We were warned about it for months. The American people fretted. Financial markets dropped. Some warned of the possibility of total chaos.
What the U.S. government lovingly called “sequestration,” the media soon dubbed as the “fiscal cliff,” or simply “the cliff.” The entire nation was told to get ready for a plunge over that cliff into an unknown abyss.
Yet, December 31st came and went, and we are, thankfully, still intact.
But if we didn’t plunge over a cliff, what exactly did happen? What is in store for us regarding federal income and expenses over the remainder of this fiscal year?
More importantly for us as Food for the Hungry (FH)—an organization that has labored for the past 42 years to help the poor and hungry of the world—what is in store for critical U.S. private and foreign assistance to the poorest of the poor in places like the Congo, South Sudan and Bangladesh?
The short answer to that question is that nobody is out of the woods yet.
The 11th-hour agreement reached in Congress and signed into law by President Obama on December 31 is, unfortunately, just a short-term, stopgap measure. It will keep the federal government functioning until more substantive, farther-reaching reforms and decisions can be made regarding federal income and expenses.
And the date for reaching those agreements is coming very, very soon.
If longer-term agreements are not reached in the next two months, the debt ceiling will likely be hit in late February. Full sequestration (the postponed “cliff” of across-the-board spending cuts) will begin on March 1. The temporary measures to fund the Fiscal Year 2012 federal budget will end on March 27.
In essence, a perfect storm is headed toward the United States. That storm could create a lot of damage if Congress does not step up and make some sound decisions. These decisions need to ensure future stability for our nation as well as continue to provide development opportunities for “the least of these” in the world.
One of the potential big losers in the coming years will be people in places like Uganda, Guatemala and Cambodia. These are the people who, with the help of U.S. private funding as well as foreign assistance, are starting to see solid economic, social and health gains for the poor majority living there. If the American people lose tax incentives to give to the poor and the U.S. government slashes aid to these same people, many of these gains will be reversed. We can’t let that happen.
FH is actively advocating in Washington, D.C., to support the Circle of Protection that is designed to safeguard key anti-poverty initiatives being funded via foreign aid. We are also working hard to make sure that the next Farm Bill continues to support food aid and food security programs so that hungry people not only have enough to eat today, but, more importantly, can learn how to feed themselves for a lifetime.
Won’t you join us in this fight? Thank you for standing with us, writing your Congress men and women, making your voice heard, and praying for God’s mercy and grace for our nation and the world’s poor. May God bless you.