The current attempt to cut the U.S. budget and try to revive our economy is making slow progress with few significant savings. The effort seems to focus on domestic spending; duplicative funding, earmarks, outdated programs, entitlements and items that can otherwise be sacrificed in difficult economic times
However, there isn’t much publicity about cuts to our foreign aid budget(s). Monetary assistance to governments and international organizations and programs can be found in many U.S. departmental funding requests. The Departments of Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Justice, Transportation and, of course Defense and State all have line items for foreign assistance.
Often, these monies are provided as a codicil to trade or other treaties and agreements between the United States and the recipient nation. Others are “obligatory” funds due to our membership in international organizations. Some is given through good ol’ big-hearted American benevolence.
The intricacies of foreign aid are not easy to decipher. In reading the justifications for the funds, you’ll find a bushel full of vague reasoning to “promote” this, “enable” that or “encourage” something else. And though many millions of dollars are spent for very good and necessary causes, there are some real curiosities when scanning through government budget proposals.
I went through the State Department’s International Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2010, the most recent I could find. This particular document is for “Foreign Operations and Related Programs.”
Here are a few of those curiosities:
Global Health and Child Survival
China $7.3 million (from USAID and State combined)
Russia $7.5 million (combined – half of all funds designated for Europe)
Mexico from $11 million in 2009 to $17 million
Nicaragua from $18 million in 2009 to $55 million
Why the 300% jump for Nicaragua?
Economic Support Fund
China – $5 million
North Korea – $98 million
Cuba – $20 million
Venezuela – from $5 million in 2009 to $6 million
China? North Korea? Cuba? Venezuela? Almost $130 million to these guys?
“Assistance for Europe, Asia and Central Asia”
Russia – $56 million
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement
Mexico – from $360 million in 2009 to $460 million
Does anybody think we’re getting a decent return on investment here?
International Military Training
Mongolia – $1 million
Vietnam – $300,000
Iraq – $2 million
The numbers are not large (in context) but this is the STATE DEPARTMENT budget, not Defense)
Foreign Military Financing
Vietnam – $1.3 million
Egypt – $1.3 billion (before Mubarak was kicked out)
Israel – $2.775 billion
Mexico – $10.5 million
See above: Over $4 billion from State for “Military Financing?”
UN Regular Budget – from $542,560,000 in 2009 to $597,542,000
Wikipedia describes United Nations funding allocations:
The UN is financed from assessed and voluntary contributions from member states. The General Assembly approves the regular budget and determines the assessment for each member. This is broadly based on the relative capacity of each country to pay, as measured by their Gross National Income (GNI), with adjustments for external debt and low per capita income.
This is a convenient formula for insuring that the United States pays far more than anyone else.
Following are the top ten contributors (% of UN budget)
United States – 22.000%
Japan – 12.530%
Germany – 8.018%
United Kingdom – 6.604%
France – 6.123%
Italy – 4.999%
Canada – 3.207%
China – 3.189%
Spain – 3.177%
Mexico – 2.356%
Other member states – 27.797%
But, that’s just for “membership.” The total amount the United States pays to the United Nations and “Affiliated Organizations” is $1.234 billion.
Budgeting, and particularly cutting budgets, is a very difficult and tedious process. With those that relate to foreign assistance, there are diplomatic and other nuances that further complicate the effort. However, these dollars belong to American citizens and though we want to help those who need it no matter where in the world they may be, we have to maintain our own monetary integrity.
The United States can’t continue to bleed money. Just as domestic cuts have to be made to shore up our economic foundation and promote our own prosperity, so too must our foreign aid be scrutinized and shrunken. If we don’t, this magnanimous goose won’t be able to lay any more golden eggs.