Bush Should Call on Congress To Reduce PEPFAR Funding in Reauthorization Legislation, Opinion Piece Says
"When considering" bills that would reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Congress "must think hard about our priorities," Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. The reauthorization bills would allocate $50 billion for PEPFAR over the next five years -- "more than three times President Bush's original 2003 proposal," DeMint writes. He adds, "To put this number in perspective, it is more than double the $22 billion we spend each year for our veterans. Meanwhile, back home the federal government cannot even pay doctors what they are owed under Medicare."
The legislation "also allows funding for programs" -- such as prevention initiatives aimed at injection drug users, commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men -- that are "counterproductive in the fight against AIDS," according to DeMint. He adds, "Aside from these practices being morally objectionable to many American taxpayers, [the programs] have proven ineffective."
According to DeMint, it "must be noted that the increasing calls for immediate passage of PEPFAR contain a distinct whiff of moral superiority." He adds, "They accuse those of us concerned about America's fiscal collapse and PEPFAR's efficiency of cold-hearted indifference to the plight of our fellow human beings in Africa." DeMint writes that he has "supported and continue[s] to support relief efforts that are well designed to assist Africans in this dark moment," adding, "However, because the best intentions do not always lead to the best results," he has an "obligation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely and accomplish the program's intended goal."
According to DeMint, a "truly compassionate PEPFAR program will find a way to both help AIDS victims in Africa and be fiscally responsible at home." Bush should "call on Congress to trim back PEPFAR funding to his original request, and he should bring the plight of the African people before the country," DeMint writes, concluding that Bush has a "historic opportunity to lead a national charity drive to help our friends in Africa. Ask Americans to help their suffering fellow man and they will" (DeMint, Washington Times, 5/27).