You Can't Say Congress Isn't Listening to the American People...
by Gary Therkildsen*, 5/5/2010
When an Economist/YouGov poll came out early last month, several economics and political bloggers re-highlighted the fact that Americans, by a large majority, favor lower government spending over increased taxes in order to balance the budget, but that when asked to make hard choices refuse to cut any specific programs except for low-hanging fruit like foreign aid. According to a recent Congressional Quarterly article (subscription), it seems that members of Congress may answer the average American's wish during this year's budget process.
The article, which is entitled "Strapped for Cash, Lawmakers Look to Cut Foreign Aid Budget," quotes several members of Congress along with a few staffers claiming that the political environment this year is too toxic to try and fully fund the president's budget request. As a result, lowly foreign aid, which makes up less than 1 percent of the budget," is the first to get the ax.
The Senate Budget Committee set the tone a couple weeks ago when they passed out their FY 2011 budget resolution with $4 billion less than the president's budget request. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) suggested that the savings come from the State-Foreign Operations spending bill.
The CQ article later catches House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC) saying, "if the House moves its own budget resolution [this year], it would likely use the overall spending figure the Senate committee endorsed."
And, as CQ notes, with no "parochial constituency," the foreign aid budget is not likely to get much support beyond the congressional foreign affairs community and celebrity frontman Bono in opposition to these budget cuts.
Notwithstanding what the average American thinks, foreign aid is a useful and important, even if exceptionally tiny, aspect of our budget. The administration's request for $58.5 billion in State Department and foreign operations funding would go towards things like "civilian operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq." These are not necessarily the least important spots in the world right now as far as American interests are concerned.
Image by Flickr user Whiskeygonebad used under a Creative Commons license.