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Opinions: U.S. Foreign Aid; Polio Eradication

Foreign Aid, Antipoverty Advocates, Others Must Back Deficit Commission Report Efforts To Restore Budget Choices

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a chance to interview some amazing people,” ranging from Bill Gates to scientists and teachers, who are all concerned about impending budget cuts, the New York Times’ David Brooks writes in a column. Brooks explains that the “coming budget cuts have nothing to do with merit. They have to do with the inexorable logic of mathematics.” He outlines why “most of the budget is untouchable,” like the entitlement programs “Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt.” According to Brooks, this means that “the budget ax will fall on every section of the discretionary budget,” which he says is a “tiny sliver of the budget where the most valuable programs reside and where the most important investments in our future are made.”

“The implication is this: If people who care about this or that domestic program fight alone, hoping that their own program will be spared, then they will all perish alone. If they have any chance of continuing their work, they will have to band together and fight their common enemy … The foreign aid people, the scientific research people, the education people, the antipoverty people and many others have to form a humane alliance,” according to Brooks. He argues that this group should back efforts by several Senators who are “leading an effort to write up the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission report as legislation to serve as the beginning for a serious effort to get our house in order.”

According to Brooks, “It’s not only about debt; it’s about freedom. It’s about whether we get to make budget choices or whether we have our lives dictated by the inexorable growth of programs beyond our control” (2/10).

Maintain Foreign Aid To Complement National Security Efforts

In a Politico opinion piece, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, writes that as Congress considers cutting the FY 2011 budget “cooperation must continue – even as major foreign assistance has been put on the chopping block – because our national security demands it. … Robust engagement is no less necessary to achieve strategic security imperatives in this belt-tightening atmosphere.”

After giving examples of how foreign aid helps enhance U.S. security, Lowey writes, “even as we protect vital national security functions, those of us who value and understand the role of our foreign aid must identify efficiencies that will not compromise our security. … In addition, we should demand greater contributions and efforts from foreign aid recipients. For example, we should work together to identify workable solutions instead of eliminating wholesale the U.S. Agency for International Development, as recently proposed by the Republican Study Committee. This could jeopardize relationships with allies and halt development initiatives vital to fighting terrorists’ recruitment efforts.”

Lowey concludes: “It would be senseless to let our response to a fiscal challenge create a national security crisis. Now we must sit side by side, not as a gracious gesture but to do the difficult job of balancing our long-term economic prosperity with security imperatives we can’t afford to neglect” (2/9).

Obama Administration, Congress Must Ensure Foreign Aid Gets A Fair Shake

When it comes to foreign aid, “one thing is certain: This is too important to get caught up in the usual political back and forth. The American people deserve honest facts about foreign assistance before policymakers rush to judgment,” Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network Co-Chairs Rev. David Beckmann and Jim Kolbe write in a Politico opinion piece.  

The authors write: “[W]e must stop using foreign assistance as a budget piñata. Development is now a key component of U.S. foreign policy – with defense and diplomacy. Our modest investment in strategic and effective foreign assistance programs pays outsize dividends in terms of our security, prosperity and global leadership.” They note some of achievements of U.S. aid, including development programs that improve “public health, strengthen agricultural output and promote private economic growth, all of which help stabilize communities and open export opportunities for U.S. businesses in the world’s fastest growing markets.”

“Though a sliver of our overall budget, U.S. foreign assistance delivers a real return-on-investment. The Obama administration and Congress need to support these programs and work together to make them more effective and accountable. And the American public deserves an honest debate about the importance of our foreign assistance,” they conclude (2/9). 

‘Simply Controlling Polio’ Now Could Have Devastating, Prohibitively Expensive Long-Term Consequences

In an Atlanta Journal Constitution opinion piece Jon Kim Andrus, deputy director of PAHO, and Ciro A. de Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, reflect on the debate among health experts about whether “the final push to eradicate polio is possible, or even worth the effort.”

“To many, the cost of eradicating polio by 2013 – which experts put at $2 billion – sounds prohibitive, particularly in financially uncertain times,” and “[t]o be sure, simply controlling polio – or limiting its reach – would mean lower costs in the short term,” Andrus and de Quadros write. “But there is ample evidence to suggest that taking this approach could have devastating – not to mention prohibitively expensive – long-term consequences,” including re-emergence of the virus in areas where the disease was once thought to have been eradicated.

“[A]dequate funding to continue the polio eradication initiative is key. … Renewed financial commitments from donor governments including the United States, and political will from leaders in the developing world, are critical to continue the national immunization days in countries that continue to combat polio or are at high risk of unwittingly ‘importing’ the disease,” they write. “The tools needed to stop polio in its tracks and give children a basic human right to good health are ready and available. We are so close. We must stop polio now” (2/9).