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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cutting Foreign Aid

I saw an article this morning in the NYTimes that caught my eye.  It seems that the Russian government wants the U.S. to stop funding a variety a programs in their country from pro-democracy groups, to health programs and other civil society programs.  From what they are saying, the U.S. is meddling in their affairs and doesn't want our money anymore.  You know what, I am perfectly OK with the U.S. cutting our funding to Russia if that's what they want.  After all, its not our country, its theirs, and if they don't want our help or assistance, then so be it.  Unfortunately, this comes in the wake of a good amount of political unrest and dissatisfaction within the country that has been growing since Putin returned to office this past spring.  In addition to all the current unrest, the Russian government is putting in place tighter restrictions and consequences of criticism and libel against their government.  Putin it seems wants to squeeze his iron fist a little tighter than it already is and make life just that much more miserable for his people.  I find it unfortunate that the will of one person can make such a difference for millions of people.  Perhaps Putin should listen to the voices of people living in his country and hear what they have to say about what is going on.  Wait, he does, as long as it doesn't contain any criticism against him or anyone in power.  All told, Putin wants to end the upwards of $50 million dollars we spend there annually.  The foreign aid going to Russia began after the cold war ended and in part helped them recover and grow to where they are today.  Currently, some of that money is going to fund election monitoring groups that seek out ballot fixing and dubious ways of running elections.  No wonder Putin wants the money to stop.  With less money funding these groups, he will have more of an opportunity to fix elections and get the people he wants (including himself) into power.  

All told, $50 million is a drop in the bucket when compared to the total amount of foreign aid we dole out annually and pennies when compared to our own defense budget.  However, perhaps we should start listening to what countries want more than we have been.  If a country exhibits ill will towards the U.S., either from the government or its citizens, I say we cut their funding.  Why should we give money to a country that obviously doesn't like us or our policies.  There are certain countries, I will use Pakistan as an example, that receive upwards of $3 billion dollars each and every year.  The only countries that receive that much are Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Israel.  However, those three countries alone account for close to $10 billion dollars a year.  Last time I checked, Pakistan wasn't a big fan of the U.S.  So why are we still sending that much money to their country if they clearly don't like us.  (Hint: it has to do with nuclear weapons, security, oil, etc.)  I say we simply cut that money, keep it at home and devote it towards perhaps creating some jobs in this country.  When you add up all the foreign aid that the U.S. gives out annually, it amounts to somewhere in the realm of $58 billion dollars.  While that number is still not even close to our defense spending budget (if you include all agencies related to security, our defense budget is around $830 million) it is a good chunk of change that could be put to better use here.  Think about it, we have travel bans on people going to Cuba, yet we send them foreign aid.  Where is the sense in that?  Perhaps I am naive, but I would like the U.S. to get back to focusing on our own problems for once instead of trying to fix problems in other countries. 

What we need is a one year moratorium on giving out foreign aid.  Lets just keep all the money here for one year and see what people's response would be.  There is so much dissent coming from every corner of the globe about how the U.S. likes to meddle in other countries affairs that perhaps we should take a step back for one year.  Just one year and I would like to see the response from all the countries we give money to.  Perhaps then, with less money going abroad and supporting everything from pro-democracy initiatives to health programs, we could begin to whittle down our defense budget.  By cutting our DoD budget (Department of Defense, approximately $530 billion/year) in half, we could save about $1 trillion over just 4 years.  That's a big number.  We can't perpetuate our enormous deficit and hope to come out on top, it just won't happen.  Let us simply play isolationist for a year and let things fall where they may.  I am not saying to reduce the security we need state side, but abroad, lets get rid of it.  To jump back to the whole issue that ignited my fingers with fiery speed this morning, perhaps we should here what a Russian citizen had to say about what the Russian government is doing.  This man couldn't understand why the U.S. aid upset the Kremlin so much, "Free elections are not an American goal - that is absurd," he said, "they are a Russian goal."  Let the people do the talking I say.