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Have you ever heard people say, "If only we would cut off foreign aid, this country wouldn't have a debt to contend with?"

The next time you hear that complaint, ask them how much of our national budget goes to foreign aid?  

I guarantee they'll say somewhere between 20 to 50 percent. In reality, U.S. government statistics state that we spend one percent of our budget on foreign aid.  Sweden, on the other hand, spends the most of industrialized countries.  They spend 1.12 percent.

After sharing that fact, however, I do see some ways we could better use our foreign aid dollars.

Of the $47.7 billion that was given in 2009 to foreign countries last year, $13.7 billion went to other countries' military (which in most cases means that the money was used to support our arms manufacturers, so much of that came back here), and $33.9 billion went to economic assistance.  Meanwhile U.S. private assistance to foreign countries amounted to $24.2 billion in 2004, the most recent stats available on private aid.

Further disarming (no pun intended) is that one-third of all our foreign aid goes to two countries, Israel and Egypt, according to  Israel gets twice what Egypt gets.  I don't know how Egyptian Spring will affect this statistic.

Another interesting fact is that after these two countries, Colombia in South America ranks third.  Not long ago, some peace activists who have been recently investigated by the FBI, said that our government is particularly concerned about our citizens aiding so-called enemies in Israel/Palestine and Colombia.  No coincidence that these countries are up there in foreign aid from us; Israel for its Middle East presence, and Colombia for its presence in South America.  Most of the other countries down that way have wised up to us by now.  According to Vaughns, our government says the aid is used to abate drug production.

One other country up on the list for foreign aid it Jordan.  Vaughns says its to get that country to leave Israel alone.  Nothing like a good bribe once in awhile.

I had to scroll way way down on the list to see any of the African countries now in the depths of famine, or our neighbors like Haiti, still devastated by an earthquake a year ago.  (To be fair, these statistics were from 2009 before the earthquake or the reported famine in Somalia.)

Another discrepancy that isn't in the statistics above is how much our country spends on our own military abroad.  I guess that's not counted as foreign aid.  Maybe its more like foreign destruction.  We have 1000 military bases located around the globe, and in our current budget, the military takes up 59 percent of our budget, 43 percent of all that is spent on militaries around the globe.  

According to the National Priorities Network, the so-called Axis of Evil spends one percent of that world wide military budget.

So foreign aid as the US defines it, is a very small part of the US budget.  However, when we look at how much money the US spends because of its foreign entanglements, then that sum is most likely very large.

If we could only increase our real foreign aid in order to save the lives of homeless starving refugees in the midst of a famine, I would say go for it, but do it in a systemic way in which the country can be empowered in the process.  Cut our military entanglements and use that money here in the US and other needy countries.  

In my opinion, this would lead to a more peaceful prosperous world that is safer for all people.  Just call me a hopeful optimist!  But I do know our other strategic hasn't worked, and I doubt it ever will.


How would foreign aid be better spent?

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| 15 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Check your figures (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, HoundDog

    The internationally agreed measure of development aid spending is percentage of GDP the government donates in the form of overseas aid. The UN target is for 0.7% of GDP.

    Few nations, mainly Scandinavian reach or exceed that target. The UK government, with all party support, is aiming to achieve it by 2015. The ODA budget is also being revamped to concentrate on monitoring giving to NGOs rather than directing huge programs from London.

    In contrast, the US ODA budget is, IIRC, far closer to 0.14%. While US administrations will claim that private giving makes up for the lack of government aid, this is quite dubious. A lot of overseas charitable donations are for religious rather than development purposes and other countries can be, in relative terms. equally as generous.  

    "Israel was born out of Jewish terrorism." Sir Gerald Kaufman, British MP and son of Holocaust survivor.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 07:49:35 PM PDT

    •  My source (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HoundDog, marykk

      I got my info from, which referred to U.S. government statistics.  Of course, it may have been GDP, not federal budget.  Ill check.  Thanks for your input.

      •  I think that is the problem (0+ / 0-)

        By the looks of the data, it seems the administration is still playing the game of obfuscating the actual figures - which in this case negatively affects the argument you are making.

        Let me explain. one graph on this page shows Federal taxation to be roughly 20% of GDP whereas in other countries national taxation accounts for a much greater percentage.  Say for the sake of convenience that this could be 40%.

        So each 1% of the Federal budget in the USA would only mean  0.2% of GDP in donations but the same percentage of the national government budget in another country could be 0.4% of GDP.

        Neither by the way can the crude total amounts donated be used for comparisons between countries - another favorite trick of US officials. If you look at the graphs onthis page,you will see Italy donates more in cash terms than Denmark. However in terms of percentage of Gross National Income (more or less equivalent to GDP and now used as a more accurate measure of that 0.7%), Italy gives a mere 0.16% compared to Denmark's .88%

        "Israel was born out of Jewish terrorism." Sir Gerald Kaufman, British MP and son of Holocaust survivor.

        by Lib Dem FoP on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 04:10:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The amount is not the point (0+ / 0-)

    Not a single US Taxpayer dollar should be leaving the US - especially when we are in a financial crisis.
    It's long past time for our allies to pay for their own defense, and I don't want another dime of our money going to any other country until we fix our own problems first.   Foreign aid should be FIRST on the chopping block.

  •  My organization receives a small amount of (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, HoundDog, marykk, sberel

    foreign aid.  We get to use those funds to change lives in unique ways.  It shows people in the country where we work a different face of America.  As one person told me once, we are the kinder and gentler face of America for many people.  

    None of the funds go for salaries either, although there was a time when we first started when we were provided with salaries of $300 to $400 a month.

    Foreign Aid is misunderstood.  

    It gets on my nerves, and you know how I am about my nerves...

    by ciganka on Sat Aug 06, 2011 at 11:52:59 PM PDT

    •  That's great - when we can afford it (0+ / 0-)

      When we get our own financial  house in order, we can afford to be even more kind and more gentle.   As it stands now, we are the idiotic "please, oh please love us!" face of America.

      I like donating to charity, too - but I make sure my own bills are paid and my own fridge is stocked, first, and I don't borrow money just to "show a different face".

      Believe it or not, we have hungry, sick, and poor people here, too.    That's all I'm saying.

  •  Thanks for this thought provoking and informative (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, sberel

    post people power granny.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 03:13:48 AM PDT

  •  What's more, not only do most people (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    people power granny

    overestimate the amount the US spends on foreign aid, when asked what it should be "cut" to they usually say about 5% of Federal spending, which of course is five times higher than we're currently spending.

    Make up your minds, folks: do you want more or less foreign aid?

    "We recommend, as a precautionary measure, that people with respiratory infections should be advised not to blow their vuvuzela in enclosed spaces and where there is a risk of infecting others."

    by ebohlman on Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 07:04:19 PM PDT

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