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Week in Review 149 — Trump cuts: fatal consequences?

Stephen Lewis comments on the potential human consequences of reducing U.S. foreign aid.


This nonsensical palaver over whether or not Donald Trump was ‘presidential’ when he addressed Congress, of course is a complete distraction. It’s a distraction from the essence, the content, the substance of the speech itself. We all now know that billions upon billions of additional dollars are going to go to the military, but we’re only beginning to understand where the money’s coming from, and in significant measure it’s going to come from foreign aid, and that is in international terms, a potential disaster.

Let me give you an example. There is the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria: the primary resource in dealing with those infectious diseases. Now, in Canada, just a few months ago, there was a replenishment conference, and they raised $13 billion over the next three years, more than $4 billion of it (1/3 of it) coming from the United States: a kind of contractual understanding of the U.S. proportionate contribution. Well, imagine if that $4 billion is cut by a quarter or a third, or forty percent–as some of Donald Trump’s associates have suggested. The consequences would be calamitous. You’ve got millions of people who need antiretroviral drugs to stay alive and there will not be the money for governments or individual agencies in order to make the purchase.

Or take the decision of Donald Trump as soon as he came to power to apply the ‘gag rule’. The rule that says that if a government or any agency, domestic or foreign, is involved in abortion–no matter how indirectly–they lose all their funding. And that means family planning, and contraception, and the sexual and reproductive rights of women–it all goes out the window and the loss is $600 million.

Now, other governments–good governments–are scrambling to make up that deficit. So, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Canada–they’ve all chipped in, and they’ve now raised $200 million, but they’ll never get to the $600 million. You can’t compensate for the American resources in that fashion.

Or what about Haiti? Haiti now has launched an appeal–through the United Nations–for $200 million to compensate the families of the victims who died of cholera. Particularly since the United Nations brought cholera to Haiti, by way of peacekeepers from Nepal. Well, they’ll never get the $200 million if the United States cuts back its contributions.

You see, we’re in a terrible predicament. And now the media, of course, is fawning over the President–groveling on their hands and knees, ashes and sackcloth, expressing reverential regard for the President because he buttoned his jacket and wore a different tie… But no one is looking at the human consequences of reducing foreign aid, and those consequences will be fatal. Yes, fatal.

That was last week, I’m Stephen Lewis.