The United States Spends Less Than 1% of the Federal budget on foreign aid…
President Trump’s budget has landed, promising big cuts in many areas, as well as a massive $54 billion dollar increase in military spending. I’m far from being a dove, and appreciate the fact that a robust and flexible military is a valuable asset. The United States must continue to lead the world in military might, and must maintain a strong stance that commands respect around the world. At the same time, geopolitical influence doesn’t boil down to just “guns”, but also requires some “butter” or non-military diplomacy.
Why? Wars are rare, but influence is essential. Obviously, a strong military brings much influence with it, but aid projects and aid organizations like the Peace Corps have spread American influence far and wide. These types of activities bolster the “brand” that is America. Setting up farms or providing aid to fight disease buys America good-will abroad.
Having favorable influence and allies bolsters the United States ability to defend itself. The United States is home to only about 330,000 million people out of the 7.4 billion people on Earth. This means our population makes up less than 5% of the world’s population. Strength in numbers, and with massive countries like China and India continuing to develop, we have to be conscious of the population disparity.
Further, alliances and favorable relations ensure access to vital resources. While the United States is quite rich as far as natural resources go, the world at large is far richer. It is vital for American industries to ensure access to resources spread across Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.
China already understands the importance of access to resources. The Chinese have already spent considerable sums developing infrastructure and industries across Africa. The Chinese have also made various other donations and contributions to African governments. Don’t mistake this altruism, however, the Chinese have been trying to aggressively expand their influence in the region in order to promote their own interests.
We need to make sure that we are keeping up, and that will require aid and diplomacy. Without these measures, we could end up falling behind China and other nations.
We Don’t Spend That Much on Foreign Aid
A recent Politico/Morning Consulting poll found that 46% of Americans believe that foreign aid contributes a “great deal” to our national debt. An additional 27% believe that it contributes a “fair amount.” Obviously foreign aid is a big concern for Americans, and rightly so. We should question every dollar spent by our government, and when it’s being spent on non-Americans, we should be especially thorough in our examination.
Digging deeper, back in December of 2014 the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a poll asking Americans how much of the Federal government was dedicated to foreign aid. The average answer was 24%, with 22% of Americans believing that at least 31% of the budget was spent on aid. This same poll found that 56% of Americas believed that we were spending too much, which makes it easy to understand why Trump is targeting foreign aid for cuts.
But do you know how much the United States actually spends on foreign aid? Less than 1% of the Federal budget. When people learned this, those who thought we were overspending dropped to a still high but not overwhelming 28%. Foreign aid is a minuscule part of our national budget. Yet these small contributions go a long way in increasing American influence abroad.
Brian Brinker is an OpsLens Contributor and political consultant. Brinker has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.
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