March 21, 2011
NAE: Reduce Debt but Protect Poor
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is calling for the federal government to reduce debt, but not on the backs of the poor. The NAE board of directors approved the resolution “Lowering the Debt, Raising the Poor” at its semiannual meeting.
The NAE said the debt is a spiritual issue that demands moral leadership. “This will require extraordinary political courage, bipartisan cooperation and shared sacrifice. Every major area of expense and revenue must be scrutinized – particularly those that have contributed the most to the deficit,” said the resolution.
Aid to the poor—particularly the poorest of the poor—is not a major contributor to the debt, said the NAE. The resolution stated that all international aid programs make up less than 2 percent of the budget, and aid aimed at alleviating poverty is around 0.6 percent.
“The Bible encourages wise stewardship and calls nations to uphold justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable, NAE director of government affairs Galen Carey said. “Smart and cost-effective strategies to help those living in poverty are in the national interest and should be maintained and strengthened even as we make necessary adjustments elsewhere.”
Robert Zachritz, director of World Vision’s advocacy and government relations, said that foreign aid is a small investment that results in high return in terms of lives saved.
“Through programs like disaster assistance, clean water, AIDS, fighting global hunger, and malaria prevention, lives are being saved. These programs should not receive a disproportionate amount of the coming cuts,” Zachritz said.
The NAE resolution comes as the Congress is considering drastic cuts to foreign aid including a 41 percent cut to international poverty programs and 67 percent cuts to health programs. According to a March 2 letter by NAE and aid organizations including World Vision, ONE Campaign, Food for the Hungry, Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, and World Relief, the cuts includes the following reductions:
-- U.S. food aid programs ($687 million)
-- Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance ($875 million)
-- Development assistance by ($747 million)
-- Refugee programs ($827 million)
-- Global health and childhood survival programs ($365 million)
-- Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis ($450 million)
While the reductions would include hundreds of millions of dollars, it remains less than 1 percent of the federal spending. These cuts have not been put in place yet, however. The Senate and House are currently negotiating the final details of the government budget.
Last Wednesday, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held hearings on the topic of foreign assistance. Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) said cuts and re-prioritization of funds are necessary because of the deficit.
"It is easy to understand why the American people are demanding that we carefully scrutinize our government spending, both domestic and foreign, both large and small," said Ros-Lehtinen. "There are, in fact, freezes or cuts that can be made that would actually help us maintain our efforts to help the most impoverished people abroad who truly need our help."
The public—including many evangelicals—favor cutting aid to the world's poor was the public's number one target for reducing the deficit according to a February poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press. The same poll found that white evangelicals were the most in favor of cutting foreign aid for reducing poverty, more than any other religious group.
One reason for public opinion toward aid reduction is due to a discrepancy between public perception and reality is one reason that polls show that the public favors cutting foreign aid. According to a November 2010 WorldPublicOpinion.com poll, the public believes that it takes up one-quarter of the budget. When asked what percentage of federal spending should go to foreign aid, the public states that it should be around 10 percent.
Image via Wikimedia commons.
Correction: An earlier version of this post should have clarified that NAE's board of directors includes over 100 representatives from a wide array of evangelical colleges, ministries, and 40 denominations.