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Time to Defund Foreign Aid

Ben Franklin over money

As of this writing (June 15, 2023), the national debt is approaching $32 Trillion.  The actual number is about $31,912,753,000,000, but it is hard to be more specific as the amount of debt grows so fast, you cannot even discern the actual number at any point.  If you want to see for yourself how fast it grows, take a look at the digital display at U.S. Debt Clock.  As President Ronald Reagan once said:  “We could say the government spends like drunken sailors, but that would be unfair to drunken sailors, because the sailors are spending their own money.”

A comparison of our national debt with our Gross Domestic Product reveals the growth is not just due to inflated dollars.  While in 1960, America owed about 53 percent of our GDP,  now we owe about 121 percent of all the goods and services produced each year.  Everyone concedes we are heading off a cliff.  The founder of The Conservative Caucus, Howard Phillips, frequently observed:  “The only difference between the two parties is that Democrats are driving the country over the cliff at 100 miles an hour, while the Republicans want to slow down to 60 miles an hour.”

When a nation owes this much money, so that it cannot even afford to pay its basic obligations, one would think that it might stop — or at least cut back — on giving away money to other countries.  However, that kind of logic has no appeal to a politician.  After all, it’s not their money — it’s the taxpayer’s!  Actually, much of it is not really from taxpayers — it comes from borrowing!!

In 2021, the website OpenTheBooks issued a report on U.S. Foreign Aid showing that the U.S. spent at least $282.6 billion on foreign aid between 2013-2018 — almost $47 billion on foreign aid in FY2018, alone.  The biggest government distributors of foreign aid were:  USAID, the Department of Defense, and the State Department.  The top two recipients in FY2018 were Afghanistan ($56 billion) and Israel ($53 billion).  Other big beneficiaries included, in descending order: Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Ethiopia, Syria, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Lebanon, D.R. Congo, and Yemen.  And, the nation spent an additional $12.2 billion on international organizations in FY 2019.  American taxpayers spent more on foreign aid than was spent in any state other than California and New York.

A recent Congressional Research Service report on U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel demonstrated that since World War II, Israel has been the biggest beneficiary of foreign aid — $158 billion in non-inflation-adjusted dollars.  The population of Israel is only about 9 million people, so that means every year we are subsidizing every Israeli man, woman, and child to the tune of almost $5,000.

Is foreign aid accomplishing anything?  A 2011 Cato Institute report noted that “[t]he international dole has created long term dependency and discouraged reform.  Even humanitarian aid has a disappointing record.”  “Most Third World nations are tangential at best to American or allied security,” Cato noted.

In the Biden Administration, foreign aid is used to advance a political agenda.  A 2022 Heritage Foundation report demonstrated that the foreign aid budget under Joe Biden has become just a means of exporting Leftist ideology and cultural perversion to foreign nations.

“U.S. foreign aid has become an appendage of one political party seeking to advance its radical global agenda of ideological indoctrination while simultaneously expanding a domestic political patronage system.”  Biden has “dramatically expanded the scope of programs that are now authorized to pay for abortion services.”  Also, “the U.S. government [has] explicitly endorsed Marxism as the guiding principle for foreign assistance.  Specific topics for funding under USAID’s forthcoming program include ‘Climate Justice,’ and ‘Promoting Gender and Social Inclusion in Movement Building.’”  Under Joe Biden, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has “established Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) advisers and DEI committees ‘in all of its bureaus, offices, and [overseas] missions.’”

The forces supporting spending are strong.  One Establishment Think Tank that employs former government officials waiting for their next opportunity to “serve,” Brookings Institute, argues that the United States spends less than 1 percent of its budget on foreign aid, and really should be doing much more to cover our “fair share.”

Gordon Tullock and other economists in the “Public Choice Theory” school have explained why there is always a strong lobby for spending on every program, but usually little opposition.  The reason is that the burden of spending is spread broadly on taxpayers, while the benefits of spending are narrowly focused on a few.  Thus, taxpayers do not have the economic motive to research and lobby against spending, and they need to fight against an array of forces, including:

special-interest demanders those who desire favors and privileges from the government at the expense of consumers, competitors and taxpayers; there are politician suppliers who offer government-bestowed favors and privileges in return for campaign contributions and votes; and there are the bureaucratic managers of the regulatory, interventionist, and redistributive system, who are constantly on the lookout for ways and means to expand their authority and increase their budgets as avenues to more power and opportunities for promotion and higher salaries.  [Emphasis added.]

President Trump tried, but failed, to cut foreign aid.  In 2019, Trump proposed to cut aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as those countries flooded our southern border with illegal immigrants.  Again in 2020, Trump’s budget director Russ Vought proposed a 21 percent cut in foreign aid.  But the uniparty in Congress wasn’t interested.

As the Future of Freedom Foundation has noted, “Doling out foreign aid is one of the most blatantly unconstitutional things that Congress does.  The list of powers granted to the federal government in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution includes nothing remotely related to foreign assistance.”

What the Cato Institute concluded in 2011 is exponentially more true today.  “With America drowning in red ink, Washington must cut unnecessary programs…Misnamed foreign aid is a good place to start.”

It was encouraging to see that in its FY2023 budget proposal, the conservative House Republican Study Committee at least talked about cutting U.S. aid to the United Nations, Lebanon, and Iraq, and “cut off funds that allow the Biden administration to implement a new nuclear deal with Iran.”  But despite some encouraging words, the transfer of wealth from American families to foreign governments thus far has gone largely unchallenged in the Republican House of Representatives.

To read the articles in this series, please click here.

Click here to go to the IN FOCUS – Defund The Federal Beast page.

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