In an op-ed for CNN published this week, billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gate, wife of Microsoft mogul, Bill Gates, issued a stern warning to President Trump.
She opens with a chilling observation from when she and Bill began their foundation: “Our resources are only a drop in the bucket compared with the needs around the world, and only a small percentage of what governments spend each year to help meet those needs.”
Melinda describes that realization as “humbling.” She segues into the point of her letter – it was because of that reality that she and Bill are “deeply concerned” about Trump’s plan to cut United States foreign aid, a move that she said threatens to derail the significant and meaningful progress so many have worked to achieve.
The data tells us that in a single generation, funding from the United States and other donor nations has helped turn the tide against infectious diseases like polio and HIV/AIDS, while driving a child survival revolution that has saved 122 million children’s lives. The world has cut extreme poverty in half and set the stage for more people everywhere to live longer, better, healthier lives than ever.
She then goes on to empathize with the notion. There is great need here. Why not take care of Americans first? Then she explains: “The facts are this: Less than 1% of the US federal budget goes to aid, and the dollars spent abroad reap dividends for our country, too.”
That’s why, when the White House first announced these cuts, some of the loudest voices of protest came not from overseas, but here at home. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, retired US military leaders, and faith leaders all spoke up in defense of foreign aid, arguing it is not just the right thing to do — it’s also vital to protecting American interests. The money we spend on foreign aid is a long-term investment in Americans themselves.
A few key points:
- When we strengthen health systems abroad, we mitigate the risk of epidemics reaching our own shores.
- When individuals and communities who have the chance of safety and meaningful lives, they are less likely to resort to violence. “Stability increases security at home.”
- When places emerge from poverty, we create markets for U.S. goods.
- Even simple measures like contraception allows women to take control of their lives and families in unprecedented ways, and it has proven to be transformative to societies.
We’ve seen that progress is possible, but we also know it’s not inevitable. If the United States goes forward with these cuts to foreign aid, it will leave a gap in the world’s moral leadership and reduce our country’s standing among nations. It will mean that millions of people — including millions of children — will die preventable deaths on our watch.
More men and women will be driven by desperation toward dangerous extremism, and more people in the world’s poorest places will live and die trapped in poverty.
For all these reasons, I will spend my time in D.C. this week making the case that if we care about keeping America healthy, safe and prosperous, then we must prioritize foreign aid. The cost of these cuts is far too great for our country — or our conscience — to bear.
Thank you, Melinda, well-said.