Funding for the things you like most about what the USA does in the world is very much in jeopardy. The fiscal cliff-sequester-budget malarky is threatening to severely undermine the USA’s ability to live up to its traditional role as a moral (and financial) leader of some of the great causes of our times.
This is where we stand: On March 1, the sequester went into effect, which blocked US contributions to the United Nations by about $300 million. The sequester also cuts $1.7 billion from foreign assistance in general, and at least $400 million from global health programs run by USAID and the State Department in particular.
That’s bad. But it could get worse. If Congress does not pass a budget by March 27 the US government will shut down. The so-called “Continuing Resolution” is being debated as I write. The House released its version and so did the Senate. The House version is more hostile to international affairs funding than the Senate’s version, and the two have to be reconciled before the deadline or the government will shutdown. Both resolutions take into account the sequester, which is clearly sub-optimal.
But wait…there’s more!
Yesterday, the House Republicans, lead by Paul Ryan, released their FY 2014 budget. That includes enormous cuts to international affairs (and almost no cuts to the Pentagon). The International Affairs budget would be slashed by $3 billion below the sequestered level; and $5 billion below the pre-sequestration levels.
Last year, the International Affairs budget was $43.7 billion (compared to $680 billion for defense), so we are talking about a rather significant proprortion of the budget being cut. These cuts will have some rather dire real-world implications. Fewer starving children in Syria will be fed; Polio, which is on the brink of eradication, may make a resurgence as vaccine campaigns are slowed; more children will get measles; and when conflict breaks out somewhere, we will not as easily be able to turn to the UN for help.
From defeating HIV/AIDS to promoting peace-through-diplomacy at the United Nations, the budget shenanigans on Capitol Hill are casting an ominous shadow over some of the best things the USA does in the world. Here’s where you can go to voice your discontent.