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December 22, 2004

World's Poor Lowest Priority

Morals are not about abstract "social issues."

They are what you do when faced with choices, what you do when you have to make hard tradeoffs.

And the Bush administration has made an evil choice, an immoral choice.

Announcing that, in a budget paying off billions to the Halliburtons of the corporate world, there was no money left, the Bush adminsitration is cutting off tens of millions of dollars to charities helping the world's poorest people:

The cutbacks, estimated by some charities at up to $100 million, come at a time when the number of hungry in the world is rising for the first time in years and all food programs are being stretched.

As a result, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services and other charities have suspended or eliminated programs that were intended to help the poor feed themselves through improvements in farming, education and health.

"We have between five and seven million people who have been affected by these cuts," said Lisa Kuennen, a food aid expert at Catholic Relief Services. "We had approval for all of these programs, often a year in advance. We hired staff, signed agreements with governments and with local partners, and now we have had to delay everything."

So poor people will die.

It's that simple. At a stroke of a pen, Bush has no doubt murdered more people than died in 911.

Terrorism is not the number one threat to life on this planet.

Poverty and disease bred from that poverty kill millions each year. Al Qaeda is a minor pimple compared to the tumor that is global inequality and hunger.

UNICEF estimates that three million lives are lost each year from diseases that are preventable with existing vaccines. Today, the cost of buying vaccines to give a child lifetime immunity against polio, measles, tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus is approximately 72 cents (US$). That's just a few billion dollars to immunize the whole world.

And real economic development relief to stop hunger is similarly cost-effective.

The Bush administration says it is shifting some aid to "emergency relief" but reacting to emergencies reflects the short-sighted viewpoint that permeates all of the Bush administration's actions:

One administration official involved in food aid voiced concern that putting such a high priority on emergency help might be short-sighted. The best way to avoid future famines is to help poor countries become self-sufficient with cash and food aid now, said the official, who asked not to be identified because of the continuing debate on the issue.
What is shocking as I travel in southeast asia is not the poverty but how little it would cost wealthier countries to improve the situation. A dollar here buys so much food and other economic investments that it's criminal that our governments make any choice other than to help.

But that's the immorality of our government's actions. "Social values" are about choices and we are failing at making the right ones in our national budget, as we allow children to die, choosing to fund bombs in Iraq rather than plows where they are needed.

Posted by Nathan at December 22, 2004 07:45 PM