Another element of the Obama Administration’s Lesser but Still real Evil
When people often say that they are going to reelect Obama as “the lesser evil,” it is important to acknowledge that though lesser evil, the Obama Administration has been involved in considerable evil.
By Jeffrey Sachs
November 25, 201
The wonder of our world is that scientific knowledge is
now so powerful that we can save millions of children,
mothers, and fathers from killer diseases each year at
little cost. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and
Malaria has mobilized that knowledge over the past
decade to save more than 7 million lives and to protect
the health of hundreds of millions more. Yet now the
Global Fund is under mortal threat because of budget
cuts approved by President Obama and the Congress.
The Obama Administration had pledged $4 billion during
2011-13 to the Global Fund, or $1.33 billion per year.
Now it is reneging on this pledge. For a government
that spends $1.9 billion every single day on the
military ($700 billion each year), Washington’s
unwillingness to follow through on $1.33 billion for a
whole year to save millions of lives is a new depth of
cynicism and recklessness.
As a result of US budget cutbacks, and me-too cutbacks
by other countries, the Global Fund this week closed
its doors on providing new funds to impoverished
nations. It was supposed to accept proposals next month
from the poorest countries for an 11th round of
disease-control funds. Instead, it has scrapped any new
funding until 2014 at the earliest, and will only fund
the continuation of the coverage of existing programs.
US officials will prevaricate, noting that the US
spends this amount or that amount. History will treat
such excuses with the scorn they deserve.
Millions of people are now at risk of death in the
coming years as a result of Obama’s lassitude and
neglect. Hundreds of thousands of children who would
have been saved will now die of mosquito bites. They
will die because they live in poor tropical
environments where a mosquito bite kills, and where
their impoverishment makes it impossible for them to
afford a $5 bed net, $1 diagnostic test, $1 dose of
anti-malaria medicine, or access to a clinic. Countless
others will die because they cannot get AIDS or TB
treatments to stay alive.
If you think that money spent on the Global Fund is
money down the drain, think again. The Global Fund was
created a decade ago because the world needed to
respond to the uncontrolled epidemics of AIDS, malaria,
and TB. It has been a historic success, proving the
skeptics wrong. The Global Fund keeps alive 3.2 million
people on anti-retroviral treatment. It has financed
8.2 million courses of TB treatment and the
distribution of 190 million insecticide-treated nets.
You can read an overview here.
The Global Fund money has reached millions of people in
need. When its programs have been hit by corruption,
audits have paused the funding and reoriented the
programs. The result of this practical approach is
great success in many of the world’s poorest places.
Malaria has come down sharply, averting an estimated
400,000 deaths per year in Africa compared to the
baseline path as of the year 2000. Yet there are still
around 700,000 malaria deaths each year that can be
prevented if the Global Fund has the means. Read here
about the remarkable progress against malaria. Similar
progress is being made against AIDS. Now that progress
is at dire risk.
Reorienting less than 1 day’s military budget to help
save millions of lives (in conjunction with the efforts
of other countries) is not only a great humanitarian
step but also the most cost-effective step we can take
for our own security. Countries like Yemen or Somalia
are falling apart because they cannot meet their most
basic needs. We send in drone missiles – each one at
the cost of at least 20,000 bed nets — but we will
find no real security until we help address the
problems of disease, poverty, and hunger that
destabilize these regions.
It is painful to recall the campaign promises made by
Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton. Both promised that
they would step up the fight to control AIDS, TB, and
malaria. Empty words. President Obama’s aides tell him
that foreign assistance is bad domestic politics and he
listens. On this issue even George W. Bush knew better.
The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress,
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is not quiet. She is
an aggressive and outspoken foe of foreign assistance,
pretending to her constituents that cutting a $1
billion to the Global Fund is the way to balance the
budget. Great, we’re now 0.001 of the way there.
The United States Government, I noted earlier, is not
alone in the collapse of morality, decency, and common
sense. Each government that once contributed to the
Global Fund takes refuge in the budget cuts by the US
and the others. The apparent belief of the politicians
is that there is safety in numbers if they all starve
the Global Fund together.
We live in a country where the Federal Government
doesn’t think twice about the fate of impoverished and
dying people. Such a government won’t act to save your
life or mine. Politicians so brazen and irresponsible
need to be voted out of office. In the meantime, I will
join the efforts around the world to find new means and
new leaders to continue the struggle against the killer
diseases. I hope that you will do so too.
Economist Jeffrey Sachs is a professor and director of
the Earth Institute at Columbia University; Special
Advisor to the UN Secretery-General; author, ‘The Price
of Civilization’ Follow Sachs on Twitter: