Thursday, November 18, 2010

A nice long blog about Politics and Entitlements and Government Spending and Foreign Aid

At least three friends have re-posted this Facebook "status" in the last month.

Homeless go without eating. Elderly go without needed medicines. Mentally ill go without treatment. Troops go without the proper equipment. Veterans go without benefits that were promised to them!!! Yet we donate millions of dollars to other countries before helping our own first!

I've taken issue in the form of a comment each time I've seen this post and each time I've been shot-down by other commentators. I absolutely respect my friends' right to express their opinion but I feel like they are simply re-posting without really exploring the issue.

Here are some thoughts:

  • It's difficult to get real figures which I suppose is typical when dealing with our government.  As best as I can tell in recent years the Total US Budget has been in the neighborhood of $4 Trillion Dollars with about $2.5 Trillion of that earmarked for Mandatory or Entitlement Programs.

  • According the the 2003 "Complete Idiot's Guide to Economics" the US spent it's highest percentage of the US Budget (65%) on "Mandatory Spending" programs appropriated by Congress...also known as Entitlement Programs.  In President Clinton's last year in office Congress appropriated the following:

Social Security: 23% 
Medicare: 12% 
Medicaid: 7% 
Other Means-tested entitlements: 6% 
Mandatory payments (pensions, etc.): 6% 
Net interest on debt: 11% 

  • I'm not sure how the Budget works.  I'm not sure I get the difference between the Mandated Spending...that appropriated by Congress and the rest of the budget.  I see in the 2010 Budget that the Department of Defense gets about $700 Billion which is slightly less than all other Government Agencies combined.

But how much are we spending overseas and is it so much that Americans are suffering for it?

  • Again, it's hard to nail down specifics.  In general though, the total amount of US Foreign Aid (which includes Humanitarian and Food Aid right alongside Military Funding and Political/Development Funding) is less than 1% of our Federal Budget and generally has been for the last 50 years!  

  • According to a Washington Post study most Americans think Foreign Aid is one of our top expenditures.  Most think we spend 15%-25% on International Aid.  When asked what we should be spending, the average is 5%.  Remember, the truth is that we spend less than you could say most Americans feel we should be spending 5x as much on International Aid!

  • A friend referred me to this article which described how President Obama recently promised more than $100 Billion to the UN alone for the fight against Global Warming!  I don't think that money is counted in most figures for Foreign Aid.  That's money the President asks Congress for but it isn't mandated or appropriated ahead of time.  I think.  Which is pretty crazy.

Even so.  Even if you throw in that crazy amount... the amount of money we spend on Foreign Aid is still miniscule compared to what we spend on our own entitlement programs.

  • I don't know if you can put a price on goodwill.  Part of our Foreign Aid spending obviously isn't just because we're such Good Samaritans, although that's part of it.  I can tell you first hand about being in countries where people still love America and Americans because of the Aid we've given or because of our intervention in their affairs.  I don't care how Isolationist you are- intervening to prevent Genocide is always the right thing to do no matter where or who it is!  My opinion.

  • Finally.  What about those homeless people here in America that go without?  What about our our Vets that aren't taken care of or our Soldiers that are ill-equipped?

If our Vets are getting the shaft then vote out the liars that reneged on their promises to them.  That doesn't have as much to do with money we send overseas as it does with lies and mismanagement in Congress.  Ill equipped Troops?  I would argue we have the best equipped and trained military in the history of the world.  Again... the issue seems to me to be mismanagement on the part of the Civilians (Congress) that are involved in decision-making.  Homelessness and Elderly without medicine?  Maybe as a Church we've abrogated our responsibility by expecting our Government to do everything for us.

I'm not against spending to take care of our own.  I am against waste and corruption and creating dependency.  Americans give more personal funds for "Aid" at home and abroad than probably people in any other country.  We are generous and I think it stems mostly from our Christian heritage.  I wonder how much more we could give if we could get our Government out of our pocket?

I remember memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution back in the 8th Grade.  I remember these legitimate roles of Government according to our Founding Fathers:

Establish Justice (rule of law)
Insure Domestic Tranquility (quell rebellions)
Provide for the Common Defense (a National Army/Navy to defend us)
Promote the General Welfare (Founding Fathers weren't thinking Entitlement Programs as much as...just keep Government from intruding into people's lives so much that it hurts more than helps).
Secure the blessings of Liberty for us and our posterity- (What are the "Blessings of Liberty"?...I think they were enumerated in the Bill of Rights).

So where does Foreign Aid fit in?  I'm not sure it fits according to those Roles of Government in the Preamble.  But I do think it's money well spent.  I don't think anyone in America is suffering because of what we're sending overseas.  I'm Pro-Military but I read that two B2 Bombers that cost $4.4 Billion Dollars is more than the total budget of The World Food Program ($3.2 Billion Budget and is the largest relief agency in the world) which assists 104 million starving and malnourished people in 81 countries.

What do you think?  You are welcome to disagree with me.  Several folks on Facebook did already.


Vickie (Clinton's sister) said...

Amazing... I'm with you.

melinda said...

Well put Clinton. Saw your link on Carrie's page.
How's the Russian language acquisition going?