Ahead of a vote in the United Nations' General Assembly on a resolution condemning US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, president Donald Trump and UN ambassador Nikki Haley threatened states voting for the resolution with the loss of US financial aid.

"We're watching those votes" Trump said. "Let them vote against us, we'll save a lot. We don't care. But this isn't like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars and nobody knows what they're doing."

A good call on Trump's part. Now it's time to follow through. Not because the US lost the UN vote, but because US foreign aid is an inherently disastrous budget item that needs to go. Trump seems to understand that. This is an issue he's already begun to address with his 2018 budget proposal, which if adopted as written would have cut the US foreign aid budget from $30 billion to $25 billion per year. The more quickly that number moves toward $0, the better for America and the better for recipients of largess from the American government.

Supporters of foreign aid love to point out that it constitutes less than 1% of the federal budget. True, but that 1% comes with lots of strings attached for both parties.

When the US government throws money at another country's government, it instantly becomes entangled in that country's problems -- internal and external, economic and military, every problem of every sort. For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction -- when America tries to be the good guy for Country A, America also ends up being the bad guy for Country B, and/or for domestic opponents of Country A's political establishment. The potential negative consequences of such entanglements include, but aren't limited to, terrorism and war.

On the receiving side, well, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Washington wants things for its money -- things ranging from support for its military adventures to distortions on the recipients' economies imposed through politics for the benefit of this or that set of corporate cronies. In many cases, the lunch is not just un-free, but insanely over-priced.

Even at current levels, the US foreign aid budget comes to less than $10 per year per American. That's not an argument for keeping it. It's an argument for leaving foreign aid to the private charitable "market." Americans spend one hundred times as much on coffee each year!

If you or I want to "support Israel" or "donate to Kenya" or "fight starvation in India," we can easily afford to do so in like or greater amounts than the federal government does, individually or as members of voluntary organizations, and without those terrible strings attached.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

(5) comments

ronzim

Mr. Knapp strings together a collection of slogans and bumper sticker wisdom which has no intellectual content whatsoever. His opinions do not, however, ameliorate the milieu of the real world. To begin with, our foreign aid is part and parcel of our foreign policy. Just over two thirds of that aid is administered by the State Department, while the remainder is in the hands of DOD. His febrile wish for our foreign aid to be shifted to private charities would likely be a violation of law, at least in many cases. Private entities may not conduct foreign policy; hence, the shifting of military aid and other non-philanthropic forms of assistance would be challenged in court. Moreover, there is no way of ensuring that private philanthropy would achieve the foreign policy goals of American foreign aid. There are numerous American foundations who are already doing yeoman service around the world but foreign policy is not advanced by their philanthropy. Our miniscule 0.17%GDP ranks 20th among the 28 OECD nations and falls far short of the 0.70% minimum standard. This is truly regrettable when we consider the relative size of our economy.

It is untrue that America does not gain any benefit from our foreign aid. Certainly, that part of the aid which builds the strength of our allies, or combats terrorism, or responds rapidly to prevent an epidemic from reaching our shores, are all good examples of aid from which we derive major benefits. That is not to mention the burnishing of our international standing when we respond to humanitarian crises. It is equally scoff-worthy to claim that those we aid are worse off for our aid. The Marshall Plan, following WWII, shows that any such claim is wholly unfounded. Our per-person aid to Israel dwarfs all others in the world. Should we abandon support for such a staunch ally?

Foreign aid should remain a robust adjunct of our foreign policy.

Rokon

Ronzim points out he has the intellectual grasp and a proper understanding of the big picture that the writer does not. But of course this is merely an opinion masquerading as intellectual understanding. The many countries the UN represents that have a bloated sense of entitlement (provided by the USA) desperately need a reality check. They are spoiled children.

ronzim

Rokon: No dice! The only opinion I expressed above is that foreign aid should remain a part of our foreign policy. The remaining 99% of my comments were recitations of fact, which led me to that opinion. I notice, as always, you posted not one shred of evidence which refuted any of what I posted.

che guevara

Charity begins at home , and so long as one single American goes to bed hungry at night , or one single person remains homeless , we should think twice before sending another dime overseas .. This being said , Ron is absolutely correct in his claim that foreign aid is indeed an adjunct to foreign policy , and quite possibly a result of treaty stipulation as well . The question of Israel is indeed a loaded issue that few have the courage to address , as despite being an ally of highly questionable character , the lopsidedness of the Anglo - American - Israeli alliance has been one of deceit and warmongering on the part of Israel . The deliberate attack upon the USS Liberty by Israel in 1967 , in an attempt to goad America into war with Egypt was an act of deceit . The attempts by Israel ( in cahoots with the Saudis ) to instigate war with Iran today is yet another example of this backstabbing behavior by a so - called ally . " By Way of Deception We Shall Wage Wars " , is the motto of the Mossad . The Israeli nuclear program remains enshrouded in mystery , and is a taboo subject for any politician or military commander who wishes to keep their position , or even their life . Dimona went hot many years ago , and yet this remains a heavily guarded topic of discussion . The Israeli engineer, Mordechai Vanunu , who spilled the beans on Israel's nuclear aspirations was imprisoned for decades . I have to wonder just how much taxpayer - funded foreign aide paid for this further affront from a " staunch ally " . Israel has been a spoiled child that does not understand when enough is enough , and the tail that wags the dog for far too long . I have got to disagree with you on this one point Ron . Oy veh ! Da kvetching ist unzer schtick !

I might also add that America has always had a secret destiny , although most are fully unaware of this . America's Founding Fathers were all high degree Masons , who modeled America after the ideals upon which ancient Egypt was founded . This principal is referred to as being the principle of Maat , whereby the sacredness and uniqueness of each individual life is believed to be a divine creation worthy of nurturing towards it's full potential . Such a lofty view of creation is the highest form of praise towards God , depending of course upon what one's interpretation is of this fluid and misunderstood concept . With this understanding , it is truly one of the greatest tragedies in recorded human history that America has failed to live - up to it's most noble destiny by being the world's savior . Money , in and of itself , is a figment of creation by a small cabal of twisted minds who long ago figured out how to cleverly enslave mankind . Resources , knowhow , altruism and compassion are where real and lasting wealth resides . Everything else is strictly personal greed and manipulation of the peoples by a small cabal of criminals , which us why we still wage wars and relegate those least fortunate into the category of social mutants . America has still got about 4500 years to go if it ever hopes to attain the longevity and enlightenment of ancient Egypt .

As Ron pointed out , the Marshall Plan indeed was one stellar example of just what America is capable of doing to elevate his fellow man . While at the same time , the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are ignoble examples of how easily we can slip into the abyss of brutality simultaneously . So then , yes , foreign aide remains the robust adjunct that Ron suggests it to be . Yet at the same time , our so - called leaders must adopt a path on the domestic front that places people above politics and corporate profit . A path that is paved with those highest and loftiest of human and American virtues such as self sacrifice , altruism , tolerance and the keen understanding that mankind will either rise and advance together , or will most certainly fall and perish together . We've all got some serious work to do .

ronzim

Che: We do not have any disagreement with our views on Israel. My lifelong admiration has always been focused on the people of Israel not their leadership which has, more often than not, been misleading at best, and corrupt as is now the case. My reference to Israel as a stalwart ally of America was only within the current framework of international norms. Our pledged $38 bln in military aid over the next ten years ought to have come with conditions requiring Israel to entrain honest negotiations with the Palestinians, and to remove settlements and maintain Jerusalem as an international open city. My esteem for the Jews derives from the manner in which they have faced the violence and oppression sent their way throughout the Diaspora and beyond. In my opinion, they should not have been given their current location. I think they should have given Texas instead. After all, they have a positive genius for converting backward, desolate places into flourishing civilizations.

I like your comment about charity beginning at home. In fact, why not say that as long as there is one hungry American we will spend nothing further on the DOD's perpetually growing wish list, and will increase progressive taxation to fully fund all social safety networks. What good is there in having a nation which fairly bristles with armaments while its people languish in massive inequalities and all of the evils that portends?

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