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GOP Platform: Abortion Ban Approved By Republicans In Tampa
By PHILIP ELLIOT and ALAN FRAM 08/28/12 05:19 PM ET
Courtesy Huff Post
TAMPA, Fla. -- Republicans emphatically approved a toughly worded party platform at their national convention Tuesday that would ban all abortions and gay marriages, reshape Medicare into a voucher-like program and cut taxes to energize the economy and create jobs.
The document opens by warning that while the American Dream has long been of equal opportunity for everyone, "Today that American Dream is at risk." It pledges that the GOP will "begin anew, with profound changes in the way government operates; the way it budgets, taxes and regulates."
Both parties routinely approve platforms at their conventions every four years, meant to encapsulate their principles and goals. Much of their details are customarily ignored when it comes to actually governing.
Even so, a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found more people interested in the GOP platform than in the upcoming acceptance speeches by presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan. The survey found that 52 percent said they were interested in learning about the Republican platform, compared to 44 percent interested in Romney's speech and 46 percent interested in Ryan's.
"This ambitious blueprint projects a sea change in the way that government works," said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who led the party's platform committee. "It offers a solution for workers without jobs, families without savings and neighborhoods without hope."
Democrats lambasted the platform and immediately sought to tie it to Romney, who has differed from some of its details. For instance, he has said he would allow abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is threatened.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is among several Democrats in Tampa trying to get their party's views heard, called the platform's stances on abortion and immigration "draconian" and "extreme" and blamed Romney. "What you have seen from him is that he does one thing, he says another," Villaraigosa said. "He has taken one position after another, time and again you know, and you can't have it both ways."
Here are key elements of the Republican platform:
It states that the best jobs program is economic growth. "We do not offer yet another made-in-Washington package of subsidies and spending to create temporary or artificial jobs."
The GOP pledges to reform the tax code to make it easier for businesses to generate more capital and create more jobs.
"We reject the use of taxation to redistribute income, fund unnecessary or ineffective programs or foster the crony capitalism that corrupts both politicians and corporations."
It says a Republican administration would extend the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, pending reform of the tax code. It says the party would strive to eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains altogether for lower- and middle-income taxpayers. It also would work to repeal the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.
The party backs constitutional amendments to balance the federal budget and require a super majority for any tax increases.
The platform affirms the rights of states and the federal government not to recognize same-sex marriage. It backs a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
"Voter fraud is a political poison," the platform says. It praises legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud.
The party says it opposes legislation intended to restrict Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the assault weapons ban passed during the Clinton presidency.
The party states that "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." It opposes using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or to fund organizations that perform or advocate abortions. It says the party will not fund or subsidize health care that includes abortion coverage.
The party is committed to domestic energy independence and an "all-of-the-above" energy policy, backing the exploration and development of the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. It criticizes the Obama administration for picking winners and losers in the energy sector and expresses support for new coal-fired plants that will be low-cost, environmentally responsible and efficient.
It adds: "We will end the EPA's war on coal and encourage the increased safe development in all regions of the nation's coal resources." It calls on Congress to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations "that will harm the nation's economy and threaten millions of jobs over the next quarter century."
MEDICARE and MEDICAID:
The platform pledges to move both Medicare and Medicaid away from "the current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined-contribution model." It supports a Medicare transition to a premium-support model with an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee's choice. Age eligibility in Medicare must be made more realistic in light of longer life spans.
Medicaid services for low income people would be transformed into a block grant program in which the states would be given the flexibility to determine the best programs for their residents.
The platform makes clear that "we oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it." It demands that the Justice Department halt lawsuits against Arizona, Alabama and other states that have enacted tough measures against illegal immigrants. It says federal funding should be denied to universities that provide in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants. It advocates making English the official national language.
It states that a Republican president on his first day in office would use his waiver authority to halt progress in carrying out the health care act pushed through by President Barack Obama and that Republican victories in November would guarantee that the act is never implemented. It proposes a Republican plan based on improving health care quality and lowering costs and a system that promotes the free market and gives consumers more choice.
Republicans support consumer choice, including home schooling, local innovations such as single-sex classes, full-day school hours and year-round schools. It says Republicans renew their call for replacing family planning programs for teens "with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior."
The platform says Republicans are "the party of peace through strength" and support the concept of American exceptionalism – "the conviction that our country holds a unique place and role in human history." It criticizes the current administration for its weak positions toward such countries as North Korea, China and Iran and its reductions in military spending. The Republican national military strategy "restores as a principal objective the deterrence using the full spectrum of our military capabilities."
What’s interesting is how subjective the reaction to numbers like this can be. Every death is a life snuffed out, a story aborted, devastating upheaval for those left behind. And deaths towards the end of a war are always particularly painful. How grotesque to be the one who gets shot after the armistice is signed, by somebody who didn’t hear that it’s over. I think it is sliding into that phase of this war.
Yet, the 2,000 mark did not seem to attract wide attention. It’s as though the American public has come to a kind of decision about Afghanistan: “We’re done.” And has simply turned the page.
The problem with this attitude is that Afghanistan―or whatever the crisis may be―has a life of its own. Men and women keep dying, and U.S. policies keep accelerating the centrifugal forces that are driving the country toward civil conflict, which may have profound implications for future regional and international security. Choosing to ignore problems is rarely a good way to solve them.
Why has there been a recent growth of insider attacks?
The tragedy of this war, as perhaps of every war, is the degree to which the rank and file, be they from the U.S. or New Zealand, or from Afghanistan itself, bear the brunt of poor policy decisions made far from the battlefield. The approaches of both the Afghan and the U.S. governments are so riddled with internal contradictions as to drive nearly anyone distracted.
I have watched frustration rising among Afghans since at least 2005. They see government officials make a killing in contract kick-backs as a gaping hole opens up in a just-paved road. They see judges sell decisions, or police captains imprison people for ransom in stinking jail cells in the precinct house basement. Aware that the United States provides substantial aid to Pakistan, Afghan (and American) soldiers watch the insurgents they’re fighting attack from across Pakistan’s border. To the soldiers, it seems the U.S. is playing both ends against the middle―and they’re in the middle.
Meanwhile, international troops cut roads through their vineyards, drive a Humvee into their retaining wall, or sometimes kill their neighbors by accident or desecrate their devotional materials. All to support a government that robs and abuses them. In this context, to an angry male just leaving adolescence, Taliban arguments, and fantasies of violence, can have some allure.
There have been efforts to quantify how many insider attacks to ascribe to “Taliban infiltrators.” I’ve heard ten percent and twenty-five percent. I’m not sure how such numbers are derived. Who qualifies as an infiltrator? Someone carrying a Taliban identity card? Someone who stated ahead of time that he intended to sneak into the ranks? While the number of “sleepers” planted in Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) units with malice aforethought―that is, vetted, trained, and trusted Taliban fighters who are directed to join up under false pretenses with the aim of committing an attack―may indeed be relatively low, life in Afghanistan is rarely so delineated.
Army and police officers are young Afghan men. As such, many are exposed to Taliban thinking. Three years ago, the men with whom I worked in Kandahar came to see me aghast, after holiday visits to family and friends. “I used to know ten Taliban,” said one. “Now I know a hundred.” What he meant was that more and more members of his extended circle were expressing sympathy with Taliban ideas. I doubt I can name a single person in Kandahar who isn’t personally acquainted with some Taliban fighters, who doesn’t find him- or herself sitting with Taliban sympathizers over tea after dinner and debating the merits of jihad. It’s just demographics. And, while these boundaries may be less permeable for young men who wear the Afghan uniform, they, too, are part of the demographic.
A way to address some of the immediate triggers for these attacks might be to establish a joint Afghan-ISAF redress of grievances mechanism, an “ombudsman committee” of sorts, in each unit, where personal conflicts that tap into the underlying frustrations might be aired. Such public and collective settling of disputes is deeply rooted in Afghan culture, and this kind of mechanism could help defuse many of these situations. It could also identify systemic problems in security force development and more clearly distinguish legitimate frustration from pre-planned infiltration.
All that said, the Taliban leadership has been explicit about its intention to infiltrate the ANSF. When, less than a year after the tactic was announced, attacks are visibly increasing, it seems odd not to ascribe at least part of the change to effective implementation of orders.
CAIRO — Staking out a new leadership role for Egypt in the shaken landscape of the Arab uprisings, President Mohamed Morsi is reaching out to Iran and other regional powers in an initiative to halt the escalating violence in Syria.
President Mohamed Morsi is cooperating with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in an effort to end the spiraling violence in Syria.
hand and Iran on the other, said Emad Shahin, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo.
But although it involves collaboration with American rivals, Mr. Morsi’s specific initiative, in particular, also appears largely harmonious with the stated Western objective of ending the Syrian bloodshed.
“This is a reconfiguration of the regional and international politics of the region,” Mr. Shahin said. “It will, of course, raise concerns in Washington and Tel Aviv, but I don’t think this is a confrontational foreign policy. It is a regional foreign policy, tacking a regional problem through the capitals of the four most influential regional states, without looking through the prism of Washington and Tel Aviv.”
Mr. Morsi has already called for Mr. Assad to leave power and end the bloodshed in Syria. The escalating violence there has taken on all the trappings of a proxy war that threatens to destabilize the entire region, with Iran among the main backers of the Assad government and Saudi Arabia and Turkey among the main backers of the rebels.
Despite the failure of the Arab League and United Nations initiatives in Syria, some analysts argued that Mr. Morsi’s regional approach may have a better chance to broker a peace, in part because of the mutual hostility between Iran and the West.
“Obviously, you need channels to the Assad regime — people who are uncomfortable with the way things stand and would like to be seen as playing a more positive role,” said Peter Harling, a Syria researcher at the International Crisis Group, speaking of Iran. “And any effort to reach Iran can’t include the Western camp; it would be impossible if the U.S. was involved.”
The Egyptian foreign minister had already contacted his counterparts in the other three countries to arrange a preliminary meeting, Amr Roshdy, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Sunday. Mr. Morsi first proposed the initiative this month at a meeting of Muslim nations in Mecca, and Iranian state news media has reported that Iranian officials have publicly lauded the plan.
Mr. Morsi is visiting Tehran this week to attend a meeting of an organization of so-called nonaligned states, but his spokesman, Mr. Ali, said the visit would last only a few hours, without any bilateral talks. He also dismissed speculation that Mr. Morsi planned to upgrade Egypt’s relations with Iran to full diplomatic relations. The two countries cut off relations after the 1979 Iranian revolution, and each keeps only a lesser diplomatic outpost in the other’s capital rather than a full embassy, even though most other Arab states — even Saudi Arabia, Iran’s longtime rival — have restored full ties.
Still, Mr. Ali called the inclusion of Iran in the regional contact group on Syria “an opportunity, because Iran is an active party in the Syrian issue.”
“Iran could be part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” he said. “If you want to solve a problem, you have to gather all the parties that have a real influence on the problem.”
The unorthodox combination of players in the proposed working group is a measure of the changing dynamics within the region. Mr. Morsi comes from the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Arab Islamist movement that has long been opposed to Saudi Arabia’s Western-friendly monarchy, which has outlawed the group as subversive.
Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been fierce rivals of Iran. And while Iran has provided military and logistics support to the Assad government, both Turkey and Saudi Arabia have helped arm the rebels trying to bring it down.
Mr. Morsi, though, may be well positioned to bring together the working group, analysts said. Egypt has credibility as “an emerging player in the Arab world and a somewhat successful model of a democratic transition in the Arab Spring,” said Mr. Harling of the International Crisis Group.
He argued that Mr. Morsi’s connections through the Muslim Brotherhood to its militantPalestinian offshoot Hamas might facilitate negotiations because of Hamas’s deep ties inside Syria. Hamas kept a headquarters in Damascus until the uprising and maintains close ties with parts of the Syrian opposition as well as some within the Assad government.
Mr. Morsi’s spokesman, Mr. Ali, stressed that the new president intended to make independence and openness the hallmarks of Egyptian foreign policy. “Egyptian diplomacy will be more active, more vibrant,” he said. “We have gone through a very long period of diplomatic stagnation, torpidity and rigidity.” He added: “We’re not counted in any axis or any old groupings. Therefore, our minds are open for everyone, and our hands are extended to everyone.”
Still, Mr. Ali also made clear that at the moment Mr. Morsi was urgently concerned with the task of reviving Egypt’s moribund economy, and that could constrain its independence.
He has said he hopes to sustain Egypt’s military partnership with the United States, which provides Egypt $1.3 billion in annual military aid.
Egypt has in recent months received $3 billion in loans from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It is seeking a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. And the United States is in talks over the delivery of more than $1 billion in promised aid.
After the subject of Syria, Mr. Ali said that seeking more foreign investment would be the “second element” of Mr. Morsi’s trip to China. As a gateway to Africa and the most populous Arab state, Egypt could be a trade depot for goods from China or a regional center of industry.
But, he said, Mr. Morsi would also be working on redefining Egypt’s international role to befit its historical status as a regional leader.
“We’re not competing with anyone and we don’t seek to form alliances, but we’re pursuing a real role for Egypt that it deserves,” he said. “Because it’s not a small country, whether in terms of geopolitics, or in terms of its population and demographics and the expertise. This is what’s meant by redefining Egypt’s regional role and national security.”
How to Train Your Employees to Handle Social Media [Infographic]
Neil Vidyarthi on March 12, 2012 12:56 PM
So your company wants to engage with social media to help your marketing efforts, but you’re not sure whether to hire an outside firm or to enable your employees to manage the social media itself. It comes down to whether you’re able to find the social media rock stars at your company and give them the tools they need to succeed. A great infographic from Mindflash takes a look at this problem specifically and highlights and a few interesting ways to solve the problem.
First of all, “not all of your employees have the same relationship with social media,” and that’s a fast way to find out who you should be training. Mindflash breaks it down into the Digital Native, the Savvy Technologist, the Reluctant User, the Digital Contrarian and the Digital Newbie. Obviously, the Digital Native is someone who lives on the web effortlessly — they make a perfect fit depending on your social media goals.
The infographic also looks at personal social media use at your company, and asks whether you’ve looked at the policy they operate under.
I Misspoke—What I Meant To Say Is 'I Am Dumb As Dog Shit And I Am A Terrible Human Being'
As a politician, I often find myself in situations where, unfortunately, I express a certain thought or idea poorly, or find my words taken out of context. Indeed, that is what happened this weekend. Upon reviewing the impromptu remarks I made Sunday afternoon, I can now see that I used the wrong words in the wrong way. I would now like to set the record straight with the American people and clear up some confusion about what it was I intended to convey.
You see, what I said was, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” But what I meant to say was, “I am a worthless, moronic sack of shit and an utterly irredeemable human being who needs to shut up and go away forever.”
It is clear to me now that I did not choose my words with care and did not get across the point I was trying to convey. In hindsight, I guess instead of using the words “legitimate rape,” I should have used the words “I am an unforgivable, unrepentant, and unconscionable subhuman dickhead.” Or better yet, “I am an evil, fucked-up man who should never have been elected to the United States Congress, and anyone who would vote for me is probably a pretty big fucking dumbshit, too.” See how much more sense that makes? It’s amazing how a few key word changes can totally alter the meaning of a statement.
Because, of course, it’s all about context. And yes, when you take what I said out of context, I can see how it might sound like I’m denying that women can be impregnated via rape. This is, I assure you, not what I was trying to express at all. Such is the age we live in that one little sentence excerpted in a news report can come back to haunt a person in a pretty big hurry. But if you actually go back and look at the remarks closely, you’ll see that what I was actually trying to convey in my statement was that
(1) I am a big fucking idiot,
(2) I am a nauseating slug of a human being who doesn’t deserve to live, and
(3) I am essentially everything that’s wrong with this country and with humanity in general.
Honestly, that’s all I was trying to get across there. It was a simple misunderstanding, really.
It’s funny, because, in my head, I remember thinking very vividly, “I, Rep. Todd Akin, am a bigoted jackass who probably should not be alive, let alone in political office. People need to know what a terrible person I am so they will then remember to punch me in the face anytime they get the chance.” But when I opened my mouth and tried to articulate that thought, somehow I blurted out the thing about rape instead of just saying, in plain English, that I am awful, just purely and incontrovertibly awful.
Frankly, it’s hard not to make a mistake from time to time when you’re in the public eye as much as I am. I am constantly having to speak my mind in a public forum, and sometimes, when all I’m trying to say is something simple and inarguable, like, “Sweet Jesus, I am the worst person who has ever lived,” I wind up saying something completely different. It’s frustrating, really. Because I have a lot of very pertinent and very well-thought out things to say about how somebody should just smack me in the head with a goddamned cricket bat because of how brainless and insensitive I am, but instead my words just come out all jumbled.
I guess I just have a habit of putting my foot in my mouth! And for being the very worst that Western Civilization has to offer!
So let me take this opportunity to be very specific about what I meant Sunday, which was this: I am not a competent or respectable politician; I am, essentially, a subhuman monster of a prick, a prick as profoundly insensitive as he is monumentally unintelligent in every respect; somebody should apply dozens of layers of duct tape to my mouth every morning so that words are not able to exit my large, dumb, misogynist, imbecilic mouth at any point; I make the planet worse; I don’t know jack shit about any of the topics I spoke about in that interview, or about any topics at all, really; I should apologize every day to the women of the world, but doing so would most likely be an exercise in futility given my rock-bottom intellect and my complete and utter lack of human decency; I am, in no uncertain terms, not even worth the time it took you to read this.
Researchers revive 19-year-old theory to find potential cancer weak link
By Robert Levy
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Communications
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Thomas Earle/Harvard Staff Photographer
“It was a powerful demonstration of the potential of CYCLOPS genes to serve as targets for cancer therapies,” said study co-leader Rameen Beroukhim, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and researcher at Dana-Farber.
Although most cancer therapy targets genes that cause normal cells to turn cancerous, these new potential drug targets are genes that are essential to all cells, but that have been disrupted as cancer progresses.
“One of the hallmarks of cancer is genomic instability, in which entire sections of chromosomes can be lost or duplicated many times over,” said study co-leader Rameen Beroukhim, an assistant professor of medicine atHarvard Medical School (HMS) and researcher at Dana-Farber. “The result is that genes residing in those areas are either deleted or significantly over-copied.”
This roiling of the chromosomes often leads to partial loss of essential genes, leaving cancer cells with barely enough of them to survive. Such genes become lifelines for tumor cells. Blocking them with drug molecules is far more likely to harm cancer cells than normal cells.
As reported in the Aug. 17 issue of the journal Cell, the researchers identified 56 such genes, only a few of which had previously been identified as potential targets for cancer therapy.
One way that cancer cells lose these essential genes is in the process of becoming cancerous themselves. When cancer cells lose tumor suppressor genes — which normally act as a brake against runaway cell growth — it’s common for nearby genes to be lost as well, said the study’s co-senior authorWilliam Hahn, associate professor of medicine at HMS and director of Dana-Farber’s Center for Cancer Genome Discovery.
The work builds on a theory published nearly 20 years ago by Dana-Farber’s then-physician-in-chief, Emil “Tom” Frei III, who suggested in 1993 that blocking the remaining copies of these neighboring genes would cripple cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide.
At the time, the tools didn’t exist to determine whether the theory was valid. Only now, with the development of genomic technology, were researchers able to put it to the test.
Investigators began by scanning more than 3,100 samples of different types of cancer and found that most were missing copies of genes across wide stretches of the genome. They then analyzed data from Project Achilles, a Dana-Farber research effort that has uncovered hundreds of genes critical to the reproduction of cancer cells.
Researchers combined both sets of data to find instances where the loss of one copy of a gene rendered the remaining copy especially important to the cancer cell. From an initial pool of 5,312 genes, researchers identified 56 that met the desired criteria. They dubbed them CYCLOPS genes (for Copy number alterations Yielding Cancer Liabilities Owing to Partial losS), evoking the mythical giant who was dependent on his one eye rather than the normal complement of two.
When researchers checked to see if any of the CYCLOPS genes were neighbors of missing tumor suppressor genes, as Frei had hypothesized two decades earlier, they found that, indeed, many were. Investigators next surveyed the CYCLOPS genes to see if they have similar or divergent functions within the cell.
“We found that they’re heavily involved in the components of three critical cell structures: the spliceosome, the ribosome — which use genetic information to construct proteins for the cell — and the proteasome, which is a vital protein machine that disposes of unneeded protein material. This suggests that they’re required for cell proliferation or survival,” Hahn said.
When the researchers ranked the 56 CYCLOPS genes by the degree to which the cancer cells were dependent on them, the gene that topped the list was PSMC2. When they administered a PSMC2-blocking agent to mice whose tumors lacked a copy of the PSMC2 gene, the tumors shrank dramatically.
“It was a powerful demonstration of the potential of CYCLOPS genes to serve as targets for cancer therapies,” Beroukhim said.
The fact that CYCLOPS genes are often neighbors of tumor suppressor genes makes them even more attractive as drug targets, the study authors said. Tumor suppressor genes themselves have proven exceedingly difficult to target. In cancers with missing copies of tumor suppressor genes, blocking nearby CYCLOPS genes offers a promising way to dampen cell proliferation.
“This study represents a bringing-together of two approaches to understanding the basic mechanics of cancer,” Hahn said. “One involves research into the effect of gene copy number changes on cancer. The other is a systematic exploration of the function of individual genes. By combining these approaches, we’ve been able to identify a distinct class of cancer-cell vulnerabilities associated with the copy number loss of essential genes.”
Source The Times of India TNN | Aug 17, 2012, 05.00AM IST THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The government has initiated disciplinary action against sixdoctors in connection with the controversial death of Bihari youth Satnam Singh. The moveevoked criticism with the Kerala Government Medical Officers' Association on Friday calling for a strike in protest in the hospitals where these doctors were working.
While five of them were given punishment transfers, one was terminated from service. Dr Maya Raghavan and Dr Ramachandran Nair of Government Mental Health Centre, Peroorkada and Dr Hareesh Mani of Kollam district hospital, Dr Chintha Sukumaran of Karunagappally taluk hospital and Dr Kiran of Karunagappally taluk hospital were the doctors who were handed punishment transfer.
Dr Maya Raghavan was transferred to the Attingal primary health centre, Dr Ramachandran Nair to Thiruvananthapuram general hospital, Dr Hareesh to Kadakkal taluk hospital, Dr Chintha Sukumaran to Thazhava community health centre and Dr Kiran to Kottarakkara taluk hospital.
Dr Veena Thilak, who was working at the government mental health centre, Peroorkada, under NHRM contract, was terminated from service.
The action against the doctors was based on the inquiry report filed by the vigilance wing of the directorate of health services, headed by additional director of health service, Dr P N Ramani.
Meanwhile, the crime branch team probing the case has found out that three out of the four inmates of the hospital, who had allegedly attacked Satnam Singh, were accused in murder cases registered in Ernakulam, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts. In a report filed before the court, the crime branch stated that they were brought to the hospital for treatment by the prisons authorities. But they were not taken back to the prisons after they had recovered.
The crime branch has already arrested two persons, Anil Kumar, a second grade attender at the hospital and Vivekanandan, a prisons warden on duty at the hospital, in connection with the alleged murder of Satnam Singh. Please Read at the Original Source
GOP presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan. Photo by: monkeyz_uncle / CC BY-NC-SA
Less than 90 days before Americans cast their ballots for president, President Barack Obama maintains only a slim lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in opinion polls. Amid the specter of a mandatory spending rollback on Jan. 2, many in the U.S. aid community have begun bracing themselves for even more belt-tightening should Romney take office later that month.
“Let me tell you: We’re spending more on foreign aid than we ought to be spending,” the former Massachusetts governor argued in a Republican presidential debate in October of last year.
Until this past weekend, however, Romney has given little indication of his foreign aid budget plans. On Saturday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee named Paul Ryan as his running mate, calling the 42-year-old congressman from Wisconsin an “intellectual leader” of the Republican Party. From his perch as chairman of the House Budget Committee, the staunch fiscal conservative has drawn national attention as the architect of a controversial long-term budget blueprint to dramatically rein in federal spending and restructure social programs. By selecting Ryan, many believe Romney inevitably adopts his divisive budget proposal and principles. Obama has instead proposed a combination of modest spending reductions and a rollback of Bush administration tax cuts, which he argues would more responsibly tackle the ballooning U.S. budget deficit.
Political analysts say that an election once widely expected to be a referendum on Obama’s economic record has now become a choice between two competing visions over the role and size of government. A victory for the Romney-Ryan ticket in November would leave Republicans with a mandate – not to mention tremendous pressure from the party’s increasingly dominant right flank – to adopt the Ryan budget’s sweeping spending cuts, including slashes to U.S. foreign assistance. Over the next 10 years, the House Republican budget or Ryan budget would spend $40 trillion, well below the $47 trillion proposed in the Obama administration’s spending plan.
For fiscal 2013, the Ryan budget would slash international affairs spending by 10 percent below actual 2012 levels to $43 billion. The Obama administration, on the other hand, has requested $56 billion for international affairs in fiscal 2013. In recent years, above 90 percent of the U.S. international affairs budget has been allocated for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development and their foreign aid programs.
As the chart above shows, both the Ryan budget and the Obama administration’s spending plan would impose cuts to the U.S. international affairs budget in fiscal 2014. Under Obama’s plan, U.S. international affairs spending would then rise each year from fiscal 2015 to fiscal 2022. International affairs spending in the Ryan budget would continue to fall until fiscal 2016, hitting just $38 billion compared to $51 billion for the Obama plan that year.
After fiscal 2016, modest increases in international affairs spending would be underway each year for both the Obama and Ryan plans. Ten years from now, in 2022, U.S. international affairs spending would reach $58 billion under the Obama spending plan, 24 percent above the $47 billion target outlined by the Ryan budget.
While Obama’s proposed spending levels for foreign assistance have been met with mixed reactions among the U.S. aid community, most nonetheless credit the administration with keeping the U.S. aid budget largely intact in a tightfisted environment. The president’s fiscal 2013 request of $56 billion for international affairs would represent a 13 percent jump from his first budget back in fiscal 2010.
In stark contrast, leading voices in the U.S. development community have expressed dismay over the Ryan budget. Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam America, describes the Ryan plan as “small potatoes for Washington deficit math—yet devastating for poor people in the field.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Global Leadership Council warned that the Ryan budget would herald a “dangerous direction” in America’s global engagement. House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) adds that the Ryan plan “fails to recognize” the importance of development and diplomacy in U.S. national security.
Republicans in Congress have come to the defense of the aid spending cuts championed by Ryan, making the case that America’s fiscal challenges imperil U.S. foreign assistance in the long run.
“Those who complain about potentially diminished levels of International Affairs funding need to ask themselves how much less an insolvent United States of America would be able to do,” argues Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Beyond its topline figures for international affairs spending, the Ryan budget also outlined a number of recommendations on how U.S. aid agencies might make do with a significantly diminished budget. The Ryan budget calls for USAID to fully embrace the Millennium Challenge Corp.’s model of only disbursing aid to countries which demonstrate a commitment to good governance, economic openness, and social sector investment. The Ryan budget would even consolidate USAID under MCC – a far less likely scenario given USAID’s size and standing.
Ryan would also eliminate Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. The vice presidential candidate argues that the program, which focuses on agricultural development, overlaps with longstanding U.S. food aid efforts.
Connie Veillette, former Director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program at the Center for Global Development, disagrees with that assessment. “[Food aid] is not a long-term program to promote food security. The majority of its funds are for humanitarian responses to acute and chronic problems with regard to food availability and access. It is a “feed the now” rather than a “feed the future” approach,” says Veillette.
Washington’s support for World Bank-administered climate investment funds as well as the U.S. Complex Crises Fund, which finances stabilization and conflict prevention activities worldwide, would also be on the chopping block should a Romney administration fully embrace the Ryan budget. Sizeable spending cuts would also be in store for U.S. contributions to international organizations as well as USAID’s international disaster assistance programming.
Of course, Romney is still the man at the top of the ticket. While his advisers make clear that he supports the tenets of the Ryan budget, they also emphasize that he intends to put forward his own spending plans if elected. Thus far, unlike his running mate, Romney has mostly steered clear of offering specifics on the possible makeup of U.S. foreign aid in his administration.
The CEO-style structure of his campaign, as reported by Politico, also suggests that a host of advisers will have Romney’s ear. His advisers include some well-known foreign aid advocates – among them veterans of the Bush administration global development initiatives – who do not appear to share Ryan’s brand of fiscal conservatism.
Most notably, Romney has recently appointed former World Bank President Robert Zoellick as head of his national security transition team. Credited with modernizing the World Bank, Zoellick has urged developed countries, including the United States, to maintain foreign aid flows even amid the global financial crisis. Romney is also reportedly considering Zoellick as his Secretary of State. Romney’s foreign policy and national security team also counts former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios and former MCC CEO John Danilovich.
While House Republicans remain resistant to a watered-down version of the Ryan budget, the conservative spending plan can claim some common ground with Obama’s aid agenda, particularly in regards to an expansion of performance-based aid. The Obama administration has tapped four countries (El Salvador, Ghana, the Philippines, and Tanzania) for its Partnership for Growth program. Taking a page from the MCC, the initiative aims to support broad-based economic growth in countries that demonstrate a strong commitment to democratic governance and sustainable development. In addition to recommending more performance-based aid, the Ryan budget also emphasized the need for U.S. aid programs to transition to country ownership. The administration’sUSAID Forward reform agenda shares this commitment to locally-led project administration and implementation.
Furthermore, Romney has also committed to bolster economic ties with Africa, which would mark a continuation of the Obama administration’s increasingly business-oriented strategy for engagement with the continent. While compromise has been hard to find in Washington lately, agreement on these areas could form a basis for bipartisan discussions on the future of the U.S. aid program.