THE BLOG

To Bail Out Wall Street, Would Biden Abandon Kids in Africa?

11/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Now that the Senate and the Roman people have come to consensus that Senator Biden won the debate - obviously he had an unfair advantage, since he reads newspapers - I would like to challenge Senator Biden's apparent suggestion that Obama's commitments to help alleviate extreme global poverty can be put on a slow track in light of Secretary Paulson's bailout of Wall Street.

Yesterday, Just Foreign Policy sent out an alert warning that

If the Bush Administration's Wall Street bailout is enacted, we will be told that there is no money for additional spending on human needs, nationally and globally, in the next Administration - regardless of whether this is true. Already, in the first Presidential debate, moderator Jim Lehrer pressed the candidates to say what priorities they were going to give up, in light of the expected Wall Street bailout.

When Lehrer pressed Obama to say what he would give up, Obama refused to concede anything specific, which was the right response. We really don't know how much the bailout will cost if enacted, and the government could easily recoup the costs from Wall Street if it wished to do so, for example by imposing a small (0.25%) tax on Wall Street financial transactions like they do in England, which could raise $100 billion a year.

Obama should maybe give up making sure that all kids have health insurance to bail out Secretary Paulson's former employer Goldman Sachs, where Paulson took in $160 million at the peak of the housing bubble?

This is what happened in last night's debate:

IFILL: Thank you, Senator.

Now... I want to get -- try to get you both to answer a question that neither of your principals quite answered when my colleague, Jim Lehrer, asked it last week, starting with you, Sen. Biden.

What promises -- given the events of the week, the bailout plan, all of this, what promises have you and your campaigns made to the American people that you're not going to be able to keep?

BIDEN: Well, the one thing we might have to slow down is a commitment we made to double foreign assistance. We'll probably have to slow that down.

In August, NPR reported:

At a speech in Washington this summer, Democrat Barack Obama also spoke about development aid as a strategic imperative for the U.S. in today's world.

"I know development assistance is not the most popular of programs, but as president, I will make the case to the American people that it can be our best investment in increasing the common security of the entire world and increasing our own security," he said. "That's why I will double our foreign assistance to $50 billion by 2012 and use it to support a stable future in failing states and sustainable growth in Africa, to halve global poverty and to roll back disease."

Comparing Obama's statement from the summer and Biden's statement last night would suggest that Obama and Biden would delay meeting this commitment past the end of the (first?) Obama/Biden Administration. How much would that save?

What is roughly at stake is $100 billion over four years. That's not going to pay for the bailout. And what does it mean to delay meeting those commitments?

It means that African children will needlessly die from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Press reports in the last day have indicated that Senator Obama has been calling members of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against the Wall Street bailout on Monday and asking them to switch their votes, apparently with some success. These Representatives - at the very least - should be asking Obama to "clarify" Biden's remarks at the debate. And they should give consideration to Rep. DeFazio's plan (H.R.7240) to strengthen the banking sector without bailing out Wall Street.

And if the Obama/Biden Administration reneges on its commitments to poor kids in Africa to pay for the Wall Street bailout, someone should ask Gwen Ifill and Jim Lehrer what they think about that.