For the past two decades, we have had a front-row seat in the bipartisan movement to end worldwide preventable, treatable diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and to make poverty history.
Since 1990, the world has cut in half maternal and child deaths, infectious diseases, and poverty as well as turned the tide on HIV/AIDS. We have made unprecedented strides in human history.
This may be the legacy of our generation as historians analyze what we were able to accomplish worldwide during our lifetime. Central to this legacy, it is worth noting, is the progress led by the United States during the Bush Administration. Millions of mothers, babies, children, and families are alive today thanks to America’s great leadership in the world for health, food security, and education—all at a cost of less than 1 percent of our country’s spending. (Year after year, most Americans estimate that we spend far more than that.) As doctors say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
As President Donald Trump seeks to balance the US budget, it has been reported that the administration wants to dramatically cut foreign assistance by as much as 37 percent.
But because these programs are less than one percent of the budget, it is analogous to getting a haircut when we need emergency surgery. We support a balanced budget, but to do so will require deep cuts in the mandatory spending that account for two-thirds of federal spending—not much smaller discretionary accounts like foreign assistance, which represents less than two-thirds of one percent of the budget. For less than a penny on the dollar, we provide the critical safety net for people around the globe who live on less than a dollar a day. These deep cuts, sadly, could mean millions will die.
Among the top reasons evangelicals expressed for voting for Trump included enhancing our national security and a renewed commitment to a culture of life. Evangelicals voted for change of culture and for hope that a new administration would make America great again.
As a nation, our leadership in health and development assistance is first and foremost a moral issue. Our aid has uplifted vulnerable populations worldwide, providing children and families basic health care with cheap medication and nutrition. Without such simple tools, many would otherwise die from a cold, a mosquito bite, diarrhea, or lack of access to clean water.
From the Bush to Obama administrations, Republicans and Democrats agreed that development assistance is a critical tool for our national security strategy. Before that, President Ronald Reagan said the same: “Our national interests are inextricably tied to the security and development of our friends and allies.”
Economists and historians posit that when countries fail economically, they become breeding grounds for terrorism and conflict. General David Petraeus, Admiral James Stavridis, and our new Secretary of Defense James Mattis value the “soft power” that comes through development alongside diplomacy. This strategy undergirds our American military might around the world.
At the recent Munich Security Conference, the Irish rock star Bono, who co-founded the ONE Campaign, said, “Development without security is impossible, but security without development is unsustainable.” If we want a stronger, safer America, full funding for foreign assistance is critical.
For Christians, such aid also aligns with our convictions to care for the poor and support a culture of life. From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures compel us to care for the marginalized—to care for the widow, the orphan, and the refugee. Moses, Ruth, Solomon, and the Prophets call us to take a stand for those who have no voice. Jesus models healing the sick, raising the dead, and cleansing the lepers. He implores us to prisons, to the naked, to the hungry and thirsty. And James tells us this is the heart of religion (1:27). The single thread of the Bible is to lay down our lives for one another.