I’m not sure why, but when ONE asked me to walk into the offices of senators and members of Congress during a lobbying day on Capitol Hill last month, it never once occurred to me to be nervous.
In hindsight, my confidence was probably rather premature. I’d never been on Capitol Hill before — for lobbying or any other reason — hadn’t even stepped foot inside the District of Columbia in more than a decade, and am far from a seasoned politico. But as I sat across the table from top D.C. officials and their high-ranking staff members, asking them to do whatever it might take to preserve foreign development aid in their negotiations over the fiscal cliff, there never came a moment where I was prompted to rethink that confidence, either. And to a great extent I owe that to the genuine interest each office showed in the concerns of everyday citizens like you, me and the other ONE Moms who joined me that day.
Before I even returned home, I wrote on my own blog how struck I was by the degree to which each and every official and staff member I met that day genuinely cared about the experiences, ideas and opinions we shared with them. And even now, almost a full month later, it remains one of the highlights of the day. If for no other reason, it was because we met with a variety of offices — both Republican and Democrat, from states representing every geographical region in the country — and each showed an equal amount of concern for the issues we were there to discuss. To see that kind of cooperation, universal concern for the world’s poorest citizens, and ubiquitous respect for the investments and strides we’ve made against extreme poverty and preventable disease first hand was refreshing and inspiring. It gave me a renewed sense of hope that our lawmakers can and will work together, and that we may even be able to avoid the severe ramifications of falling over the fiscal cliff come January. Which is, perhaps, the most important issue our generation will face in the foreseeable future.
After all, nothing has changed since I first wrote in early November about the decidedly non-partisan nature of the prospects we face. Losing foreign development assistance is not a partisan issue, and there are no partisan fixes. And as much as that’s true, it’s also not just a third world issue waiting for a first world fix. It will not have just a significant effect on those people in the countries who directly benefit from the aid, but a marked effect on families right here in the US.
Hunger has always been one of the greatest catalysts for social instability, and social instability in the world’s poorest regions remains an every present danger to our national security. It is estimated that going over the fiscal cliff would plunge as many as 1 million families back into food insecurity, which we can only presume would increase the chances of having to send our sons and daughters to more and more stations around the world in an effort to keep the peace militarily, something that could not just cost us American lives on top of the African lives that would be lost to begin with, but also a tremendous amount of money above and beyond what we might save by cutting that funding. From a purely fiscal standpoint, wars are notoriously more expensive to fight than to prevent.
And from a purely budgetary standpoint very little stands to be gained in our own messy financial affairs from cutting foreign spending at all. Foreign aid makes up less than 1 percent of the overall budget. It’s a measly drop in the bucket when it comes to balancing our budget, especially for a drop that literally comes with life and death consequences. Which is why today, as we very rapidly approach the fiscal cliff, no more than a few days left before our lawmakers head back to their home districts for the holidays, I’d like to encourage you to reach out to your senators and members of Congress.
Remember: if there’s anything I can tell you for sure, having just talked to many of them, it’s that they desperately want to hear from you. They and their staff are there to serve and represent you. Their office contact information is readily available for a reason and that reason is you. Use it!
We’re staring down one of the biggest deadlines of our time, now is the time to make your voice heard. Sign the ONE Fiscal Cliff Petition and Become a ONE Member, and then call, email, snail mail, tweet and Facebook your lawmakers today and throughout the next week.