WASHINGTON (Feb. 12)
Ten black members of Congress are urging their colleagues in the House of Representatives to cut U.S. foreign aid to Israel and five other countries in order to provide more funds for Africa and the Caribbean.
“We believe that U.S. aid should be reallocated because the current distribution is unfair, inequitable and indefensible, and does not serve U.S. interests,” the lawmakers said in a “Dear Colleague” letter circulated last week.
The letter was signed by the lawmakers individually and not as part of the 24-member Congressional Black Caucus, which traditionally has supported aid for Israel.
A spokesman for Rep. Ronald Dellums (D-Calif.), who initiated the letter along with Rep. George Crockett (D-Mich.), said it is not aimed at pitting various ethnic groups against each other. The purpose is to stress the need for a more equitable distribution of funds, he said.
The letter was triggered by a suggestion by Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) that 5 percent be cut from Israel, Egypt, the Philippines, Turkey and Pakistan to help fund aid to emerging democracies in Eastern Europe and Panama.
The 10 members of Congress added El Salvador to the list and noted that these countries received nearly 70 percent of all U.S. aid.
“In sharp contrast, Africa, the world’s poorest region is always at the bottom end of the aid spectrum, .receiving less than 6 percent of total U.S. foreign assistance,” the lawmakers said.
They added that the Caribbean countries receive less than 2 percent of U.S. aid.
NO MENTION OF EARMARKING
The letter points out that under the current aid budget, “every Israeli would receive $700 in U.S. aid, while every African would receive just a little more than $1.
“How can that be justified when Israeli per capita income is $4,990 and African per capita income is only $683?” it asks.
The Bush administration has proposed $14 million in aid to Africa for the 1991 fiscal year, down from $99 million this year.
Jewish leaders have proposed increasing the total foreign aid budget, rather than cutting the $3 billion in economic and military aid Israel has received in the last several years.
The lawmakers did not mention a major point of Dole’s proposal: giving President Bush more flexibility in distributing foreign aid by ending congressional earmarking, in which most foreign aid is specifically assigned to a country.
The administration supports Dole’s call for flexibility, without endorsing specific proposals on cutting aid to any country.
In an interview last week with reporters from the Jewish media, Ron Brown, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he supports the current level of aid to Israel and is opposed to ending earmarking.
Signing the letter were Reps. Dellums, Crockett, William Clay (D-Mo.), Mervyn Dymally (D-Calif.), Augustus Hawkins (D-Calif.), Charles Hayes (D-III.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Gus Savage (D-III.), Alan Wheat (D-Mo.) and Delegate Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.).