Monday, April 4, 2011

Why I'm Not Eating Lunch This Week

4,000 activists have banded together to fast in order to draw attention to potential cuts to American foreign aid in the 2011 budget (and, I'll bet, the 2012 budget, which will be unveiled on Tuesday). H.R. 1 proposes cuts of up to 40% to foreign aid programs, including for HIV/AIDS, child survival, hunger prevention, and a host of other issues. amfAR has calculated that funding for AIDS treatment for almost 450,000 would be eliminated, 20,000 more babies could be infected with HIV, and nearly 3.9 million fewer people would receive malaria treatment. Food aid for almost 18 million people would be cut. Let's get some perspective: foreign aid is one percent of the federal budget.

I won't get into the proposal to completely cut NPR and Planned Parenthood. Or to ban the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. Go check out some of the key amendments here--my blood's starting to boil all over again. Defense spending, by the way, would increase, even though the Pentagon managed to waste $70 billion over the last two years due to management failures in weapons programs. You want to get really pissed off? Check out this excellent chart by the Center for American Progress comparing the proposed budget cuts and current tax breaks for the wealthy.

I am so incredibly sick of watching American conservatives jump up and down shrilly screaming about deficits and government spending while they screw over the most vulnerable, both in and out of the United States. In my blog post over at Foreign Policy Blogs, I tried to stay relatively calm, but here's what I think about that particular issue: the conservative agenda is directly responsible for the staggeringly disproportionate HIV epidemic in Mississippi. And now, it could also be responsible for the suffering and deaths of millions of people worldwide. That's both the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives, by the way. I'm pissed off. As Raj Shah said in a speech before a House Appropriations Subcommittee last Wednesday,

Budgets are an expression of policy; they are an expression of priorities. But fundamentally, they are an expression of values.

This is a moral issue. It's not an economic theory issue. It's not a political issue. You can hear people say that foreign aid is good for national security, and that's true. But that's not what's really at stake. The US has the power to help, support, and save the lives of the most vulnerable people around the world. Instead, the House is proposing that we continue to spend millions to put "Go Army" ads on cars at NASCAR.

From today through Friday, I am forgoing lunch in solidarity with the 4,000, who include several heads of hunger organizations, Christian leaders, and even NYT food columnist Mark Bittman, and with the billions around the world who are hungry and who do not have the luxury of choosing to fast.

If a deal isn't reached by midnight on April 8, this Friday, the federal government will shut down. You know what? I hope President Obama and the Democratic leadership grow a spine and shut it down. I'm done with watching my country be held hostage by politics. I'm tired of seeing the poor, the mentally ill, children, people living with HIV, minorities, and all other marginalized and vulnerable populations get the short end of the stick while the ultra-rich--individuals and corporations--shore up their fortunes. I'm furious that the Democrats keep rolling over and taking it. Let's toughen up.

With a huge H/T to my friend Jack. I've been avoiding all this budget brouhaha because it's so depressing (and confusing, honestly), but his post over at ONE got me to act.


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  2. Go Julia! Does this mean you are going to return to the States and do work to hold our government accountable? Clearly, much work needs to be done in Africa and the rest of the world--- but a lot needs to get down here in the States too! Hope to see you this summer! :)

  3. What's your problem? This is god'z will, straight up! Get rich, or get OUT. Reagan and Bush did their best to explain this to all of us. Were you "absent that day"? Gosh sakes! That's the trouble with you kids nowadays; you see injustice and are offended by it. Don't you want the better things for yourself and your family??! To heck with the poor, the ill, and illiterate--not to mention those who secretly harbor uterii (not to be said aloud, by the way).
    Oh, GO JULES!!! is what I really mean.