On Thursday, Bill Gates sat side-by-side with Ben Affleck as the two testified about the importance of aid to Africa in front of the U.S. Senate appropriations committee. The newest budget might include cuts to foreign aid to try and reduce the deficit. The dynamic duo insist that such a move would be a big step backwards for people struggling in the developing world.
The atmosphere was friendly but professional. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham sits on the appropriations committee and chairs the subcommittee on foreign operations. He greeted Gates and Affleck as they prepared to testify, and generally agrees that cutting foreign aid is no way to balance the budget, once referring to the $40 billion as a “rounding error” in the nearly $4 trillion federal budget.
“To those who constantly demagogue foreign aid as being at the root of our financial problems, please stop,” Graham said according to the Guardian. “Because you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
Bill Gates insisted that foreign aid still has a “big impact” for people in agriculture.
“Given that 70% of all people living in extreme poverty are in rural areas, and most are engaged in farming. The renewed US commitment to agricultural development represents a very sensible, cost-effective approach to reducing global poverty.”
Ben Affleck testified after Gates, not an easy person to follow, according to the famous actor.
“Thanks for having me follow the greatest and most important philanthropist in the history of the world. I’m sure I’m going to come off great.”
Nevertheless, Affleck was not playing Robin to Bill Gates’ Batman. The actor/director has worked on reducing poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for years. He documented his first travels to the troubled country and broadcast them on Nightline on ABC News. According to the Los Angeles Times, he also found the East Congo Initiative (ECI), which is attempting to build-up Congo’s coffee industry.
His appearance before the Senate was meant not only to maintain foreign aid, but get the government to play a bigger role in helping organizations like his.
“The U.S. leadership played a vital role in the recent yet fragile progress toward peace and stability. To ensure this fragile progress does not come undone, we urge you to join ECI and other groups like Open Society, Humanity United, Human Rights Watch and the Enough Project in calling on the administration to appoint a new special envoy without delay.”
Bill Gates and his organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, could also benefit from a renewed government commitment to foreign aid in health care.
Reuters caught part of Bill Gates and Ben Affleck’s testimony on video, see below.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]