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Change We Can Believe In

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

KABUL, Afghanistan -- This place should have had real appeal to Sen. Barack Obama. The poverty of the Afghan people is evident everywhere. Racked by decades of Soviet occupation, civil war and an oppressive Taliban theocracy, the country is a veritable centerpiece for one of Obama's legislative objectives: a frontal assault on global poverty.

Regrettably, when Sen. Obama was here last week to play basketball for the cameras, neither he nor any of the media sycophants traveling with him mentioned the Global Poverty Act of 2007, legislation that he introduced Dec. 7, 2007. The bill -- which now has 23 co-sponsors -- requires the president and his administration to "develop and implement a comprehensive strategy" to achieve "the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide … who live on less than $1 per day."

Failing to mention this noble-sounding legislation during his well-staged visit to this impoverished, violence-plagued nation was a missed opportunity for the senator. And even though he declared himself to be a "citizen of the world" during a triumphal visit to Berlin, he again botched the chance to showcase his warm and fuzzy commitment to "promoting the reduction of global poverty (and) the elimination of extreme global poverty."

Now, this is an idea that pretty much everybody can embrace. It's the kind of utopian ideal that might inspire one to build a campfire on the Senate floor while the sergeant-at-arms searches the library for a Peter, Paul and Mary album. The mere mention of the bill that bears his name -- and which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee April 24, 2008 -- undoubtedly would have brought cheers from the throngs of Sen. Obama's adoring Euro-admirers. He didn't breathe a word of it, however. Why?

Could it be that Sen. Obama didn't want to remind the American people that his landmark legislation was lifted straight from the agenda of the globalists at the United Nations? They call the idea their "Millennium Development Goals." Was Obama trying to avoid questions about how we would pay our share? It would have been nice if the masters of the media who accompanied him here to Afghanistan -- or everywhere else he stopped to take pictures for his photo album -- had bothered to ask.

It's not too late. About the time I return from this poor country, where per-capita income is almost the lowest in the world, diplomats from all over the planet will be descending on Manhattan for the U.N. General Assembly's annual gabfest. Count on another big push to resurrect the Millennium Development Goals -- the long-running attempt to transfer wealth from self-sufficient countries, such as the United States, to poor nations in the developing world.

In September 2000, at the Millennium Summit in New York, Kofi Annan browbeat world leaders into subscribing to what he called a "Global New Deal." Ever since, it's been on the General Assembly's agenda. This year's Millennium Development Goals discussion is the perfect forum for the globe-trotting Sen. Obama to highlight his bill. In addition to combating global poverty, the MDGs include "promoting gender equality and empowering women"; "ensuring environmental sustainability"; "achieving universal primary education"; and "combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases."

The problem for MDG advocates, such as Obama, is how to fund all this idealism. The United Nations calls for the U.S. to hand over 0.7 percent of America's gross national product on an annual basis -- approximately $80 billion each year. Though the U.N., Obama and everybody associated with the idea deny it, it is a global tax on America's national income, and it's been beating around since 1969, when Obama was a child in Indonesia.

The idea of a tax on "wealthy" countries appeared that year in the Pearson Commission's report, "Partners in Development." The following year, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 2626, which stated, "Each economically advanced country will progressively increase its official development assistance to the developing countries and will exert its best efforts to reach a minimum net amount of 0.7 percent of its gross national product."

Sen. Obama's bill that he didn't mention last week would commit the U.S. to a "comprehensive strategy" with "specific and measurable goals." If it is to be funded, it means that the U.S. government will have to start collecting taxes for the United Nations.

The concept of the Internal Revenue Service collecting taxes for the U.N. might not sit well with American taxpayers when gas prices are soaring, the economy is shaky and the Office of Management and Budget is forecasting a record $482 billion budget deficit for next year. Perhaps that's why Obama didn't pitch his global poverty solution here in Afghanistan. He could have been worried that the only "change we can believe in" would be the coins in our pockets.

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