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Special interest legislation will cost lives

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I’d like to take a moment to educate everyone about a new bit of sneaky politics that’s going to starve people to death. Introduced by California Rep. Duncan Hunter, the obscure and little noticed rider is part of a larger bill regarding the Coast Guard budget.

The bill, H.R. 4005, mandates that a huge percentage of foreign food aid be shipped exclusively on American vessels. The goal of trying to bolster the American shipping industry is not terrible, but American food aid should not be sacrificed to drum up business. The bill creates an additional layer of bureaucracy and regulation that will cost the foreign aid program $75 million.

This money was originally slated for purchasing food from local suppliers closer to where the aid is actually headed. Now, instead of $75 million worth of foreign aid, the taxpayer is purchasing $75 million worth of overhead.

That comes out to about 2 million people who won’t be receiving this aid. This is poor management for any business, but we are talking about literal lives being lost because of a restrictive bill that loses sight of the original purpose of aid programs.

This is legislation driven entirely by lobbyists in the shipping industry. Since 2012, the percentage of aid that needed to ship via American vessels had actually been lowered. This was a huge cost-saving measure for the aid programs that was successful in increasing the amount of aid reaching the needy.

Since then, shipping lobbyists have been working day and night to get this measure overturned. Sneaking a rider onto an unrelated budget bill is simply the most recent move in a longer campaign by these lobbyists.

Thankfully, it’s not too late to stop the bill. The Senate Commerce Committee is still considering the bill, but it hasn’t passed yet.

If you really want to help, all the members of the committee are listed at www.commerce.senate.gov. I would recommend using your constitutional right to send the committee members a message about H.R. 4005 and how it will cost literal lives because of the demands of special interests.

Dylan Spohn

Watertown

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