Thursday, March 10, 2011

Our Ludicrous Foreign Aid Expenditures

Texas congressman Ted Poe brings up a point that I have been griping about for decades. There are currently 192 countries in this world.  Do you know how many of them to which the United States provides foreign aid?  If you guessed over 75% of them, then you would be correct.  The United States provides either monetary or military aid or both to 158 nations on this planet. 

I find that interesting since it would seem that there are nowhere near 158 nations that stand up for freedom and have common interests with the United States.  In fact, often times many of the nations to which we are providing aid are either strategic competitors or downright hate us altogether.  I really don’t understand the purpose of spending tax payer dollars in support of such nations like Russia, Cuba, or even Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.  These nations do not have our best interests at heart, and as Representative Poe says in the video, I don’t need to pay people to hate me.  They can do that on their own.

The problem lies in the fact that the spending authorization for foreign aid comes in the form of one large consolidated bill.  Either every nation on the bill gets their tax-payer funded foreign aid or nobody does.  Congressman Poe is proposing that we single each nation out and provide for an up or down vote for aid individually for each nation.  Now there are some allies that absolutely are in need and indeed deserving of our aid, such as Israel, but I would be willing to bet we could whittle that number of 158 down to low double digits REAL easily.  In light of our current fiscal situation, this is an idea that is long past due.


John Myste said...

You are correct that each nation's aid should be its own request and that we should reduce our military presence in the world.

We need more democrats in Washington, as they are less militaristic.

T. Paine said...

Yes, Democrats do typically tend to be less militaristic; however, they also seem far more likely to spend exorbitant amounts of money on foreign aid where it will do the least good and not further American interests. I think you could consider it as "international welfare".

John Myste said...

International charity, if used sparingly, hmmm. I think I like it.

T. Paine said...

The government does NOT need to be in the role of an international charity. The American people are one of the most generous groups in the world and are always the first to donate to other nations, particularly in disasters, through private charitable donations.

We hardly need governmentally institutionalized "giving" of our money on top of that, particularly because those monies often go to corrupt dictators instead of the people it is intended to help anyways.

John Myste said...

Humans have peers. In a more ideal world, humans who succeed better would willfully share a small portion with the less fortunate. Humans are an entity. Corporations are an entity. Ideally they would share with the less fortunate. It turns out that this would not be struggling corporations, but other humans, since humans and corporations are equals and all entitled to equal protection of the Constitution, but I digress into an area where I have little passion. Nations are an entity. In an ideal world a nation would share a small part of its wealth to make the world a better place for something other than itself.

Cooperation and generosity among entities at every level is not a totally repugnant idea. National giving could be far less than the ten percent required by God, so His favorites can drive Mercedes.

If the majority agree to this expenditure of tax dollars it is has more justification than lots of things our tax dollars are spent on and almost no one agrees to, such as backup engines so in case engines in planes were are not using fail should we decide to use them.

I am not advocating socialism, but only suggesting that a small amount of charity at each “entity” level makes the world a better place, not a worse one, and can be constitutionally legitimized in a representative democracy.

I know you will probably disagree that it is constitutionally legitimized. I am not prepared to argue that case. Instead, without agreeing I will concede that perhaps it should be a state level mandate, not a federal level. If we had a charitable fund to be distributed by the federal government, but supplied by each state at their discretion, would you agree to that, or do you think a constitutional amendment should be created to simply overtly authorize federal charity? (I realize the fallacy involved in the question. How answer it).

free0352 said...

We need more democrats in Washington, as they are less militaristic.


They're pussies.

John Myste said...


Oh, sorry for speaking a in a foreign tongue. Let me try again.

We need more pussies in Washington, because they are less militaristic.

It is not fear of fighting, but wisdom that makes them less militaristic. I can see how this was confusing for you. I have researched it and it turns out that when democrats in Washington commit American lives to a foreign cause, they don't actually do the fighting themselves. They send others, so the idea that cowardice is the motivation for less militarism doesn't work. The idea that they are afraid to fight makes no sense, because they don't fight either way.

Do you really think Bush would have started those wars if he had been forced to fight them himself?

Research it. You will find that what I am saying is true. The politicians do not actually do the fighting.

S.W. Anderson said...

I just spent 20 minutes going through the State Department's short-form rundown of its FY 2010 budget request. Interesting stuff. If you do the same, you'll see the whole matter is neither simple nor cut and dried as Poe and you suggest.

Here are the State Dept. requests for Cuba and Venezuala, and what the money goes for.

"Cuba: The FY2010 request of $20 million will continue to promote self-determined democracy in Cuba. Funds will be used to: provide humanitarian assistance to political prisoners, their families and other victims of repression; advance human rights; strengthen independent civil society organizations; support information sharing into and out of Cuba; and advance political competition in Cuba.

"Venezuela: The 2010 ESF request of $6 million will support efforts to preserve and expand democratic space, through programs that strengthen and promote civil society, citizen participation, independent media, human rights organizations and democratic political parties."

That doesn't sound like paying people to hate us to me. I think a good deal of it must go to radio broadcasts into those countries.

Just under $2 billion of the FY2010 request was for international narcotics control and law enforcement.

Looking back over past foreign aid spending, outlays have been fairly consistent from the 1990's through this year, generally declining, except more has been spent on Iraq and Afghanistan.

The notion Democrats spend a lot more on foreign aid is BS. It takes some effort but you really should do your homework before making broad, unsupported statements.

S.W. Anderson said...

"The government does NOT need to be in the role of an international charity."

Where were you when the Bush administration was having pallets of bundles of $100 bills — tons of them — flown into Iraq, to be handed out like party favors, come one come all? And that was on top of the $9 BILLION that disappeared into Iraq, completely unaccounted for. No accountability, no problemo.

That wasn't charity, just waste.

Now, let's see you find anything comparable Democrats have done. Try to find anything comparable the Obama administration has done. Good luck, because what Bush & Co. did was unprecedented — and grounds for a bunch of people to spend a long time in a federal prison. If only. Democrats haven't done anything like it.

Regarding the government providing charity, I disagree. I'm glad when we step up to help terribly poor countries like Haiti after they suffer calamities like last year's earthquake. I'm glad we're helping Japan, too. BTW, Japan is typically No. 2 in giving foreign aid, behind the U.S.

In any case, we're not talking about lavish spending on foreign aid in all its various forms and different purposes.

The U.S. is the world's biggest foreign aid donor in terms of total outlay, about 0.2% of GDP in 2002, but Denmark gave the highest percentage of its gross national income, 0.96% that year, while the U.S. was near the bottom, giving just 0.13% of GNI.

T. Paine said...

John, in the negotiation or awarding of foreign aid, this necessarily would have to be done on a federal level to be constitutional. That is not to say that private individuals or businesses cannot donate to foreign nations as they see fit; providing those nations are not an enemy of the United States and therefore legally disqualified for giving support to an enemy.

Anderson, as you often ask me, did you read the original post? Nowhere in it did I accuse Democrats of being the only guilty party here. Indeed, this is an issue that really isn't a partisan one to me. It is a matter of waste that both parties have been guilty of for generations.

That is NOT to say that we should not send aircraft carriers or hospital ships to help Haiti, New Zealand, or Japan after a natural disaster. On the other hand, I don't think we need to allocate billions of dollars to help these nations re-build after the fact either, particularly for richer nations like Japan and New Zealand.

When we start getting foreign aid to re-build after Katrina, or California wildfires, or Tennessee flooding, then perhaps you would have more of a valid argument there, sir.

As for Bush and Iraq, I absolutely think that the missing billions needs to be investigated by the GAO and those responsible need to be held legally and criminally, if warranted, accountable.

As for the tired liberal canard that the U.S. is at the bottom of contributors in foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, I say GOOD! I really don't care what Denmark, China, or Swaziland contribute in foreign aid, because when you factor in the private donations from U.S. citizens, particularly in disasters, we trump everybody.

Charity is not charity when it is compulsory through taxes.

The federal government should provide foreign aid to support allies and nations that affect American interests that would be dangerously impacted without that aid. Further, we should try to assist where possible to ensure that those countries that are receiving our aid are enacting measures whereby they eventually will need less or no more foreign aid from America in the future.

Again, did you read the article? I did NOT state we need to abolish all foreign aid, but rather we need to evaluate of those 192 countries which ones our monetary expenditures really serve us best. I guarantee you that the number is NOWHERE near 158 nations.

John Myste said...

Mr. Paine.

I am as pleased to announce it, as you will be to hear it. I have identified your false assumption that is the source of this dispute:

"Charity is not charity when it is compulsory through taxes."

Your argument that in this representative democracy there is no mechanism for federal charity, as to try to devise one is tantamount to compulsion, is flawed. However, if you disagree, I will certainly stand with you in attempting to push the Charity Amendment through Congress. Perhaps we can queue it up in front of the Violate Basic Rights of Homosexuals Amendment the republicans consider at the top of their list of important issues. We really don’t even need that one, as we are already doing it successfully, but I digress.

I unfortunately must agree that this is probably true: “I guarantee you that the number is NOWHERE near 158 nations.” Much of what you have classified as charity is, as you pointed out self-serving military imperialism. When you do your next analysis, I suggest you separate the cause of charity from the cause of imperialism, lest we accidental denounce the one for the offenses of the other. I strongly suspect we will find most of what you find objectionable to be imperialistically motivated financial gestures, which perhaps was the motivation for your article.

Also, I am heartened to see this: “The federal government should provide foreign aid to support allies and nations that affect American interests that would be dangerously impacted without that aid.” Heartened, but at once disheartened. You never know when an act of friendship will come back to you in unexpected ways. What you said is America should care about allies, which is good, and disregard the rest of the world, which is very bad. Just as the poor are American citizens, Haiti is a world citizen. Only when that kind of attitude loses control over the world, will peace and contentment be possible at a global level.

So, I am happy to inform you, that international compassion is actually good for the long term benefit of America, and so for republicans, and so, ultimately for you. You may now embrace it with a clear conscience.

I will acknowledge that maybe you and I are saying the same thing, meaning there is no debate. I offer this possibility to you as an escape route, whether it is true or not. I do so not out of compulsion, but as an act of generosity, for which I neither foresee, nor desire, reciprocation

As for your question about me reading the article, that is a good idea! I can problem gain much insight into the discussion by doing that. I shall read it now.

T. Paine said...

John, the "read the article" comment was intended for our friend, Mr. Anderson, as his comment seemed to not reflect the understanding of what I thought I clearly represented. Or perhaps my feeble mind misunderstood him.

As for your other comments, I don't necessarily think we are too far off from each other. I think as a comparatively rich nation with some means to help, we should absolutely render what assistance we feasibly can to nearly all nations when disasters strike.

I recall Iran being offered help a few years ago after the earthquake there, and while they did not accept or want our help, the offer was still the right thing to do.

Disaster assistance and foreign aid are two separate issues. Indeed, one cannot budget for future disaster aid in helping a another country in our annual foreign aid bill. (Unless you would be willing to loan congress your crystal ball...)

My number of 158 nations receiving aid, came from Congressman Poe's data within the video. While much of that may be military assistance or protection as you posited, that doesn't render the aid as inconsequential.

Indeed, one of our navy's primary objectives is to ensure safe sea lanes for international trade and travel. Why they haven't been completely unleashed on the Somali pirates is a huge mystery to me, accordingly. Regardless, all nations engaging in shipping in international waters benefit from this action of ours, whether they are a friend or potential foe. This doesn't necessarily amount to foreign aid though.

S.W. Anderson said...

"On the other hand, I don't think we need to allocate billions of dollars to help these nations re-build after the fact either, particularly for richer nations like Japan and New Zealand."

We usually don't. Haiti, because it's so poor to begin with, was an exception. Not billions, though. It was about $942 million, and that was held up for nine or 10 months by Republicans.

Now, a question. Where did my other comment go? The one explaining about "aid" to Cuba and Venezuela.

John Myste said...

Mr. Paine,

Firstly, it was a gut-wrenching decision, but I will honor your request. I have decided to lend my crystal ball to Congress. I say my crystal ball, which is not totally accurate. It is my mother’s, but she has not used in years, not sense she saw a face in it trying to communicate with her, so I doubt she even knows where it is. I will steal it for my country. I hope, should they learn more about “the face” they would contact me, so I can tell mom.

Secondly, our agreement in this area brings me much joy. Once again, conservatives and liberals unite. I will lay our view out clearly, to make sure you know what we think:

1. Military relief given to a foreign nation is usually an act of imperialism, done not out of altruism, but for self-serving reasons. This should never again be construed as foreign aid.

2. We should have the following categories in our budget:

a. Imperialistic endeavors. This probably should not be funded, but we definitely need to have the category, so we can see that it is at zero and so we can transfer funds to this category if we see they are being spent on it in practice.

b. Disaster Relief. We have history of the amount we spend on disaster relief. We should budget for it. You cannot not budget for things that do occur and still balance your budget.

c. Good will charity to promote global harmony. As a nation, a small portion of our income will be tithed to something that is not us. Like you, I recognize that “me, me, me” will always keep the earth at odds with itself. Charity given tends to make more people charitable-minded and helps them lose the attitude that your victory is their defeat.

3. We are “assisting” too many nations now. As far as we know the only reason for it is that we are mixing our efforts to be imperialistic with our efforts to be charitable. Separating the two efforts, each in its bucket, will clarify the problem and allow us to propose solutions.

To be perfectly honest, I had not given this topic much thought. I am glad you brought it up for me, though, because now it is “a thing” for me to monitor. I am also glad that we agree about the problem and the first steps toward its solution. I am proud to call you my friend, Mr. Paine.

S.W. Anderson said...

What I wrote (emphasis added): "The U.S. is the world's biggest foreign aid donor in terms of total outlay, about 0.2% of GDP in 2002, but Denmark gave the highest percentage of its gross national income, 0.96% that year, while the U.S. was near the bottom, giving just 0.13% of GNI."

How you responded: "As for the tired liberal canard that the U.S. is at the bottom of contributors in foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, I say GOOD . . ."


T. Paine said...

Anderson, your one comment was in my spam folder and has now been restored.

In regards to the additional information you found regarding Venezuela and Cuba, if that is indeed what this money is used for then I am indeed for keeping that funding.

As for the GDP vs. GNI response, I guess I should not have been in such a danged hurry. Swap the two terms and my premise still applies though.

free0352 said...

We're too broke to be taking care of our own people right now, so please explain to me aid to countries like North Freak'n Korea (historically a huge backer of the US) and non entities with nothing but hatred for us like the Palastinian authority. The only two countries I can see any justification for providing aid to are- Afghanistan and Iraq largely because we invaded them and took on a Marshall plan like responsibility. As for ALL OTHERS- go pound sand.

I being in the military suprizingly say we should leave all forign countries military wise except the following- Djibouti, Iraq, Kuait, Afghanistan, Uzbeckistan, and Bahrain. We should also keep very limited presense in Germany to preserve our NATO commitment, so that would leave Lahandstul Regional Medical Hospital, Ramstien Air Base and Graffenwhor training area. All others, we should redeploy. Our presense in the Pacific can be maintained in American Samoa, Hawaii and Guam, and I covered our Middle Eastern commitment and limited presense in Europe but we've got bases in something like 32 countries and that seems a tad much to this guy since most of them DO NOTHING. Oh, and keep Gitmo because we paid for it and it pisses Castro off.

T. Paine said...

Free, while I understand and to a certain extent even agree with your sentiments, I think logistics require us to maintain some of those forward bases for our own self interests.

Okinawa, for instance, is necessary for its proximity to China and for keeping international sea lanes open in the region.

I have to chuckle at your thoughts on Cuba though. ;)

free0352 said...

However Paine we're closing Okinawa, and moving to Guam so it's a moot point. Further, we can do all the logistical stuff needed for far east operations from guam so we take no hit.

T. Paine said...

Free, I wasn't aware that we were cutting all military operations in Okinawa. I thought we were simply scaling back there, particularly with the various Marine camps. I thought Kadeena AFB was going to stay in operation.

While I am sure that we can adapt and still effectively do our missions, Guam is a lot further east than Okinawa and other forward bases in east Asia. It makes logistics and possible response times a lot longer and more difficult.