Monday, December 17, 2012

Cutting Life-Saving Foreign Aid? That's Lame!

By Kalen Olson

The days are winding down as Congress members exit office and we usher in new political leaders.

Yes, it’s the lame-duck session. “Lame-duck” originally referred to bankrupt businessmen in Britain who were considered “lame” because their position rendered them as vulnerable as injured birds. Now, the term describes Congress members who are on their way out of office. That’s why the lame-duck session is an important time to make advances in policy. Senators and Representatives aren’t up for reelection, so why not try and push policy they may have been hesitant on before?

Oxfam America has a clear agenda this lame-duck session: no more cuts to foreign aid. Voters lobbied on Capitol Hill, wrote letters to Congress, and signed petitions to illustrate why foreign aid is important to thousands of people around the country.

With just under 1% of the Federal budget going toward foreign aid, it seems reasonable that Congress would approve this request. Not only has foreign aid helped eradicate polio, but, according to Gregory Adams, Director of Aid Effectiveness for Oxfam America, it has also fueled the Green Revolution and rebuilt shattered economies. In the process, we’ve strengthened alliances with Turkey, South Korea, and Poland.

Perceived and Actual Foreign Aid Spending

Further cuts to life-saving programs would represent a step backwards, and mean the difference between life and death for many of the world’s poor. Since it’s a small investment with a large return, Congress would have to be quackers to cut aid.

Community members of New Mexico petitioned, wrote letters, and visited Senators Bingaman and Udall. Co-organizer Jasmine McBeath and I stopped by Senator Bingaman and Udall’s office with foreign aid info in hand.

What I’d pictured about lobbying was quite different from what actually took place. The illusion of corporate deals transpiring behind closed doors was shattered when we met with staff members. Sharing why investment in foreign aid is necessary allowed crucial information to get into the hands of decision makers.

In the midst of sequestration going into effect December 31, Congress has to realize the long-term benefit of investing in foreign aid and get moving this lame-duck session. Now we wait.

Get your last letter in before the end of December!

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