to US foreign aid partly because its antithetical to ending extreme poverty, which I have dedicated my life to. We need countries like the US to dedicate funds to supporting programs around education, health, water and sanitation, food and nutrition, and gender equality so that people can lift themselves out of extreme poverty. But more so, I oppose these cuts because as a proud resident of America, I also genuinely believe foreign aid is actually one of the best way to keep Americans and the rest of the world safe.
As US President Donald Trump’s own national security strategy states, “America’s peace, security, and prosperity depend on strong, sovereign nations that respect their citizens at home and cooperate to advance peace abroad.” America’s own freedom in the face of the dangers facing us all “is grounded in the realization that American principles are a lasting force for good in the world.”
The United States has always helped ensure that its own citizens and global citizens live in a safe, prosperous, and peaceful world. Built upon the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, this country has worked to set the stage for a nation and world that remains strong in the face of conflict.
The United States has historically shown a commitment to tackling global issues and to the task of eradicating poverty, but this cycle of cuts have wide-ranging implications at home and abroad. With less funding available, and numerous competing priorities to fund, those in charge of the funds will have some tough decisions ahead when considering where to trim funding from in their topline allocations.
They may be forced to choose to either strip the funding needed to prevent an outbreak of Ebola, causing it to spread worldwide, or remove food aid funding for a famine that impacts global food stocks. To pick between taking away chances for millions of kids to get educated, or removing a safe haven for refugee families who may otherwise be exploited or converted by extremist groups.
And it’s important to remember that these choices are being made from just 1 percent of the total US budget. Just 1 percent goes to these issues, and now, the Trump Administration wants to slash that 1 percent by 30 percent.
World leaders talk about fighting extremism, yet, when given the perfect opportunity to combat that by funding education, many failed to 'show up'.
Two weeks ago, I was in Senegal for the financing conference to replenish the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which provides education funding so that 870 million children can get a quality education. On a panel discussion, I shared my frustrations that world leaders talk about fighting extremism, yet, when given the perfect opportunity to combat that by funding education, many failed to “show up”.
And with this budget, the US will be failing to show up for the millions of children globally who receive an education thanks to America’s foreign aid budget.
A cut to the US international affairs budget in the face of rising national security threats is equally frustrating and concerning.
“There are millions of young children alive today due to the generosity of the American people,” Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said last year. “We’re about to go into a new budget cycle. I’ll make one prediction: when this is all over, we’re gonna have more money for foreign assistance, not less.”
Sadly, the reality we face today for 2018 is a 10% reduction of foreign aid funds, and maintaining current levels at best. There will be no more money, as Graham called for.
The president’s sweeping proposals for 2019 and declarations that he is trying to phase out the US International Affairs Budget and Overseas Contingency Operations fund (OCO), which funds much of the USAID and State Department programming for development and diplomacy, will hopefully be softened in the hands of Congress and Senate appropriators, as Trump’s 2018 budget proposal was.
But that will only be possible if we keep the pressure up on appropriators. Action is what we need now more than ever. That is why we have asked Global Citizens to call on their representatives in the House and Senate to maintain current aid levels. That is why we need to be vigilant on the proposed cuts for 2018, 2019, and beyond. Because a cut to foreign aid is dangerous to all of us and a step in the wrong direction for humanity.