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 Vaughns-1-papers.com. 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.