Development and Obama’s Budget; Interview with CGD’s Sarah Jane Staats

February 10, 2010
I'm joined for this week’s CGD Wonkcast by Sarah Jane Staats, director of policy outreach here at the Center for Global Development. Last week, President Obama released his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Sarah Jane and others here at the Center have been poring over the budget request, examining what signals the budget sends on the administration's approach to development.

$3.8 trillion is a number a little too large to comprehend; Sarah Jane and I break down some of the numbers in the budget and have some fun comparing development and diplomacy programs with some of the government's big ticket spending items.

Sarah Jane says that of the $12,300 per American in the proposed budget, about $190 would go to development and diplomacy. That compares to about $5,000 for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and about $2,200 for defense. We also discuss the proposed allocations for USAID, global health, and the MCC. One thing we know is that whole picture isn't yet clear—only the top line numbers are available and Congress has yet to have its say. (For a visual display of how the budget stacks up, try this interactive tool from the New York Times.)

Sarah Jane says that, as she wrote last week in a blog post, Obama’s budget request is fundamentally friendly to development. Development spending, along with all other international affairs and national security programs, is exempt from the freeze on discretionary spending.

She concludes that while the money matters it’s also important to remember that there are plenty of ways in which the United States can promote development that don't involve spending, starting with our trade and migration policies.

Listen to the Wonkcast to hear the interview. Have something to add to the discussion? Ideas for future interviews? Post a comment below. If you use iTunes, you can subscribe to get new episodes delivered straight to your computer every week.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.