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Just Because It Is Bipartisan Does Not Make It Right

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Just because it is bipartisan does not make it right. Do you remember the infamous bridge to nowhere? It received almost 100% support in Congress; the invasion of Iraq won a strong bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate. Now we have another bipartisan idea which is gaining momentum: cutting foreign aid to the bone.

Ten years ago President George W. Bush proposed the largest increase in foreign aid in a generation, calling it vital to our national security. But the Republican debaters on Wednesday were unanimous in their push to cut foreign aid: we are spending too much, said Mitt Romney; defund the United Nations as well, countered Rick Perry. Libya should be reimbursing us, Michele Bachman upped the ante. Congressman Paul Ryan called for a 44% cut, the Pauls -- Rand and Ron -- said zero it out. The Obama administration recommended a small cut for this year, the Senate Democrats a larger cut, so now we are not debating whether, but how much. Nobody seems ready to fight over this one percent of the budget.

If you think peace is expensive, we know the cost of war. As the $1 trillion wars in the Middle East wind down, what are we leaving behind? Twice we have upped and left Afghanistan after war, leaving others to clean up the mess, and Afghanis and Americans alike have paid the price for our being profligate in war and cheap at peace. Earlier this year, in the Taliban riddled Helmand province in Afghanistan, an American NGO, which receives significant US AID funding, Mercy Corps, created a vocational tech school with classrooms, Mosque, and local business leaders teaching much needed skills. Seven thousand Afghani's applied, 900 were accepted, and last month they graduated -- most are already working.

Speaker Tom Delay knew the politics, noting that it is tough to explain to constituents why Congress is 'more interested in helping Ghana than Grandma.' If we are training folks in Helmand, Afghanistan why aren't we training them in Hartford, Connecticut? We can do both for less than the cost of a cruise missile.

Foreign aid is 'chronically underfunded and undermanned relative to what we spend on defense, "former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates used to warn those in Congress ready to make the politically popular easy cut. "Not one dime out of defense," Rick Santorum huffed at Wednesday's debate; but US AID funded projects like the vocational school in Afghanistan are on the chopping block. The proposed cuts may be increasingly bipartisan, but they are wrong -- contrary to our values and our national security.

Ned Lamont was the Democratic nominee for US Senate in Connecticut in 2006.

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