More for war, less for diplomacy

We do not like to comment on other countries’ affairs unless they impact us. We take the stance that we live in Antigua & Barbuda and we do not have any standing to criticise other countries on their domestic issues and policies. We do, however, believe that we can comment when policies affect us and the world.

You are probably wondering where we are going with this, so we will not hold you in suspense any more. We are talking about the recent United States budget proposed by the Trump administration. You already know our feelings on the United States’ foreign policy as well as their overall ‘America-first-might-is-right philosophy’ but if you were ever wanted a clear picture of what we have talked about, then you simply have to look to the future under the new, proposed budget. 

So, let’s take a peek under the hood of this shiny new document which Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, described as a “hard power budget”.  We can only assume that “hard power” translates into more money for the military and less money for diplomacy and foreign aid. So, anyone thinking that we might find some sympathetic ear regarding the US $200+ million that is owed to us because of the gaming dispute, think again. 

Donald Trump has already indicated that he has little respect for the WTO. During a January 2017 interview with Meet the Press, the US President, when asked whether certain proposed trade policies might contravene existing WTO commitments, said: “It doesn’t matter. Then we’re going to renegotiate or we’re going to pull out. These trade deals are a disaster, the World Trade Organization is a disaster.”

Now back to the budget. The overall thrust of the budget is simply US $54 billion more in military spending being offset by a reduction of $54 billion in domestic and international cuts. And to get an understanding as to how the cuts came about, Mr Mulvaney put things succinctly when he said, “The president’s beholden to nobody but the people who elected him …”, going on to describing the cuts as, “That’s the nature of the beast.”  Someone might want to remind him that the final tally of the popular vote was 65,844,954 (48.2 per cent) to Clinton and 62,979,879 (46.1 per cent) to Trump.

This seems to be more like a ‘to the victor goes the spoils’ kind of philosophy, especially when you consider that the increased military spending seems to indicate that Trump wants to ensure that he is the victor in all types of disputes and wars. 

To that end, it has been reported that the proposed cuts, described by some as being executed in a “meat cleaver” style, actually cut (by 100 per cent) many of the smaller agencies and programmes like the Corporation for National and Community Service; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program; the Institute of Peace; and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to name just a few.

Most notably, the shift to military strength comes at the cost of many diplomatic and international agencies including the Department of State and US Agency for International Development. Included in those cuts are The Global Climate Change Initiative, the Green Climate Fund, the Strategic Climate Fund, and the Clean Technology Fund. But those are not the only environment related cuts. The Environment Protection Agency is a specific target of the Trump administration with hundreds of millions of dollars being cut from the budget, representing an almost 31 per cent reduction. Remember that the president and many of his key advisors on the environment believe that climate change is a hoax.

Not to worry though, the budget does basically maintain the US $19+ billion NASA budget; in case you were wondering. So while there will be a cut in NASA’s Earth science programmes and an elimination of many educational programmes, the trips to Mars and Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, are sill on.   

While you take some solace in that development, you may be disappointed to hear that the Inter-American Foundation that promotes “citizen-led grassroots development” in Latin America and the Caribbean will now be short US $23 million. Likewise, the Overseas Private Investment Corp that encourages US private investment in the developing world will be cut US $63 million while the government-run think-tank, US Institute of Peace, which is focusing on conflict prevention will lose $40 million in funding. Who needs to avoid conflict when you have a mighty military, right?

Of course, we are only touching the surface on the budget proposals and it is very likely that there will be many changes as it passes through the approval process but the first draft shows us, and the world, where America is headed and how the current administration is thinking. Unfortunately, at this time, it seems that our bully ally and neighbour to the north will not be ponying up what they owe us and we may have to wait out this administration before we can arrive at a positive settlement.

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