Imagine for a moment that you are putting your family's budget together for the next year, and you think that you are just plain spending too much. Let's also imagine that your total spending for the year is $100. You look over what your household spends, and you find a place you want to cut: you spend $1 on poor people overseas, so you decide to cut that down to just 67 cents. Does that seem like a reasonable choice to you? Does it seem like a moral choice?
That same decision is, in essence, what the current administration's proposed budget does. Our country spends less than 1 percent on foreign aid and the proposed budget's plan is to cut that by a third. A reduction of that amount will have almost no effect on our country's fiscal health, but it will undoubtedly affect the actual health, and, in fact, the lives of millions around the world.
Here are some facts about what the U.S. spends on foreign aid. First of all, it is true that in actual dollars, our country is the most generous in the world. But, when our foreign aid is considered as a percentage of gross national income, the U.S. ranks 20th among the developed countries of the world.
And, in 1970, the richest countries in the world pledged to spend seven-tenths of their gross national income on international development aid, but the U.S. has never gotten close to that goal. And the administration is proposing to cut our spending even further.
The money that the U.S. spends on foreign aid, even at just 1 percent of our budget, does a world of good. It pays for childhood vaccines, clean water access, food and shelter for refugees, and skilled response to disasters in some of the world's poorest countries.
The need for this aid is greater than ever. There are currently over 65 million people around the world who are displaced from their homes. Famine has been declared in South Sudan, and Kenya and Somalia are on the brink. In many countries around the world, malaria, polio and measles are still a threat to the lives of children.
These proposed cuts would be devastating to our vulnerable brothers and sisters around the world. It is not being overly dramatic to say that people will die as a result of these cuts to our foreign aid. Reducing aid by the proposed amount will cut 30 million people off from the current food aid we provide - even while an increasing number of people are facing the threat of famine.
Our bishops have said, "Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity." You can raise your voice against these proposed cuts by going to www.confrontglobalpoverty.org and telling our elected officials to safeguard the international assistance that can lift people out of poverty, feed the starving around the world, and save the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Deacon Don Weigel is the associate public policy coordinator at Catholic Charities of Buffalo and is a Global Fellow with Catholic Relief Services. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.