Thursday, January 27, 2005

Bush's aid promises falling short

Remember when President Bush promised to provide $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa during his 2003 State of the Union speech?

Here is the key passage:

I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.

That got him a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle! He won praises and accolades from political pundits from all across the ideological spectrum after that.

Too bad he lied.

Of course, the Wall Street Journal puts it a bit more diplomatically than that in their story on page A4 today (1/27/05). The headline reads:

Bush Falls Behind on Promises For Antipoverty, AIDS Funding

Now 3 years into that promise, counting the proposed budget for 2006, President Bush is still $6.4 billion short on fulfilling that comittment. And the Africa AIDS pledge is not the only one he is falling behind on. Bush also made promises to boost funding to combat poverty in developing countries.
Specifically, he promised certain levels of funding to the Millennium Challenge Corp., a newly created foreign aid agency. Bush promised $1.7 billion for 2004, and gave just $1 billion. He promised $3.4 billion for 2005, and provided just $1.5 billion. And he promised $5 billion for 2006, but his latest budget proposal only has $3 billion set aside. That means he is $4.6 billion short, so far.
But wait, you say. Shouldn’t these folks be happy to get anything? I mean, $5.5 billion isn’t chump change after all and so what if they were expecting $10 billion.
The point is that Bush makes these promises to gain political support. Who knows how many votes swung Bush’s way during the razor-close election last year because he made this bold $10 billion anti-AIDS pledge the year before. Here is a key passage from the WSJ story:

The shortfalls are raising alarms among health and antipoverty activists who had rallied to the president’s side when he promised tens of billions of dollars to help developing nations in Africa and elsewhere.

Wow! Health and antipoverty activists rallying to his side! I’ll bet they were worth quite a few votes.
And remember that the Millennium Challenge Corp. was the group that rock singer Bono worked with the Bush administration to help set up. I’ll bet all those pictures of Bush standing next to Bono were worth a few votes as well.

But while we are pinching pennies for international health and antipoverty efforts, we continue to pour billions and billions into the quagmire in Iraq. We will pass the $300 billion mark once Congress approves Bush’s latest request for an additional $80 billion.

So that leaves just one question. What should the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami think when they hear President Bush promising significant increases in aid?

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