The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

#NotJustNumbers: Congress, where is the logic?

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Cutting poverty-reducing foreign aid will not solve our country’s budget problems.

Ask the average American what the 302(b) allocations are and very few will be able to tell you that they are the spending caps that the Appropriations Committees in Congress put on our federal budget. 302(b) allocations are important because they are where a lot of decisions get made in the Senate and House.

From Oxfam America's publication, “Foreign Aid 101.” http://bit.ly/mdKXrL
From Oxfam America’s publication, “Foreign Aid 101.” http://bit.ly/mdKXrL

The House Appropriations Committee has set their 302(b) allocations for poverty-reducing foreign aid and the Senate is yet to do so. Jeremy Kadden of InterAction argues that the proposed cut to the state and foreign operations appropriations bill (SFOPs) in the House is “grossly disproportionate.” Estimates vary, but poverty-reducing and life-saving aid would see 15-20% cuts from current funding levels. Under the House spending plan, departments such as Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans and Congress itself would see budget increases.

Oxfam America has always argued that discussions of “more aid” should never be divorced from discussions of “better aid” or ways to  deepen the US government’s commitment to making poverty-reducing foreign aid more effective. This is because within the aid system, we all know that promised money does not directly translate into promises kept for people in developing countries. However, we also know that cutting such a small portion of the overall US federal budget (poverty-reducing aid is currently less than 1%) will in no way solve our country’s budget problems.

Last week’s article by Lindsay Abrams in The Atlantic, “The New Idealism of International Aid,” discusses how governments of developing countries are having more say in where aid money goes. This suggests that though the more aid argument might be hard for policymakers to hear, efforts to better aid are still resonating in Congress. The much-anticipated “Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act” (in previous iterations known as the Poe Bill) will be a movement towards making the most out of aid dollars.

With various other aid reforms moving in a promising direction and foreign aid becoming a better tool for development in recipient countries, it seems the only logical question to ask Congress is this—why divest now?

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You can learn more about InterAction’s Day of Action here. Do get in touch with your Congressional representatives. #NotJustNumbers

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