Monday, December 17, 2012

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

By Kalen Olsen
(Reprinted from the Oxfam Action Corps New Mexico blog)

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.

The term lame-duck describes the 112th Congress, which is on its way out of office, but which still has unfinished business (namely ensuring that we have a budget) before giving way to the 113th Congress in January. That’s why the lame-duck session is an important time to push for policy changes.  The elections are behind us, and reelection is not an immediate issue, so why not try and push policy the legislators might have been hesitant to consider before?

Oxfam America has a clear agenda this lame-duck session: no more cuts to foreign aid. Over the past year, 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.

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. 

Volunteers visit Sen. Udall's office in downtown Albuquerque
Local Lobby Visit
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. 

(The author is volunteer co-organizer for Oxfam Action Corps in New Mexico)

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