The Long-Term Impact of Cuts

April 8, 2011 By Joel Paque

With uncertainty surrounding the short-term implications of a government shutdown, it is easy to forget the larger conversation we need to have on the potential long-term impacts of the drastic cuts currently under consideration in the House 2012 budget proposal. Testifying before Congress this week, USAID Administrator Raj Shah caught the attention of many when he stressed the devastating impacts of a diminished International Affairs Budget by saying: “We estimate, and I believe these are very conservative estimates, that H.R. 1 would lead to 70,000 kids dying.”

Michael Gerson echoed Administrator Shah’s comments in today’s Washington Post, saying that “global health programs are not analogous to many other categories of federal spending, such as job training programs or support for public television. A child either receives malaria treatment or does not. The resulting risk of death is quantifiable.” He went on to point out that all budget cuts are not equal.  While some may lead to pay freezes, or adjustments in government benefits, cuts to our global development and health programs may lead some to a “fever and a small coffin.”

This rhetoric may seem overblown to those who view this budget debate as a ledger-balancing act, but, while all programs facing cuts will certainly point to the impact of cuts, few areas can paint as stark a picture as development.  For only a little more than 1% of the total federal budget, these programs help save millions of lives each year through investments in global health, food security programs, and humanitarian assistance. In turn, these investments in human well being lead to a more stable and prosperous world, and help sustain US leadership.