In this article from The Atlantic, an interview with Bill Gates explains his position on Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric. Intended to appeal to his hyper-nationalist base, Trump’s message that he will be putting American interests above all global interest was a major component of his campaign. This ideology has made an appearance in his policy as well, from the Muslim ban and his harsh stance on immigration from Latin American countries to his decision to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accords.
As we move forward into his second year in office, looking at what else “America First” could mean in terms of limiting foreign aid is ominous. Aside from the obvious humanitarian cost of withdrawing aid from underdeveloped and struggling countries, Gates is concerned with the magnitude of the disaster that could come about if a global health epidemic were to take root. While disease control and prevention is not exactly at the forefront of our concerns at this moment, it takes very little to trigger an international panic similar to what we experienced with the Zika outbreak in 2015 and the most recent Ebola crisis in 2014. As Gates suggests, reducing our funding of global health initiatives and programs in these countries would “hasten catastrophe”. Fewer supplies, facilities, and trained personnel would cripple an affected area and lessen the ability to contain the epidemic. And that puts everyone, even Americans, in danger.
While “America First” sounds great to those who lost their jobs to overseas and people fearing our national security, it’s important to remember that there will undoubtedly be consequences if the president ultimately decides to cut contributions to global health initiatives. Consequences that no amount of guns or American jobs or lower taxes can prevent.