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Become a SenatorOver the last few election cycles, an increasing number of stories have emerged about young people running for elected office. Millennials, it seems, are ready to be a part of the national legislative conversation.

What has been interesting about this phenomenon is the average age of these hopeful politicians. Erin Schrode, for example, ran for California’s District 2 seat in 2016 at the age of 24. Patrick Murphy, meanwhile, challenged Marco Rubio for one of Florida’s Senate seats in 2016 at the age of 33. When you keep in mind that the average age of the U.S. Senate is about 61 years old, these challenges are somewhat surprising.

This, therefore, begs the question, what does it take to become a Senator in the United States? What are the prerequisites, and how easy are they to achieve? The answer, it turns out, is quite simple. Below is the list of requirements:

  1. Be at least 30 years of age: One can run for office while they are 29 years old, but he or she must turn 30 before their first term would begin.
  2. Be a U.S. citizen for at least nine years: If an immigrant would like to run for office, they can, but they need to have been a U.S. citizen for nine years before doing so.
  3. Be an “inhabitant” of the state represented. This rule means that Senators must live at least some of their lives in the states they represent. This doesn’t have to be the majority of one’s life, though, as many Senators travel back-and-forth from Washington, D.C. to their respective states.

It should be noted that the intangible requirements to being an effective Senator are vital. Knowledge of local, regional and global issues are incredibly important components of governing that take years of study and experience to fully comprehend.

The official prerequisites, however, are a lot simpler than most would expect. As millennials and young people in general continue to be more interested and active in politics, it is important for them to know that the official roadblocks standing in their way are easily surmountable.

Truly, anyone can run and become a Senator if they set their mind to it. With the current political turmoil and the public’s interest in civic affairs, it will be interesting to watch the continued rise of millennial participation in our country’s governance.

John Mirandette

Photo: Flickr

Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development ActThe Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act, also known as the READ Act, is a bill that requires the U.S. government to promote basic education in developing countries. The bill strengthens the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to ensure that U.S. resources are used effectively for this cause. It states that the U.S. will work with certain partner countries, donors, institutions and organizations to support worldwide education.

The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act was reintroduced to the Senate last week, by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The bill moved swiftly through the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Programs created under the READ Act will have four basic goals:

  1. Respond to the needs of developing countries to improve basic education skills.
  2. Strengthen educational systems, expand access to safe places to learn and support the involvement of parents in educating their children.
  3. Promote education to support economic growth.
  4. Monitor the quality of education programs in partner countries.

The President also has three specific duties under the READ Act:

  1. Improve the effectiveness of assistance through executive efforts.
  2. Ensure that assistance aligns with U.S. foreign policy and economic interests.
  3. Submit a strategy for promoting education in partner countries to Congress.

The bill also establishes the new position of Senior Coordinator of U.S. International Basic Education Assistance within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This position is responsible for coordinating U.S. government resources to promote basic education at an international level.

The act requires USAID to develop a strategy to promote basic education in developing countries. The agency’s current strategy is based on the idea that education is important for human development, economic growth, and democracy. The U.S. has foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries throughout the world, which are primarily designed to further U.S. foreign policy interests by “expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global goodwill.”

Chairman Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee gave remarks noting this strategy on the House floor in support of the bill prior to the vote. He stated that education drives economic development, security and stability. He acknowledged that there is a humanitarian crisis due to the high number of children not in school, and called for the READ Act to be passed to mitigate this.

As stated by Royce, millions of children around the globe are out of school. Many of these children are in war-torn countries and are at a much higher risk of being targeted for abuse or terrorist recruitment. Approximately four million children in Syria are not in school, and many others are straining the education systems of neighboring countries as refugees. The READ Act focuses attention on countries like Syria that are most in need of U.S. support and resources.

The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on Jan. 23, 2017, by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) and passed the very next day. Passing the READ Act through the Senate is crucial for providing developing countries the tools they need to increase access to basic education.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

Rubio
Ending global poverty is an issue that has largely escaped the 2016 presidential campaign. Inequality, terrorism, immigration, trade agreements and social issues have taken center stage. Yet many candidates support foreign aid as a key component of U.S. policy and believe that ending global poverty is in the best interest of the United States. Marco Rubio is one such candidate.

Rubio is unique in a way, in that his parents are immigrants who suffered under poverty in Cuba. In a 2014 press release, Rubio describes their situation. “My mother was one of seven girls whose parents often went to bed hungry so their children wouldn’t. My father lost his mother when he was nine. He left school and went to work at a local restaurant at about the same age of my youngest son now.”

Recognizing that his parents were not at fault for their hardship, Rubio says, “My parents, like most people that have ever lived, were raised in a country where they were trapped by the circumstances of their birth.” Poverty traps billions of people all over the globe and by linking his parents to “most people that have ever lived,” Rubio clearly empathizes with the world’s poor.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that, when asked, Rubio expresses support for U.S. foreign aid. At a November campaign stop, Tom Hardy of Global Citizen/Humanosphere asked Rubio about his views on international development and aid. His response was short and succinct.

“In countries where there is real and robust economic development, there is less radicalization. Soft power is a real element and it’s in our national interest, and part of it is because it is the right thing to do.” Rubio identifies two key elements of why the U.S. should assist other countries. One is that development and strong rule of law help suppress terrorism. The other is that helping others and doing the right thing is a core piece of America’s identity.

Rubio believes that the United States “has been blessed for what it has done for the world.” He also pointed out that “[foreign aid] is only a small percentage of the federal budget.” This last sentence is crucial, as it rebuffs a common misperception about foreign aid.

A major reason why candidates, including Rubio, fail to mention their support for aid is that the public grossly overestimates the generosity of the United States. A Borgen Project article from 2014 reported that a Kaiser Family Foundation study found the average U.S. citizen believes 28 percent of the U.S. budget goes to aid. In reality, that number is less than one percent. Due to this discrepancy, the same report found that nearly half of Americans favor large cuts in foreign aid.

Supporting increases in aid is, therefore, politically challenging but Rubio has taken the risk. In the last year, he lent his support to the Reach Every Mother and Child Act and the Global Food Security Act as a co-sponsor. Both of these bills are supported by The Borgen Project and by many pro-development groups. Rubio has not only talked the talk but walked the walk.

To retain America’s position as a leader among nations, it is important that whoever is elected in 2016 understands that influence comes not only through military might but also through the soft power of aid and development.

As Rubio said in a 2012 speech, “We don’t have a national debt because of foreign aid. If you zeroed out foreign aid it would do nothing for the debt, but would be devastating, not just to the world but to America’s role in it.”

As a person, a senator and a presidential candidate, Marco Rubio’s commitment to ending global poverty is unquestionable.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: Global Citizen, Humanosphere, Marco Rubio Official Site, The Borgen Project
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Quotes
Although Congress is known to disagree amongst itself, there is one issue that many members of the Democratic and Republican Party do agree on: the importance of foreign aid. Here are 10 quotes made by members of Congress stressing the need to continue funding foreign aid.

1. “Foreign aid must be viewed as an investment, not an expense…but when foreign aid is carefully guided and targeted at a specific issue, it can and must be effective.” – U.S. Representative Kay Granger (R-TX), Huffington Post, June 2011

2. “The world we live in takes a multifaceted approach. To the American taxpayer: We need to be investing in improving people’s lives before the terrorists try to take over.” – U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Foreign Policy magazine, February 2011

3. “For development to play its full role in our national security structure, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) must be a strong agency with the resources to accomplish the missions we give it. But during the last two decades, decision-makers have not made it easy for USAID to perform its vital function. Even as we have rediscovered the importance of foreign assistance, we find ourselves with a frail foundation to support a robust development strategy. I believe the starting point for any future design of our assistance programs and organization should not be the status quo, but rather the period in which we had a well functioning and well-resourced aid agency.” – U.S. Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), Statement on Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act, July 2009

4.“The right question to ask is: are we really spending too much on non-defense programs? The answer is clearly no. Non-defense discretionary spending levels are essentially unchanged from 2001. There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to afford them today.” – U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), June 2011

5.”The real problem in America’s spending is not foreign aid, which is a very small part of our budget.” – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Town Hall meeting, July 2011

6. “We face tremendous foreign policy and national security challenges worldwide, from helping countries manage peaceful, democratic transitions in the Middle East, to preventing violence, conflict, and terrorism from engulfing key partners, and to leading humanitarian responses to forestall drought, famine, and natural disasters. We are only able to achieve these aims with a strong State Department and USAID.” – U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Press release, July 2011

7. “Leaders of both parties have affirmed that U.S. power is a three-legged stool of military might, diplomatic skill and development. The foreign aid bill’s diplomatic and development objectives pay dividends by helping avoid military deployments to protect U.S. interests, which are far more costly in both life and treasure. Robust engagement is no less necessary to achieve strategic security imperatives in this belt-tightening atmosphere. Investments in health, education, humanitarian aid for refugees and disaster victims and micro-loans for entrepreneurs are critical to fostering stability around the world. It would be senseless to let our response to a fiscal challenge create a national security crisis.” – U.S. Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), Op-Ed in Politico, February 2011

8. “Our top military leaders are adamant that International Affairs programs are a critical to our national security. Our top business leaders are adamant that these programs are critical to our economic future. I’ve seen firsthand how these programs work beyond the frontline states and these cuts will seriously restrict our ability to keep Americans safe and advance our economic interests.” – Former U.S. Congressman and Ambassador Mark Green, July 2011

9. “Foreign aid is important. If it’s done right, it spreads America’s influence around the world in a positive way.” – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Town Hall meeting, July 2011

10. (In support of continuing aid to Egypt) “Cut off all aid immediately and you will take an economy that is already floundering and probably drive it into chaos, and that is not in anyone’s national security interests.” – Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J

Mary Penn

Sources: Huffington Post, InterAction
Photo: Politico

 

Read Humanitarian Quotes.

Sequester Threatens Foreign Aid
The sequester has many people nervous for a number of reasons, and the future of foreign aid is one of them. The sequester that was planned to start at the beginning of this month was designed to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in national spending. Patrick Christy and Evan Moore have recently published their case on why U.S. foreign aid should not be cut by the sequester. Currently, foreign assistance is scheduled to be decreased by 5.3 percent in the coming year and an additional cut of $50 billion over the next ten years.

Foreign assistance serves many purposes; it helps keep America safe by stabilizing areas of possible conflict and eliminating the root causes of terrorism while strategic aid provides American job security. Not to mention the positive effects that aid programs have, fighting hunger and poverty, building schools, and improving the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

U.S. foreign aid is still less than 1 percent of the national budget and as Senator Marco Rubio said: “if you wiped out all the foreign aid in the world, you wouldn’t notice it in terms of the debt conversation.” Whatever happens when the sequester compromise talks end, Congress will have to consider these issues before cutting foreign aid.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: US News
Photo: CS Monitor