Local votes, global impacts


The following is a guest post from one of our founding mamas, Cynthia Levin.  A friend at dinner recently observed he’s come to the conclusion that whoever wins the election, things won’t really change. No lives will be lost. “Not right here in this neighborhood, maybe,” was my response. “But lives could definitely be lost.”

I have many reasons for supporting Barack Obama for the presidency, including my positions on women’s health, the economy, and equal pay for equal work. Yet one of the biggest reasons is because I am a very active advocate on global poverty issues and I care very deeply about our foreign policy regarding global health. In fact, I just got back from Uganda a few days ago where I observed UNICEF programs providing vaccines and other basic health care to families on the edge of survival making less than $1.25 a day. Over there, even though they cannot participate, our politics are a matter of life and death.

At the Clinton Global Initiative event in September, Romney stated that foreign aid programs focus too much on delivering social services instead of seeding longer-term reforms. The social services I saw delivered to children and mothers in Uganda were very long term. I saw vaccines given to protect children from easily preventable diseases for their whole lives. I saw HIV testing and drugs given to help mothers prevent transmission to their unborn children. Social services ARE long-term reforms.

For more insight on what a Romney foreign aid plan might look like, we can recall the record of his running mate, Paul Ryan. Ryan was not an unknown wonk to me when he was selected to run. I know him well from the year that I battled his budget on the steep cuts it would have made for people in poverty at home and around the world. I fought, with others, against a forty percent cut to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. The Global Fund is a highly respected and effective multi-lateral global health program, which saves an estimated 100,000 lives each month. Fortunately, our reasoned arguments hit home with others in Congress and the Global Fund was spared. Other health programs were not as lucky. Remember that poverty-focused foreign aid is less than 1% of our federal budget. Ryan’s global health cuts would have made no dent in our national deficit and placed a terrible burden on the planet’s poorest people to pay with their very lives.

President Obama understands that not only is it a humanitarian and moral issue of our time to save lives, it has many other ramifications to our strong survival as a nation. Stopping tuberculosis (TB) in global hot spots prevents the airborne disease from turning into multi-drug resistant TB outbreaks in our own country. Ensuring a healthy population in developing nations provides friendly economic partners for us to trade with. Helping impoverished people be self-sufficient allies instead of desperate enemies is a national security strategy much cheaper than wars. It’s true that even our President needs assistance from citizen activists to push these issues forward in Congress, but it’s critically important to the children I met last week that we work with a leader who fully understands what’s at stake.

I feel so strongly about Obama’s presidency, that I voted early before stepping onto the plane on October 23. Everywhere I went in Uganda, people asked if I would vote for Obama and I was proud to tell them “Yes! I already have.”