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US Budget: America's Humanitarian Legacy is at Risk

By Matt Pennington
Budgets matter.  They show us two things: 1) how our government is spending our scarce resources; and 2) where our national values and priorities lie.

Yesterday, President Obama unveiled his budget request for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12). His budget proposal comes a mere three days after the fledgling GOP House leadership unveiled its plan to fund the U.S. government for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year.  The two documents – the President’s FY12 budget and the House of Representatives' GOP FY11 spending plan – both display starkly different visions for U.S. spending abroad.

On one hand, the President’s budget maintains robust funding for defense operations and also includes lifesaving funds for U.S. humanitarian assistance and support to critical peacekeeping missions. While the President’s budget provides sizeable cuts to humanitarian programs, his FY12 request maintains close to current funding levels for U.S. contributions to basic shelter, food, water, medicine and education for the more than 42 million refugees and internally displaced people globally. The President’s budget also ensures that UN peacekeepers will continue to prevent further displacement, provide security for refugee and displacement camps, and enhance stability in unstable countries like Sudan, Haiti and Cote D’Ivoire.

In contrast, the House GOP spending package, H.R. 1, also provides billions of dollars for U.S. military operations around the world  -- including military aid to frontline states like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel and Egypt -- but indiscriminately targets and slashes lifesaving U.S. humanitarian assistance.  To make good on a campaign promise to cut $100 billion from non-security discretionary spending, the GOP plan proposes billions in far-reaching cuts that disproportionately affect the less than 1/10 of one percent of the U.S. budget that goes to lifesaving humanitarian assistance to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. U.S. humanitarian assistance for refugees and those displaced by conflict amounts to a fraction of the cost the U.S. spends in one month waging Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, yet House Republicans have proposed to cut these funds down to unreasonable levels.

When compared with 2010 funding levels, the House GOP plan would cut U.S. refugee assistance by nearly 40% (from nearly $1.7 down to $1 billion) and international disaster assistance by nearly 50% (from nearly $850 million down to $430 million). These cuts are not only disastrous for those who depend on U.S. humanitarian assistance in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, DR Congo and others; they’re a threat to U.S. security interests too. Morever, the cuts fail to reflect and uphold the generous American philanthropic tradition.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a letter to House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers yesterday, “Cuts of this magnitude will be devastating to our national security, will render us unable to respond to unanticipated disasters, and will damage our leadership around the world.”

Ultimately, successive Republican and Democratic Administrations and Congresses have understood that humanitarian assistance upholds America’s tradition of generosity and is an effective way of promoting stability and building trust with foreign governments and their citizens. Indeed, cutting foreign assistance is likely to hurt our long-term budget outlook. History shows that smart investments in foreign assistance help us avoid future military conflicts, head off threats from beyond our borders and lay the groundwork for future economic growth.

Republicans aren’t proposing disastrous cuts in humanitarian aid in H.R. 1 because they detest a particular humanitarian program or because they have suddenly found waste, fraud or abuse in these accounts. They simply believe they can get away with these cuts because there is no well-organized political constituency in their home districts fighting for humanitarian funding.

Here’s one way to restore humanitarian funding: instead of providing $450 million for the development of the controversial engine for the F-35 joint strike fighter, which the Pentagon has claimed is unnecessary and wasteful, how about re-allocating those funds toward U.S. programs that provide protection and assistance to the world’s most vulnerable people?

We at RI understand the pressures and expectations  to quickly address our nation’s fiscal situation. However, we strongly reject the false choice presented  to us: that the only options are to cut the deficit OR maintain responsible funding levels for humanitarian programs. On the contrary, we believe our nation can be both fiscally responsible while investing responsibly in foreign assistance. Even our strongest allies, including Britain and Australia have concurred with this assessment and have spared foreign aid in their new austerity budgets.

Choosing to cut the U.S. budget on the backs on the world’s most vulnerable would be a tragic mistake for our foreign and humanitarian policy. It would also be inconsistent with the American public’s commitment to respond to humanitarian crises to ensure that those in need have the protection and assistance they need. RI strongly encourages the House to restore funding to critical U.S. humanitarian programs designed to save lives, assist and protect the poorest and most vulnerable among us, and help stabilize areas of important strategic interest to the United States.

Comments

US Budget Suggestion

First of all the American public need to unite, enough Republican, Liberal and Democrat crap. The issue at hand will be felt by all Americans so why not work together on a solution, and put your party agendas aside. All this talk about cuts to Medicaid and Social Security are rediculas. My suggestion is for Congress is to Nationalize the Federal Reserve Bank. The reason being : a good part of the US National Debt was and is continueing to be created by the princable amounts being borrowed by the US but also the staggering perpetual debt created by the interest rates. By Nationalizin the FED America can and will be able to print their own money at no interest. One thing the American public needs to understand is when the privately owned Federal Reserve Bank prints $10 000 000 000 they want $12 000 000 000 in return, well how can that be mathematically possible? ITS NOT. It creates perpetual DEBT which equals slavery, and it will go on forever. If the US owes 14.2 trillion only about 8 trillion is the princable debt which leaves 6.2 trillion in interest, well that 6.2 trillion will continually increase year/year due to interest rates. It can never be paid. The next step for the US is to stop being the world police, This huge debt is in part created by policing the world, isn't that what the UN was created for? Stop going to war. If there is a disturbance in the East let the countries that are located close to that country deal with the issue. The American government playing hero around the world is costing the American tax payer the most. Solution Create your own money (Thats why Abe Lincoln died for America) and let other countries fight their own battles and last but not lease stop racism if you need someone to hate, hate the Zionest that constantly create and broadcast racism though your media, I mean their media they are the racist and the enemy for that matter

Bogus Budget Cutting

The day Republicans offer to cut money from their programs is the day our country will begin to cut down the budget. They are only interested in their selves. They come out saying how bad O'bama's health care bill is, but they offer no alternative. They are content with letting our poor and sick citizens suffer while they keep their government health care. And now they want to cut some more programs that impact our children and humanitarian needs. But their businesses are keeping their government perks and tax breaks. Strong wealthy businesses and people are nothing without average citizens. Someone needs to recognize this and start cutting the republican fat, or our economy is going to plumit again, without the lower and middle classes how far to they think they will get? There will be Wealthy people, and there will be sick poor people. Is this the future we want?
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