There is no historical precedent for cutting global health funding during times of economic crisis, according to a study released one day after the U.S. House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor defended such cuts at the Institute of Politics on Thursday.
David Stuckler, assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, coauthored the study, “Does Recession Reduce Global Health Aid? Evidence from 15 High-Income Countries, 1975-2007.”
According to Stuckler, the study originated from concerns that the U.S. and other countries would cut their global aid budgets in response to the financial crisis.
The study found that while some countries scaled back their foreign aid during recessions, other countries, such as Australia and Germany, made commitments to increase funding,
“There are better ways to finance recovery than by cutting vital support to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable groups,” Stuckler said. “The U.S. greatly benefits from investing in global health because it improves security and economic growth.”
“It’s a win-win situation—and part of the reason why President Bush began increasing these commitments in the first place.”
On Thursday night, Cantor (R.-Va.) defended cuts to global health funding as one of the sacrifices Congress must make to balance the budget.
Cantor’s speech was met by protests from the Harvard College Global Health and AIDS Coalition.
Global Health and AIDS Coalition member Krishna M. Prabhu ’11 said that while the group is now targeting Republicans, their mission is, and will always be, non-partisan.
“It’s like a tennis match—you target whoever has the ball in his court,” he said.
While Stuckler’s study supports the Global Health and AIDS Coalition’s cause from an academic and policy viewpoint, it probably won’t change the messaging the group uses, Prabhu said. He added that the group will continue to frame the issue in terms of the people who will be affected by these cuts.
“It’s not that we don’t have the money, it’s just that we don’t choose to spend the money that way,” said Lily H. Ostrer ’14. “When you look at it, health aid is less than one-fourth of 1 percent of our spending.”
Members of the Harvard Republican Club, however, maintained that this is an issue about the deficit, not about foreign aid.
“We are at an unsustainable pace of spending and there are very difficult decisions to be made with cuts. Not every cut is going to be popular,” said club Vice President Kevin R. Palmer ’13.
“Both parties need to work together to cut the size and scope of government and get us towards a balanced budget.”
But members of the Global Health and AIDS Coalition said they believe the budget can be balanced in other ways. Krishna Prabhu’s sister, Mythili Prabhu ’13, pointed to a repeal of the Bush tax cuts and other tax measures as possible sources of revenue.
At Thursday’s forum, she asked Cantor a question about the funding cuts. She said she found his response disappointing.
“We’re not satisfied, and we won’t stop asking these sorts of questions,” she said.