Day: October 19, 2011

Cuts to Aid Are Cuts to Security

  Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was fond of saying that the Department of Defense has “more people in military bands than (the State Department has) in the Foreign Service.” His observation reveals a discomfiting inequality in national priorities which has been thrown into sharp relief by battles over the upcoming budget. Far from improving the situation, proposals from both chambers of Congress include substantial cuts to foreign aid. These cuts, totaling $12 billion in the House version, come on the heels of $8 billion in cuts to the State Department budget in April as part of a deal to keep the government financed. If adopted, the cuts would severely undermine national security while making only minor changes to the deficit. If any should doubt the importance of foreign aid to national security, they need look no farther than Afghanistan for their proof. Much has been said of the covert military assistance given to the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, later forming the core of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Less has been said about what was not given: foreign aid and development assistance to rebuild the war-torn country. The fighters, newly armed and trained but unaware of US involvement, returned home to lives and villages largely without prospects. Through aid projects the United States could have brought stability to Afghanistan. Instead we turned our backs, and 20 years later we are...

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Build Trade Relations with China, Not Trade Barriers

  History cannot help us see the future, but it can help us avoid the mistakes of the past. The Senate passed, and the majority of the House would support, legislation that will penalize China for keeping its currency undervalued and enable trade tariffs, but risks ill will and a trade war with China. This is a mistake. We should not be in the scape-goating business, but should take care of our own affairs. The United States will grow and add jobs as we adopt policies and pass legislation that support our economy. Imprudent protectionist measures move us in the wrong direction. The relevant history lesson is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which contributed to the length and severity of the Great Depression. Putting up trade barriers and risking a trade war with China is fraught with danger in our weak global economy. The global engines of economic growth are the United States, Europe and Asia, which is led by China. In 2010 the United States imported over $360 billion of goods from China. We in turn exported over $90 billion of goods to China, our third largest export market and one that continues to grow as China’s economy expands. An indication of the size of the U.S. market and its importance to U.S. companies – GM now sells as many cars in China as it does in...

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Valuing Diversity in Thought – and in Student Body

  Halfway through my first semester at the LBJ School, I have been impressed with the diversity of interests and strengths of my fellow students. I have felt challenged by my classes and supported by faculty and staff. At the same time, I have been disappointed in the amount of racial and ethnic diversity within the school. Based on statistics gathered by the admissions office, LBJ’s currently enrolled U.S. minority student population is 16 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian and 3 percent black. International students represent an additional 10 percent. These demographics do not reflect the makeup of the population that many of us are training to serve. In Texas, the population is 38 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian and 12 percent black. LBJ looks more similar to the United States as a whole with its Hispanic and Asian populations, but still under-represents blacks, which make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. As a school of public affairs, LBJ should affirm that our future policy leaders must understand and represent the diverse experiences of people living in the United States. In class, if we are discussing the disproportionate effects of a policy on different racial or ethnic groups, a diverse set of voices should be available to share their perspectives. And there should be enough of a presence that minority students do not feel as if they are expected to...

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Fluoride Is Too Toxic of an Issue for Austin City Council

  The quality and purity of the drinking water supply has a dramatic influence on the public’s health.  What if a sub-population is known to be negatively affected by something artificially added to the water … should city government stop adding that substance, or at least warn the people so that they can make an informed decision? For three years Fluoride Free Austin has been speaking to Austin City Council about the health dangers associated with water fluoridation. Since that time, tremendous progress has been made. In November 2008, the Environmental Advisory Board of Austin City Council recommended that the city investigate the costs and benefits of water fluoridation. Later, in July 2009, Austin Health and Human Services put a warning on the city’s Web site, informing mothers of the dangers associated with using fluoridated water for infant formula. In January 2010, the federal government recommended lowering the maximum amount of fluoride in drinking water from 1.2 parts per million to 0.7 ppm, a policy change that validated Fluoride Free Austin’s efforts. More recently, on October 18, the Public Health and Human Services Committee of Austin City Council considered putting a warning on the water utility bill, informing citizens about the dangers water fluoridation poses to children and adults. According to government statistics, the practice of adding fluoride to drinking water endangers 31.3 percent of Texas residents. Children five years...

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