Despite Budget Crisis, Bill Gates Pushes Continuing Foreign Aid

PHOTO: Bill Gates
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Despite economic crisis rippling around the world, Microsoft Co-Founder and Chairman Bill Gates is pushing countries to continue foreign aid efforts to poor and developing nations, saying that every dollar of aid "makes a huge difference."

Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, traveled to Capitol Hill last week to make his case to members of Congress, who are grappling with major budget cuts while debating greater investments to spur job creation.

"They do have a tough constraint," Gates told "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour after his meetings in Washington. "And so the question of should these monies that help the poorest, that enhance national security, should they be cut more than other things? Should they be cut equally? Or should they be preserved?"

"I'm reminding them that every dollar makes a huge difference," Gates added.

Gates will present a plan at the G-20 Summit next week in France calling on the wealthiest countries to continue their aid efforts, despite austerity measures being taken around the world.

"If we really look at how the world's improved in the past few decades, it's very impressive how we've reduced poverty, reduced malnutrition, reduced the under five death rate," Gates said. "And we need to take lessons, the generosity, the innovation, and carry that forward despite the fact we have this economic crisis."

Gates said that despite general opposition to foreign aid, Americans have remained "very generous" on efforts to supply AIDS drugs and malaria bed nets to out-risk nations overseas.

"They're very excited that the U.S. has been the leader in both of those areas," Gates said. "And they're pretty surprised when they find out that it's less than one percent of the federal budget going to aid very broadly, where these high impact health programs are just a portion of that."

Gates said current foreign aid promises are at risk as focus turns to budget cuts and making greater investments and "nation-building" at home.

"There's a question, as you do that, the U.S. lead role in helping the very poorest, get them vaccines and those things, should you do your nation-building by causing more of those people to die or should you maintain at least at the level you promised," Gates said. "And that's really at risk right now."

Gates dismissed the idea of class warfare overtaking the United States, saying efforts to increase the amount of taxes the richest Americans pay are worth debating.

"I just can't imagine these millionaires and billionaires going down and barriciding (sic) the streets because they're going to have to pay four or five percent more in taxes," Gates said. "There certainly is a case to be made that taxes should be more progressive…That's being debated by various people."

Gates did not commit support to President Obama's proposed "Buffett Rule," named after billionaire investor and Gates friend Warren Buffett, which would raise taxes on the wealthiest one percent.

He did say he supports the principle of raising taxes on the wealthy, even if it is not enough to solve deficit problems.

"I'm not an expert on how we should do taxes. Clearly, you can't raise the taxes we need just by going after that one percent," Gates said. "Yes, I'm generally in favor of the idea that the rich should pay somewhat more. But to really deal with the deficit gap we're talking about, that alone just numerically is not going to be enough."

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