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Cruelty Alert: The Moral Impact of Cuts to Foreign Aid

October 4, 2011, 11:18 am | Posted by Nick Sementelli

Thumbnail image for somaliaaid.jpgThe New York Times reports on impending cuts to foreign aid, which could decline as much as 20% as Congress attempts to reduce federal spending by nearly $1 trillion. The truth, of course, is that international assistance is such a small part of the federal budget (less than 1%) that even these relatively large cuts will have almost no impact on the deficit.

They will, however, have an enormous impact on the lives of vulnerable people around the globe. In response to a budget with similar reductions proposed in April, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah testified to Congress that the cuts “would lead to 70,000 kids dying” because they depend on the malaria control programs, immunizations, and skilled birth attendants the aid helps provide.

The story quotes Jeremy Konyndyk, the director of policy and advocacy for the international aid group Mercy Corps, who puts it succintly:

The amount of money the U.S. has or doesn’t have doesn’t really rise or fall on the foreign aid budget…The budget impact is negligible. The impact around the world is enormous.

But the most troubling part of the article for me was a quote from Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), chairwoman of the House appropriations subcommittee overseeing foreign affairs, explaining why she supports the cuts:

She recalled a State Department envoy’s informing her of $250 million in relief to Pakistan after last year’s devastating floods. “I said I think that’s bad policy and bad politics,” she said in an interview at her office on Capitol Hill. “What are you going to say to people in the United States who are having flooding?”

How about “we can help you too”? Telling international flooding victims there’s nothing we can do because it would expose the cruelty we show to our own citizens in need represents a real low in “austerity” justifications.

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