No Empathy: In The Face of Catastrophic Famine, Trump Aims to Cut Foreign Aid

More than 20 million people are on the brink of famine in Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, according to the U.N.  When addressing the U.N. Security Council on March 10th,  U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said, “We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year, we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN.”  It’s not hyperbole, the organization, which was founded in October of 1945, has never reported numbers this devastating.

Under President Donald Trump, the United States is primed to do less than nothing to address these horrors.  Keeping levels of foreign aid where they are following this news would be abhorrent enough (especially given the fact that it only accounts for about 1% of the federal budget) but the president intends to go the other way—and slash the foreign assistance budget to bits to pay for a $54 billion surge in defense spending.  The U.S. spends around $600 billion on defense each year, and around $40 billion on foreign assistance.

While there are clear and present issues within our federal aid system involving waste, misappropriated funds, and questionable subcontracting practices that need to be addressed, pulling a significant amount of money from the program right now is heartless.  It would be a death sentence for millions throughout Africa and in Yemen.  It’s also worth noting that the current administration is set to resume arms sales to the Saudi Coalition fighting in Yemen.  This particular $300 million sale was frozen by President Obama after reports of widespread civilian casualties became too persistent to ignore.  In the eyes of many, the Obama administration turned a blind eye to war crimes committed with the aid of American intelligence, using warplanes refueled on U.S. tankers and armed with American-made weapons.

While Obama certainly deserves to be criticized on Yemen, at least civilian lives factored in eventually; they don’t seem to play a role at all in President Trump’s decision-making.

Fellow republicans Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio came out against the proposed aid cuts citing the importance of non-military diplomacy and international engagement.  It’s highly unlikely Trump’s cuts will end up being anywhere near as dramatic as what he’s proposed.  But a budget proposal is a moral document that assigns number values to elements of government—it shows us where a president’s priorities lie.

It shows us that this president will turn his back on starving children to pay for more warplanes and a wall, and he won’t feel bad about it.  If you ask him, or many of his supporters, he/they will say we (the U.S.) need to fix the problems we have here at home and stop spending so much money in Asia and Africa et.al.  Of course, this is based on a perceived mutual exclusivity that doesn’t exist.  One does not directly impact the other.  Trump isn’t taking aid money from Africa to fund universal healthcare, or to care for our veterans, or to tackle homelessness, or to dismantle income inequality, or to fix our federal justice system, or to repair our roads and bridges, or to fund scholarships for the poor, or to provide job training for those whose careers were lost to innovation and outsourcing.  We can provide foreign aid and still improve the overall quality of life at home.  Anyone who tells you different is lying, just look at the numbers.

Trump is intending to use foreign aid money, and cuts to a myriad of low income and arts programs and the EPA to build up our already colossal military industrial complex; he’s using it to make a $600 billion budget a $654 billion dollar budget.

His callous and boorish approach is a byproduct of his misguided nationalism. For Trump, national strength is tactile and simplistic: it’s forged from steel and blood, it’s painted on the sides of warplanes. It’s not about helping people or diplomacy, it’s about making money and kicking ass.

Who cares about hundreds of thousands of children starving to death, we need a new F-35.

by Jesse Mechanic

Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.

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