On the edge of the fiscal cliff … again

Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting the office of a prominent U.S. Senator here in Washington D.C. to discuss the once-again looming fiscal cliff. We talked about what faith-based organizations, like Food for the Hungry (FH), can do to get the word out to Christians across this nation about the importance of foreign assistance to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Boy in Peru

One half of one percent of the U.S. budget goes to help the world's most vulnerable children through worldwide.

In the meeting, the question was posed, “Is it possible that we are here so soon again?” Just two short months ago, the nation was riveted by the drama unfolding on Capitol Hill. The threat of automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts loomed large in the collective conscience of America. And then, with the stroke of President Obama’s pen, it all seemed to go away. Except that it didn’t. We are set to go over the edge of the cliff again on March 1.

Unless Congress and the Obama Administration act in the next two weeks, automatic cuts to “discretionary” spending will immediately go into effect. If that happens, a blunt cleaver will fall on every discretionary program. This includes the already tiny amount of foreign assistance that we invest as a nation in helping the world’s poor in places like Ethiopia, Haiti and Bangladesh to become self-sufficient. Dollar for dollar, foreign aid that is targeted at the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people has the best return on investment for our federal funds.

Using less than one half of one percent of our national budget, the U.S. succeeds in savings millions of lives, transforming communities and creating hope for the dispossessed. All this has been shown to not only have a huge positive impact on the beneficiary nations, but also on the U.S. The fact is that foreign aid helps to reduce terrorism and keeps some nations from becoming “failed States.” It is a gift that not only helps others. It helps us, too.

These arguments seem good to us. Unfortunately, the arguments appear to fall short of the mark with a sizable part of America. Many in our country oppose Big Government, and they have some very sound arguments when it comes to reducing our federal deficit. Indeed, we do need to reduce our spending. But using a cleaver to indiscriminately chop everything is shortsighted and even, dare I say, lazy. By preserving the best small parts of our federal budget, we can continue to have a large impact beyond our shores.

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s meeting in the senator’s office, we realized that much of the support for cutting foreign assistance comes from states that just happen to have high percentages of confessing Christians. We also talked about the fact that these same states are filled with churches that are most likely highly invested in reaching the world’s poor through short- and long-term mission activities and support to faith-based relief and development organizations.

In effect, the right hand is giving while the left takes away. Could it be that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing?

Could it be that if we sounded the clarion call, many concerned Christians would come to realize that there are parts of “little government” that help their churches better accomplish their mission to help the world’s poor?

As March 1 approaches, won’t you join us making the call heard?  You can do that by contacting your senator and representatives today to let them know that you care about saving the tiny amount of foreign assistance that is left in the U.S. budget. Your call just might be the one that keeps foreign assistance from going over the cliff!

About Dave Evans

Dave Evans served with Food for the Hungry (FH) from 1991 until 2013, most recently as the U.S. President and a member of the Global Executive Office. Previously, he served as Country Director in Chad and then Bolivia.

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