It’s not often that one hears a Tea Party conservative publicly supporting the use of the United States’ Federal Budget on foreign development aid. That’s what makes Rep. Tom Emmer’s, R-M.N., newfound support for the program both promising and surprising.

During a live online Q & A session held on May 12, Rep. Tom Emmer – whose conservative voting record includes challenges to Minnesota’s minimum wage and efforts to nullify the Affordable Care Act – described the ways in which his recent visit with recipients of U.S. foreign aid in Eldoret, Kenya influenced his perspective on the program.

“I have made the statement in the past that a dollar that we are spending for instance in Africa, in Kenya, is a dollar that we could probably be using at home to build a road or a bridge,” Emmer said. “Well, it’s not that simple.”

During his time in Eldoret, Emmer met with two dairy farmers who, with funding from USAID, improved their operation to such an extent that their increased income allowed them to accumulate enough money to send their three children to boarding school. “That bodes well for the future,” Emmer said, “and I guess I look at it this way: a dollar spent on that is a dollar that we won’t have to spend on additional bombs and bullets and God-forbid boots on the ground in the future.”

This sentiment is consistent with an argument commonly made by proponents of foreign development aid: investing in a greater quality of life for the world’s poor prevents them from looking for it in the form of violent extremist groups like ISIS or al-Shabaab.

The congressman also noted the potential benefits global poverty reduction holds for the U.S. economy. “Well, we need to have trading partners, both here within our boundaries, our borders, but [also] outside of our borders, because remember, 90% of the world’s future customers actually live outside of the United States,” Emmer stated. “We need to make sure that we’re constantly growing those markets so that we can realize a return of value, a valuable return on [our] products.”

Emmer’s change of heart is particularly encouraging given the staunch opposition to foreign aid among many leading Republicans, including presidential aspirant Rand Paul, who in 2012 argued the United States ought to eliminate foreign aid entirely. Indeed, this new stance is consistent with his recent deviation from the standard voting line of far right Republicans, a move that has earned him criticism from a number of his constituents.

That Rep. Emmer’s newfound attitude toward foreign aid so radically differs from that of more moderate Republicans like Paul shows that foreign aid doesn’t need to be an issue that is determined simply – and superficially – by party affiliation. A U.S. presence in impoverished nations, defined by effective economic assistance, creates opportunities for American companies abroad and increases the security of the United States by improving the lives of those whom extremist groups strive to recruit. These are outcomes that should appeal to Republicans and Democrats alike.

– Zach VeShancey

Sources: Think Progress, Business Week Think Progress Think Progress MPR News
Photo: University of Alaska Fairbanks

When voting for your congressional leaders, it is important to know where they stand on certain issues. By knowing their stance, voters are able to make informed decisions when they flock to the polls. Being aware of both Democratic and Republican views also provides a certain amount of accountability to the politicians.

Often times when politicians campaign, they include a lot on their platforms that will get them elected. However, if constituents continually call, email and write their politicians about issues that concern them, they ensure a certain amount of accountability to those who got them elected.

Here are five quotes from Republican political leaders that highlight their views on world poverty and global health.


“We face very real and immediate challenges with malaria, air pollution, and HIV/AIDS today. For me, the health effects of climate change are inextricably intertwined with poverty. What we do today to provide clean water, clean energy, and public health infrastructure in the developing world will reduce poverty, combat the health problems that many face today, and will lessen any potential future health effects that may come about because of climate change.”

-Michael B Enzi, Senator of Wyoming


“An important part of protecting Americans here at home involves strengthening our relationships around the globe. America has an interest in helping raise people out of poverty around the globe, so that developing nations can become trade partners with us and mutually realize the benefits of economic freedom and commerce.”

-Terri Lynn Land of Michigan


“Issues like global health and reducing poverty in developing nations have an impact on Americans right here at home. The most recent example is the spread of the Ebola virus. We should be providing humanitarian aid to assist with disease treatment and prevention strategies in nations suffering from the Ebola outbreak. By doing so, we can improve our ability to control and treat diseases in a way that helps stabilize populations there while also protecting our citizens here in the United States. Also, by helping to enable developing nations and communities in Africa to engage in global and regional trade, the United States gains potential new partners to explore mutual economic growth interests with, meaning more jobs for West Virginia families.”

Shelly Moore Capito, Senator of West Virginia


“America’s leadership around the world is rooted by the generosity of our people, the strength of our economy, and the power of our ideas. We have the greatest workforce in the world. We have the most stable institutions. We have the best innovators and free-market economy. We have a Constitution that ensures liberty and justice for all. These are the many reasons millions around the world look to the United States of America for a greater level of hope, freedom, and economic prosperity in their own countries. As the next Senator from Georgia, I will promote economic growth and free trade because the best way for a nation to lift itself out of poverty is to partner with the United States in the free enterprise system.”

-David Perdue, Senator of Georgia


“Extreme poverty and preventable disease are issues that transcend our nation’s borders and must be addressed. I believe the United States must work to reduce global poverty while providing the resources to create growth and opportunity. As Iowa’s next U.S. Senator, I will work to ensure that our great nation has the capacity to provide aid and assistance in international health issues and crises.”

-Joni Ernst, Senator of Iowa


— Erin Logan

Sources: One, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
Photo: Flickr

The recent shakeup of the U.S. Congress could prove to set different standards when it comes to dealing with poverty. In the past, Republicans and Democrats have been at odds about how to handle Americans living in poverty.

Historically, the main difference between the two parties stemmed from a difference in opinion about the funding of social services intended for the lower classes. Republicans contend that spending on social services creates a feeling of entitlement among the poor.

Many social services providers are wondering how their organizations will be affected by the newly elected Republican majority. Democrats and Republicans remain staunchly divided on issues including raising the minimum wage and increasing support for Medicaid and others. Both parties want to help the 45 million Americans living below the poverty line. The problem remains that there are vastly different views on how to tackle this issue.

The economy negatively affects the middle classes as well. Senator Tom Harkins of Iowa supports a bill that raises the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour. He says, “The sluggish recovery has left us with chronic unemployment and a middle class in crisis. For the vast majority of American workers, incomes have stagnated for decades.”

As prices on goods and services rise, American jobs pay relatively the same amount to their employers. The inequality between the upper and middle classes is growing and it seems that corporations and businesses are the only ones who are benefiting.

Marge Clark, a lobbyist for poverty alleviation in the U.S., notes the main reason why poverty in America is growing without a large public response; It is the indifference of of the middle- and upper-class Americans. Inequality and poverty do not garner nearly as much attention as hot button social issues.

Senator Dave Camp (R-Michigan) states that jobs are primarily what lift people out of poverty. So they shift the focus to creating jobs and that regulations should be lifted off companies so that they are better able to produce more jobs. Some say President Obama has stymied job creation. According Senator Camp, taxes and environmental regulations only inhibit job creation.

Whether or not the new GOP majority congress will cut social spending or continue to provide financial services that benefit the poor remains to be seen. What is likely is that anti-poverty groups will seek bipartisan support in congress now that the Democrats are no longer the house majority.

Anti-poverty groups expect a fight. In the past Republicans have sought to cut spending on government subsidized food stamps and other programs many Americans rely on to buy food. In the coming months it will become more evident about how a GOP-led House will respond to this increasingly important problem.

– Maxine Gordon

Sources: Washington Post, USA Today, NPR
Photo: The Nation