It is time we reviewed the cost benefit of our foreign aid program.
President Obama, evidently unaware of the deficit crisis at home, outlined a new foreign-aid strategy in March saying, “The United States of America has been, and will remain, the global leader in providing assistance.” I guess he sees no reason to review the cost benefit of our foreign aid program.
His Administration also seems content to spend as usual. It is hard to believe that while we are unable to agree on a budget at home Roberta Cohen and Martin Abramowitz call on the United States to increase food aid to North Korea. Is this not a nation that oppresses its people and blatantly attacks our ally, South Korea? What do we not understand about rewarding poor behavior?
Elizabeth Ferris urges the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies to reevaluate what protection means in the context of today’s conflicts and to recognize their own limitations in keeping people safe. It appears she feels going to war in Libya over human rights is an act the president can take unilaterally. Actually it is a violation of our Constitution. But they don’t seem to be troubled by that fact.
Many others, however, are beginning to consider foreign aid as being too much, or wasted on corrupt recipient governments like Egypt and Libya. Both the quantity and quality of aid have been poor and donor nations have not been held to account.
Is it really possible that the Administration has requested for the next fiscal year the same aid for Egypt as before Mubarak's fall. Not knowing who the emerging leadership will be, this is not the time for policy on auto-pilot. We need to learn that it is acceptable to close our purse and choose to reward good behavior after the fact rather than squander our dollars, which are now borrowed from China, hoping or trusting in the good intentions of others. How much of our foreign aid to Egypt found its way into Mubarak’s personal accounts? The truth is that we have no idea other than a lot!
The federal agency that provides large-scale grants to the chosen countries to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth, will begin distributing $540 million in aid next month to Sengal despite persistent questions from members of Congress. Why should the Administration worry that Congress is concerned about a half-billion here and a half-billion there? It’s not their money after all. It’s ours!
Did I mention that China receives American foreign aid! China spent tens of billions of dollars on the dazzling 2008 Olympics. It has sent astronauts into space. It recently became the world's second largest economy. Yet it gets more than $2.5 billion a year in foreign government aid.
China has the audacity to claim it's still a developing country in need of aid, while funding America’s propensity to borrow money then give it away. Seems like a very plausible plan on their part!
The bottom line is that we need to be tempered by the fact that we've got to stop spending money we don't have.