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Vassallo, Scruggs Debate: Should the U.S. Cut Back on Foreign Aid?

Steve Vassallo: Absolutely!

Steve Vassallo
Steve Vassallo

A country $19 trillion in debt needs to focus exclusively on reducing the debt, not increasing it by continuing to give away funds that it doesn’t have worldwide. In fiscal year 2014, foreign aid in the amount of $35 billion was distributed to 140 countries. About 22 percent of the funds went to these five nations: Israel $3.1 billion, Egypt $1.5 billion, Afghanistan $1.1 billion, Jordan $1.0 billion and Pakistan $933 million.

By primary category, 24 percent of the aid went to global health issues, 17 percent to financing military equipment, 13 percent to economic support and seven percent to economic development. Geographically speaking, 20 percent went to Africa, 20 percent to the near east and seven percent to south-central Asia.

Republican front runner Donald J. Trump has recently stated that countries receiving military defense assistance should pay for these services. Other areas where the amount of foreign aid can be reduced should be seriously considered.

Should the U.S. begin assessing foreign governments for military protection, the annual outflow of foreign aid could possibly be converted into a net “inflow.” The governments we continue to assist in protecting (such as Japan) are able to spend far less of their GDP on defense as the U.S. is assuming this cost.

Another reasonable alternative is to discontinue foreign aid in the form of grants and commence a program of low interest loans. The day of the free lunch needs to end as the goose laying the golden eggs is now paying a premium to distribute these eggs.

The U.S. simply cannot continue to be the world’s number one provider of charitable gifts. Once the deficit becomes a surplus, this area can then be reevaluated.

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs
Richard “Dickie” Scruggs

Dickie Scruggs: Foreign aid is an inexpensive ounce of prevention that is vital to our global defense strategy.

It is surprising to most that barely 1% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. And yet it is probably the smartest money America spends. Ronald Reagan certainly thought so, remarking that, “[t]he ultimate importance to the United States of our security and development assistance programs cannot be exaggerated.”

According to the Office of Management and Budget, President Reagan supported spending .6% of our GDP on foreign assistance. Yet today, we spend less than half of that.

President Reagan, like all of our recent Presidents, recognized that foreign assistance is an inexpensive measure of insurance against societal instability arising from disease, famine and economic hopelessness. In reality foreign aid complements our global defense strategy by helping to head off wars that might require a far more expensive military response.

A case in point is Afghanistan, a country we assisted when it was invaded by the Soviet Union in the 1980’s, but abandoned after the Russians were driven out. In the intervening vacuum the Taliban took over and created a safe haven for Al Qaida to plan and carry out the 9/11 attacks. The costs in blood and treasure to militarily rectify our failure to stay engaged in Afghanistan dwarf what a little preventive foreign aid would have cost.

It has, lamentably, become fashionable for some politicians to oppose foreign aid as an unnecessary give away that either props up corrupt dictators or attempts to buy friends. While there is some truth in that, it is also true that Israel is the largest recipient of foreign aid outside our remedial expenditures in cleaning up our failures in Afghanistan. Despite Israel’s prosperity, vast military superiority and nuclear monopoly in the region, we give it over $3 billion annually in military foreign aid alone.

Benjamin Franklin famously said that, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Nothing illustrates the wisdom of this aphorism like foreign aid or, too often, our failure to lend it.

Dickie Scruggs is one of Oxford’s best-known former attorneys who now expresses his passion for adult education through the GED in a unique state-wide program he has developed, aptly called “Second Chance.” Scruggs is a well known Democrat and anchors the position of the Left in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at DickScruggs@gmail.com.

Steve Vassallo of Oxford is a frequent contributor to HottyToddy.com covering a wide range of subjects. An arch conservative, the popular columnist holds the political position of the Right in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at sovassallo@gmail.com.

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