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Don’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor

Elizabeth Balderrama | Thursday, November 3, 2011

About how much of the U.S. budget do you think is spent on foreign aid? Twenty-five percent? Maybe 20 percent? Actually, foreign aid is less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget. Poverty-focused international assistance is a mere 0.6 percent of the U.S. budget, and it is in danger of being drastically cut due to the debt crisis.

Many Americans think that foreign aid should be one of the first parts of the budget to be cut. However, these same Americans also believe that foreign aid is in the range of 25 percent of the U.S. budget, and should be cut back to 10 percent. Confusing, right?

The 0.6 percent of the budget that is for foreign aid does so much to alleviate suffering in the world. This 0.6 percent feeds 46.5 million starving people each year, prevents 114,000 babies from being born with HIV each year and saves 3 million lives through immunization programs each year. This 0.6 percent per year brought clean drinking water to 1.3 billion people over the past decade. Current starvation and malnutrition are not as acute in Ethiopia and Kenya due to preventative drought measures by this 0.6 percent.

If foreign aid is cut, the welfare of millions of people is at stake. Without doubt, reducing foreign aid will cost lives. Yes, the U.S. deficit is a problem, and should be addressed. But disproportionate cuts should be avoided.

To be fiscally and morally responsible, all parts of the budget should be considered. It is easier for foreign aid to be cut simply because the recipients are not U.S. citizens and do not have a political voice in the budget cuts. Americans need to speak for them. American Catholics, especially, need to show solidarity and care for God’s creation through Catholic social teaching. Let’s not balance the budget on the backs of the poor.

Elizabeth Balderrama


McGlinn Hall

Nov. 2