Donald Trump gained the presidency on a mantra of “America First,” the foreign policy doctrine that has driven his administration. Trump took heat for it, but placing the interests of one's own nation above those of others is how all world leaders operate.
In an increasingly interdependent, and dangerous, world, however, advancing national interests often means acting in consort with other nations. Nowhere is that truer than in fighting a global pandemic that doesn't recognize international borders.
You wouldn't know it, though, by the latest COVID-response legislation passed in Congress. In May, the Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act, providing $3 trillion in domestic investments, but nothing for fighting COVID-19 and its impacts outside U.S. borders.
Obviously, the threat posed by the highly contagious coronavirus anywhere is a threat to the entire planet. When U.S. Senators, including Texas Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, work out their version of the House bill in late July, they ought to ensure that a sliver of the money, less than 1 percent, goes toward fighting COVID-19 globally.
A U.S. investment of $15 billion to $20 billion in the next COVID-response legislation to fund global initiatives also would help preserve the enormous gains made in reducing other infectious diseases in the world's poorest nations.
A just-released poll by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition shows the vast majority of Americans support funding for international COVID-19 assistance, and for continuing multi-national efforts on global health.
“Global health is an issue Republicans and Democrats have agreed on for decades,” said Ken Patterson, a director for RESULTS, a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “In the face of a global pandemic that doesn't respect international borders, this is no time to change course.”
In the battle against COVID-19, strained health care systems around the world are forced to divert established resources, program infrastructure, and community health worker networks from other infectious diseases. Many of the gains the United States and its international partners have made over the last 20 years in child vaccination and eradicating Tuberculosis, AIDS, and Malaria are now threatened.
Assisted by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, as well as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, have saved an estimated 32 million lives. Those efforts have created a more stable world, as well as an enormous amount of good will toward the United States.
Rolling back those gains would leave 80 million more children at risk for preventable diseases. More than 1 million additional people could die from tuberculosis, already the planet's biggest infectious killer. World hunger and deaths from Malaria and HIV/AIDS would increase dramatically.
A global pandemic needs a global response.
Congress should quickly pass legislation that includes less than 1 percent of the funding -- or $15 billion to $20 billion -- to fight COVID-19 globally. Such a judicious action by Congress would reflect the views of most Americans, the bi-partisan efforts of Congress over the past two decades, and the nation's moral leadership on global health.