It Is Time For America to Rethink Foreign Aid

By Sen. Eric Brakey, Special to the Maine Wire, Jan. 24, 2018

Did you know that you are currently in debt for over $1 million?

As an individual American taxpayer, $1 million is your share of Washington DC’s $20 trillion in debts and $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. And let’s not fool ourselves: Washington DC loves spending the money, but our federal government is going bankrupt and you and your children will be covering the bill. The political class is spending our money at an astronomical rate — borrowing a million dollars a minute — and while they certainly spend wastefully here at home, they also spend money wastefully abroad and often against America’s best interests.

In 2018 alone, $26 billion is planned to be spent on so-called “foreign aid.” Over 100 countries receive these payments from the U.S. government with twenty different U.S. government agencies involved in its distribution. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has thousands of staff members. In and of itself, the bureaucracy surrounding our foreign welfare programs is a problem, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Our problems would be simpler if foreign aid was an easy matter of cutting a check to foreign people in need. Instead, it is a tangled web of bureaucracy, politics and corporate welfare that rarely helps those in poverty, but enriches many special interests along the way.

Former Congressman Ron Paul of Texas describes foreign aid as “taking money from poor people in a rich country and giving it to rich people in a poor country.” And he is right.

When American tax dollars are sent abroad, they are primarily received by foreign governments, not the people themselves. Those dollars left over for direct aid (after what is skimmed off by the bureaucracy and designated for purchases from corporate weapon manufacturers) actually harm long-term economic growth in the region.

Economies grow from the bottom up, not the top down. Yet when Washington sends our tax dollars to foreign governments for economic aid, it reinforces a failed model of central planning that envisions government at the center of an economy.  Not only does this produce a dismal record of results for these programs, but it also empowers foreign governments to use our tax dollars as leverage over their people, creating dependency on the very institutions that often oppress them.

Many of these foreign governments have atrocious human rights records, including the imprisonment and beheading of Christians. They burn our flag, they protect terrorists, and yet, Washington still sends billions of our hard-earned tax dollars into their coffers.

Take, for example, the nation of Pakistan, which never helped us find Osama Bin Laden, even though he had been living there for many years.  When American special forces did finally bring the terrorist behind the 9/11 attacks to justice, Pakistan responded by imprisoning the informant who helped us catch him — and they still keep him behind bars today. For all this, Washington DC has rewarded Pakistan with $33 billion of our tax dollars since 2002.

Thankfully, President Trump announced that he will be withholding aid to Pakistan and is supporting legislation by Senator Rand Paul to cut off these payments permanently. It’s the right decision, and it sends a message to the world that we are once again putting America first. It sends the message that our citizens will not send their hard-earned dollars to prop up a regime that works against our national interests and oppresses their own people.

It is too easy for money sent to foreign governments to be funneled to dangerous groups or to be used to make the government itself richer. Governments that have a consistent flow of funding from abroad have no incentive to make conditions better for their own economies to grow and provide revenue. Unfettered handouts to wealthy, unscrupulous, and often dictatorial governments are not the path to prosperity for the people of impoverished nations.

America has its own problems to address here at home. We have an opioid crisis tearing apart our families and communities. We have an aging infrastructure that demands attention. We have 40,000 homeless veterans. And we have working American families who are having a hard time just getting by.

American citizens who are struggling to pay their own bills — including their tax bill to Uncle Sam — should not have to pay another tax bill to the governments of foreign nations. We need to take a hard look at these foreign welfare payments and start by cutting off the countries that burn our flag and support our enemies.

The United States should not have a “welfare for dictators” program. Let’s end these foreign welfare programs and put America first.

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