LOS ANGELES, California — These five notable American politicians who have battled global poverty represent opposing political parties, maintain opposing political viewpoints and lead opposed constituencies, yet they have all made great strides in combating global poverty.
George W. Bush
During his presidency, Bush initiated several programs to reduce global poverty, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), launched in 2003. PEPFAR has provided life-saving antiretroviral treatment to 25 million people living with HIV/AIDS across 50 countries. Bush also launched the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2004 to increase aid to developing countries by 50% over three years, which resulted in an annual increase of $5 billion by 2006.
The MCC provides grants to countries for projects that promote economic growth, combat poverty and improve the standard of living for their citizens. Since its inception, the MCC has distributed over $14 billion in grants to low-income countries.
Bush instituted the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) in 2005 to reduce the burden of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa by providing mosquito nets, medication, and other interventions. Bush also called for $15 billion to help fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.
As Secretary of State, Clinton helped launch the Feed the Future initiative, a U.S. government effort to defeat global hunger and poverty by investing in agriculture and rural development. The project has helped 23.4 million people out of poverty and generated over $15 billion in agricultural sales for farmers abroad. In 2016, Clinton expressed her support for the ONE Campaign on Ending Extreme Poverty, contending that extreme poverty is an issue that “transcends politics.”
Clinton promoted public-private partnerships to advance economic growth and poverty reduction, such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act to reinforce the economies of sub-Saharan African countries, and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a nonprofit that makes clean cooking technologies available in developing countries. Exposure to smoke from unsafe stoves and open fires kills 2 million people every year. The Alliance has reached 40 million households since its founding. Clinton has also been a vocal supporter of USAID and has argued that spending on development is imperative, especially in war zones.
Of these five American politicians who have battled global poverty, Sanders is best known as a tireless advocate for the underdog. In 2000, Sanders supported the diversion of $156 million from the military budget to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2001, he co-sponsored the Harvest for Hunger bill to address famine in sub-Saharan Africa. Later, in 2008, he sponsored the Reauthorization of PEPFAR, which approved $48 billion for the Global Fund to provide assistance in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, diseases that disproportionately affect people in poverty.
Sanders has consistently prioritized spending on poverty reduction programs rather than military interventions and he has continually voted in favor of development programs providing food aid, disease prevention and education initiatives.
McCain spearheaded foreign aid to Tunisia in 2017 after President Trump proposed cuts to the budget. McCain successfully argued that support for Tunisia was crucial to promoting economic growth in the country.
In 2016, to prevent severe budget cuts to foreign aid, McCain drafted an inspiring memo to Congress emphasizing the vitality of foreign aid in promoting global peace and national security. In 2017, McCain introduced a resolution to reassert the U.S.’s commitment to protecting human rights in Cambodia.
Throughout his presidency, Clinton instituted multiple efforts to address global poverty. In 1997, Clinton supported the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), a global partnership to accelerate the development of a safe and effective AIDS vaccine. In 2000, in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), Clinton launched the Global Food for Education Initiative to provide meals to children in poor countries in exchange for their participation in education. He authorized $300 million for the cause.
Clinton increased foreign aid and supported debt relief for developing countries, including the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, which diminishes the debt burden of the world’s poorest countries. He promoted microfinance, and he continues to advocate for global health through his foundation. The Clinton Foundation focuses on health, education and economic empowerment programs in the developing world.
Politicians are often polarizing figures. However, the issue of global poverty cuts through the political animus of the political parties and unites constituents through shared humanity.
These five American politicians who have battled global poverty act as a roadmap for how all people across the political spectrum can cooperate to accomplish the shared goal of eliminating worldwide poverty.
– Skye Connors