Foreign aid cuts hurt poor while barely denting debt

For decades, the generosity of the American people has shone forth through the humanitarian and development assistance we’ve sent to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. Now, with attention in Washington focused inward on reducing federal budget deficits, this tradition of helping our neighbor is at risk.

In the coming days, the U.S. Senate could consider drastic cuts to poverty-focused international assistance that supports vaccinations for children, access to clean water and sanitation and basic education for poor and vulnerable people around the world. These programs, which represent less than 1 percent of the budget, already struggle with an 8 percent cut this year. Additional reductions will barely impact our nation’s deficit but will have life and death consequences for millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. I recognize the importance of reducing future unsustainable deficits, but we must do this in morally appropriate ways.

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I hope and pray that our senators will join with their colleagues and vote to maintain the levels of life-saving poverty-focused international assistance for the 2012 fiscal year, as passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, and that they would oppose any amendments that would cut poverty-focused international assistance.

A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects the least of us. The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first. It would be wrong to balance future budgets by hurting those who already hurt the most.

From Erica Bettwy, Washington, D.C.

GOP debates often look more like reality TV

Like many Americans, I have been disturbed by the shallow freak show that has played out the last few months known as the GOP presidential debates. These events have been orchestrated more like reality show entertainment than substantive policy discussions, with Hollywood trailer openings and shameless pandering to audiences. With that problem in mind I have a suggestion: a debate without a studio audience. 

The studio audience is why uninformed buffoons like Herman Cain have excelled in the polls. He knows how to play to a crowd and is better at summoning an applause line than knowing even the most basic foreign policy concerns (see China and nukes).

Booing a homosexual soldier, cheering for Texas’s execution tally and at the premise of an American dying because of insufficient medical care, and referring to the former Speaker of the House as “princess” might get applause in these tiny rooms. But this isn’t “America’s Got Talent” — this is to become leader of the free world. Perhaps absent the sycophantic studio audience, these candidates would be forced to get serious.

From David Metter, Exton, Pa.

Perry gaffe a gift to rival presidential candidates

It’s not Christmas yet, but Rick Perry delivered a huge present to his GOP rivals during Wednesday night’s presidential debate from Michigan (“Sinking Perry works to control damage after embarrassing gaffe,” Nov. 10). Failing to remember the third federal agency he’d eliminate as commander in chief was one of the biggest blunders ever during a debate ... period.  I’m no “Perry for President” booster, but even I, a lifelong Democrat and unabashed supporter of President Obama, was rooting for him to remember that third agency (the Department of Energy).

Presidential politics is a white-knuckle, contact sport. Perry proved during the debate that he truly is not ready for the national or international stage. 

From Denny Freidenrich, Laguna Beach, Calif.

Government  meddling won’t create jobs

A recent op-ed in The Hill by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) (“Attacks on workers’ rights won’t create jobs,” Nov. 15) highlights the need to scale back government intervention.

Sen. Harkin’s grievance against Republicans unveils his paternalistic view of government, insisting Congress will find solutions, decide the haves and have-nots and get Americans back to work. The only impediment is Republicans attacking the National Labor Relations Board and not signing President Obama’s jobs bill. Government would fix the economy if Republicans let it.

Foregoing Sen. Harkin’s fallacy that congressional action will move America forward, he narrowly focuses on moving special-interest groups in America forward. 

Republican labor policies have focused on providing all employers and employees rights. The NLRB’s regulations and court decisions have stacked the deck in favor of organized labor. Sen. Harkin, in agreement with the NLRB, has decided that union workers, only 11.9 percent of workforce, are how America should move forward.

Sen. Harkin, in America, the land of the free, individuals are responsible for their own destiny. Free individuals do not rely on government to determine winners and losers. To move America forward, government must return to its intended role of umpire withstanding the urge to dictate the game.

From Trey Kovacs, policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington D.C.