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StaND together against international poverty

| Monday, April 20, 2015

As members of the Notre Dame community, we pride ourselves in our reputation as the No. 1 undergraduate business school in the country and as a top university for non-profit and community service work, serving impoverished communities domestically and internationally. This combination of academic prestige and philanthropy are distinguishing characteristics that shape our sense of community and define the Notre Dame family. Images of students and faculty interacting with people in developing countries are abundant around campus, making it is easy to recognize the vast amount of services provided by our community. While we can photograph this amazing work, what we can’t capture with a camera lens is the close relationship between the economy and philanthropy.

Today, about 50 percent of American goods are exported to developing countries, making one in every five U.S. jobs tied to trade. This percentage of exports to developing countries is expected to increase due to exports to developing countries growing six times faster than exports to countries with major, developed economies. As these emerging markets continue to grow, the U.S. has a prime position as the world’s third largest exporter, behind China and the European Union, and as the world’s largest agricultural product exporter. Additionally, for every 10 percent increase in U.S. exports, there is a seven percent increase in the number of jobs at home. Yet developing countries’ economies are volatile. Conflict, malnutrition and pandemic health issues in developing countries threaten to stagnate economic growth. In countries with high levels of malnutrition, countries’ GDP reduces by two to three percent while malnourished individuals suffer a 10 percent reduction in lifetime earnings. For every 5 percent decrease in GDP, the likelihood of violent conflict and/or war increases by 10 percent. This in turn threatens our own national security, since less economically stable countries pose a threat to the United States and elicit costly interventions in order to restore peace. By providing funds for programs that promote sustainable, economic development in developing countries, the United States government creates a good relationship that translates into future trade partners and boosts our own economy in the process. Of the top 50 consumer countries of American agricultural products, 43 of those nations were once U.S. aid recipients.

Recent surveys show most Americans believe we spend about 10 percent of our budget on poverty focused international assistance (PFIA) and fear that up to a quarter of the budget is devoted to PFIA. However, the actual amount of money allotted for PFIA in the federal budget is less than one percent. This money, which is currently hovering around 0.6 percent, is in danger of being cut for the 2016 federal budget. Every fiscal year, poverty-focused international development and humanitarian programs are at risk of great reduction since these programs are part of discretionary spending. It is our duty as taxpayers to let Congress know a further reduction of this portion of the budget is unacceptable and against the nation’s best interest.

On Feb. 24, a group of advocacy students met with Meredith Perks, a regional director for Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office, to discuss PFIA. From this information, we were able to establish a relationship with Meredith and contribute our voices and resources to Donnelly on this issue. We learned Donnelly is currently on the Arms Committee and Agricultural Committee (which oversaw the 2014 Farm bill), which illustrates to our group he has interest in both the agricultural and security aspects of PFIA. Although Donnelly is not on the Appropriations Committee that deliberates over PFIA and won’t see the proposed budget until it reaches the floor, he appreciates the resources and support Notre Dame provides him and values the opinions of his constituents at the University. Thus I urge students and faculty of Notre Dame to stand against a reduction of PFIA by expressing to Donnelly our desire to maintain this aspect of our national budget. As eloquently explained to us by board members of Bread for the World, we provide our congressmen and women with political coverage through petitions, letters and other hard evidence that illustrates our opinions on certain issues. These actions empower our Congressional officials to vote the right way despite any pressures they may feel from their party or lobbyists to vote the easy way. Sign our petition at http://tinyurl.com/okpkysw to staND together to support poverty focused international assistance and fight against injustice.

Alyssa Hummel

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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