Wednesday, September 12, 2007

$100 billion

Allow me to get a little political for a moment.

The LA Times asks:

“The president will ask the nation to pay for the next 11 months in Iraq with billions of dollars and hundreds of lives. We think this sacrifice will be in vain, because only Iraqis can heal their national wounds. And so we ask instead: What else could the United States do with a guesstimated $100 billion to reduce the strength and the appeal of Islamist terrorist groups worldwide?”

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

1) The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM): "RESULTS will press for $1.3 billion, the U.S. fair share of the funding needed for the GFATM for 2008. The GFATM is an enormously important and innovative multi-donor funding mechanism providing grants to some 136 poor countries to tackle these three major killer diseases. It is now providing two-thirds of all donor funding for tuberculosis and malaria, is tracking projects against bold and measurable targets for treatment and prevention, and leverages U.S. investments with other donor funds." (from

2) UNICEF: “Thirty one attacks against schools, mainly torching schools and explosions were reported in all parts of Afghanistan during 2007 up to June. Deliberate attacks on girl students and women teachers resulted in at least 4 deaths and 6 injuries. Only in the four southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul, out of a total of 740 schools, it is estimated that 262 (unconfirmed) of them are no longer providing education services to students. UNICEF urgently requires US$ 7 million to respond to the urgent needs of children and women.” (see also

3) Heifer International is "dedicated to our goal:
$800 million by the year 2010 to lift 5 million families to self-reliance. With 800 million chronically hungry people in the world, 1 billion living on less than $1 a day and 30 million chronically hungry in the U.S. Heifer has a real challenge in ending hunger and poverty. Heifer's simple but sustainable model incorporates a community-building approach to ending hunger so families and entire communities work holistically to gain self-reliance."

4) Money for the rebuilding of Iraq: get rid of no-bid contracts, practice some actual oversight of the projects, impose regular safety (structural and environmental) standards. People need basic infrastructure before they can even think about getting a good education, jobs, and a regular life. They need clean water, a reliable source of electricity, decent food and roofs over their heads. When they have these things, they will then need a solid education, for both boys and girls, and the promise of a living-wage job. An even just basically educated and employed population will be much, much less inclined to join up with an insurgent or “terrorist” organization, both because they’ll have a better way to make ends meet and likely will be less dissatisfied with the environment in which they live. But we need to make sure that the money for these efforts goes to companies and organizations that will be held accountable for their actions and their spending habits.

5) I have a sneaking suspicion that, even after all of that, we’d still have a sizable chunk of the $100 billion left over. Why not use that to fund a system of universal health care here at home? People smarter than I have come up with good, realistic plans that could be self-sustaining and save/improve countless lives. Once we’ve got a handle on our (currently horribly broken) health care system, then we too can focus on things like bettering the education and job training systems in this country.

It seems like obvious, non-pie-in-the-sky thinking. Businesses of all sizes would benefit tremendously from universal health care, taking the burden of paying for their employee’s skyrocketing health care costs off their shoulders. Businesses would also benefit from a more educated and happy (see: leads to better productivity) workforce. Everyone would benefit from greater security (less impoverished, oppressed people all over the world usually means fewer recruits for violent extremist groups), better health care, better education, etc.

Instead, we’ll continue to miraculously find billions of dollars to fund aggressive and failing wars, but falter when it comes to finding a few million for proper reconstruction efforts in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and, in our own backyard, New Orleans. Imagine that.

(P.S. Added this blog to Technorati, because why not: Technorati Profile)

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