For decades, the generosity of the American people has shown forth through the humanitarian and development assistance we’ve sent to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. Now, with attention in Washington focused inward on reducing federal budget deficits, this tradition of helping our neighbor is at risk.
In the coming days, the U.S. Senate may consider drastic cuts to poverty-focused international assistance that supports vaccinations for children, access to clean water and sanitation and basic education for poor and vulnerable people around the world.
These programs, which represent less than 1 percent of the budget, already struggle with an 8 percent cut this year. Additional reductions will barely impact our nation’s deficit, but will have life and death consequences for millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
I recognize the importance of reducing future unsustainable deficits, but we must do this in morally appropriate ways.
I hope and pray that our senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, will join with their colleagues and vote to maintain the levels of life-saving, poverty-focused international assistance for the 2012 fiscal year, as passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, and that they would oppose any amendments that would cut poverty-focused international assistance.
A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects the least of these (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty, should come first. It would be wrong to balance future budgets by hurting those who already hurt the most.