Government and People – Mind The Gap

Americans are upset - on average, they think that their federal government spends 28 percent of the budget on foreign aid.i This percentage is simply unacceptable given that 1 in 5 American kids live in poverty.ii Almost 50 percent of Americans thus oppose the levels of foreign aid which their government throws about.iii And they rightly exert pressure on Congress and the Executive to get this spending under control.

When a citizen body is removed from its government, this is exactly the sort of drivel that we should expect. Citizens apply pressure to reduce aid, when in fact, had the government developed the mechanisms to keep that same citizen body engaged and educated, if the people really did run government, the citizen body would be asking for aid to be increased and restructured.

Foreign aid is less than a single tiny percent of the US federal budget.iv Most of that aid does not go to the world’s poorest people. Since 1945, Israel, hardly a poor country, has been the largest recipient of US foreign aid - in 2017 it received $3.2 billion of the total $50 billion foreign aid budget.v Including 2018, it has received $142 billion since Egypt has historically been the second largest recipient with $79 billion to date.vii This is not ‘aid’ in the way we typically understand it.

In contrast, 50 percent of the world’s poor live in 5 countries – the biggest populations in India and Nigeria.viii In 2017, the US gave those 5 countries less than $2.4 billion, 20 percent less than it gave to Tel Aviv.ix Had money gone to these poor folk, that sort of feels like ‘aid’. As a percentage of Gross National Income, the US’s foreign aid wasn’t even in the world’s top 10, a list which did include Germany, UK and Turkey.x

And let’s not even get into a sizable portion of US aid that is tied to US exports – as opposed to allowing the recipient country to choose the best product at the best price.xi In other words, the aid is partly given to help domestic jobs and the economy, compromising it straight away, preventing those starving from getting 2 foreign bags of grain as opposed to 1 American bag.

46 percent of the world is living on less than $5.50 per day.xii Almost 1,000 children die every single hour because of poverty.xiii 1 in 10 people in the world live in chronic hunger.xiv These are not mild numbers – they’re quite catastrophic. We can’t just shrug this part of reality. Detached from even the fundamentals of their foreign aid universe, Americans want to reduce aid further.

But mind you, the bigger question is how is it that the US government operates in such fashion that most citizens seem to have almost no idea what it is that Washington DC is up to or the world that it is doing it in. When government is so far removed from its citizens, we should not be surprised to see sustained pressure to make bad policies …… even worse.

saqib qureshi