Mudcat Café message #1391667 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62901   Message #1391667
Posted By: Amos
28-Jan-05 - 05:08 PM
Thread Name: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Subject: RE: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration

America's Promises

Published: January 28, 2005

Three years ago, President Bush created the Millennium Challenge Account to give more money to poor countries that are committed to policies promoting development. Mr. Bush said his government would donate billions in incremental stages until the program got to a high of $5 billion a year starting in 2006. While $5 billion is just 0.04 percent of America's national income, President Bush touted the proposal as proof that he cares about poverty in Africa and elsewhere. "I carry this commitment in my soul," the president said.

For the third straight year, Mr. Bush has committed a lot less than he promised. Michael Phillips of The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House has quietly informed the managers of the Millennium Challenge Account to expect about $3 billion in the next budget. This follows a sad pattern. Mr. Bush said he would ask Congress for $1.7 billion in 2004; he asked for $1.3 billion and got $1 billion. He said he would ask for $3.3 billion in 2005; he asked for $2.5 billion and got $1.5 billion.

So if past is prologue, the Republican Congress will cut the diluted 2006 pledge even further.

None of that appears to bother the Bush administration, which continues to send high-ranking officials into the world to promote the anemic Millennium Challenge Account to poor nations. The program - not the money, since the account has yet to pay out a single dollar - is high on the list of talking points for cabinet officials like the United States trade representative, Robert Zoellick, who visited Africa in December and cited the program every chance he got. Speaking to Latin American ambassadors in Washington this month, a Treasury under secretary, John Taylor, hailed it as a "major way in which we are working with countries to meet the challenge of increasing productivity growth."

Officials at the Millennium Challenge Account are quick to list the countries that, through good governance, have qualified for the aid program. They are not as quick to list the countries that have received a dime: there aren't any. Still, Paul Applegarth, chief executive of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, assured us last week that President Bush's program is "really moving at an extraordinarily quick pace."

Maybe the administration should tell that to the 300 million Africans who lack safe drinking water, or the 3,000 African children under the age of 5 who die every day from malaria, or the 1 in 16 African women who die in childbirth, or the 6,000 Africans who die each day of AIDS. But wait. Maybe the president is planning to deal with the African AIDS catastrophe through his 2003 proposal to increase AIDS funds by $10 billion over the following five years?

Not unless he is planning to finish with a bang, because the White House is expected to ask Congress for only $1.6 billion more next year. When added to the amount that AIDS funds increased in 2004 and 2005, that would leave a whopping more than $6 billion to get out of Congress in the next two years to meet Mr. Bush's pledge. Congress and Mr. Bush will point to the ballooning deficit and say they don't have the money. But that was a matter of choice. They chose to spend billions on tax cuts for the wealthy and the war in Iraq. They can choose to spend it instead to keep America's promises. (...)