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On this day in 1961, President Kennedy signed the Peace Corps legislation. Kennedy believed that the Peace Corps could provide a new and unique weapon in the war against communism. Initial funding for the program was set at $40,000,000.
1961 was pretty much the epicenter of the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall had been erected only one month before. The Cuban Missile Crisis would follow a year later.
Kennedy realized that diplomacy is ALWAYS cheaper than military action - and that is still true today. His inspiration for the program was likely the 1958 book, "The Ugly American", but he was also aware of the fact that the coups that the CIA promoted in the 1950's weren't always the best way to spread our message, since our anti-communist hysteria caused some truly corrupt leaders to come to power.
Trump's 2018 budget threatened a 15% cut in funding to the Peace Corps. President Trump cited balancing the national budget and emphasizing national security as reasons for the funding cuts. However, foreign aid funding currently takes up less than one percent of the national budget. This move is as unlikely to balance the budget as it is to strengthen national security. Goodwill missions like the Peace Corps improve U.S. relations with developing countries. And efforts that help stabilize these areas preempt extremism and other national security threat.
(If Trump was actually concerned about balancing the budget, he would not have signed the 2017 tax bill, which has led to HUGE deficits).
Since diplomacy is ALWAYS cheaper than military spending, you would think that we would be INCREASING funding for the State Department.
Trump's 2019 budget proposal would reduce State Department funding from around $53.1 billion in fiscal year 2017 to around $39.3 billion dollars, according to Rob Berschinski, a senior vice president for policy at Human Rights First. (Since a 2018 budget hasn’t been settled on yet, State Department spending is locked in around 2017 levels.) It also proposes slashing programs with broad bipartisan support that fund development assistance, food aid, and human rights promotion. (You may remember that cuts in funding for embassy security led DIRECTLY to the attack on the Benghazi compound in 2012.)
Much of what Trump is proposing will never actually happen. Lawmakers are in charge of putting together the budget before he signs off on it, and experts say that even the most hawkish members of the Senate are unlikely to try to enact most of Trump’s cuts to the State Department and USAID.
In September of 2018, the 2019 Defense Budget was approved by Congress and signed by President Trump in record speed with a 2.6 percent pay increase and a $716 billion national defense budget. This is the earliest the defense budget has been passed in the last 40 years.
Even if you aren't very good with math, $39.3 billion is a LOT cheaper than $716 billion - and far more effective at keeping the peace in the world.
The Peace Corps?
The President’s budget for fiscal year 2019 was released today and it proposes a budget of $396 million for the Peace Corps. After already requesting a $12 million cut in fiscal 2018—the deepest from a White House in over 40 years—the 2019 request further reduces Peace Corps' budget by another $2 million.