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Water for the World

This time of year, even Congress takes a worldwide view

With Capitol Hill intractably divided, juggling the fallout of the midterm elections, the CIA Torture Report and local law enforcement controversy across the country, it seems an unlikely time to turn our attention abroad toward foreign aid.
    Yet that’s what Congress did.
    On December 15, the Senate joined the House in unanimously passing the Water for the World Act. According to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, 750 million people lack access to clean water.
    With plenty of problems at home, why spend our money on foreign aid, even at Christmastime?
    Helping to alleviate poverty abroad is directly linked to U.S. interests through creating American jobs and safeguarding national security. U.S. spending on foreign aid hovers around a low 1.4 percent of the national budget.
    With one out of every five U.S. jobs being export-based and 45 percent of our exports going to developing nations, it is in the national interest to invest in a global middle class that can participate as consumers and entrepreneurs in the global economy. The developing world is an untapped market. At the same time, some of the world’s most dangerous countries are among the poorest. Providing economic opportunities, investing in education and creating a climate of security in many of these countries combats terrorism at its roots.
    In the words of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, “development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”
    What’s more, Water for the World will not cost new money, but rather handle government resources more efficiently, utilizing private-public partnerships and improving coordination among government agencies.
    As shown by the unanimous support for the bill in Congress, ending global poverty is a bipartisan issue. Over the past 20 years, the number of the world’s chronically undernourished has been cut by 50 percent. Life expectancies and literacy rates in the developing world have increased by 33 percent.
    By being proactive and fighting poverty at its roots, we can prevent its effects before they start, creating a better, safer world.

–Evan Young, St. Mary’s College

As a St. Mary’s student, Young discussed upcoming foreign aid legislation with Hill staffers and politicians last week.