After I got back from my run this morning, while I was making fresh-squeezed orange juice for my pregnant wife, I heard on the radio that there’s another poll showing that foreign aid is the only part of the budget that a majority of Americans want to cut (ok, only the third of those three things happened…sorry, honey!).
1. Americans usually estimate that foreign aid expenditures make up about 25% of the federal budget.
2. Foreign aid expenditures are actually around 1% of the budget. This includes everything under the International Affairs Budget, things like the State Department, some foreign military training budgets, demining operations, etc, etc. It’s around $50 billion / $3.55 trillion = 1.4%.
3. If you take out the international programs that aren’t strictly aid, if you only look at the USAID budget ($1.389 billion in FY 2010), then we only spend about .03% of the federal budget on foreign aid.
4. GE made $14.2 billion in profits last year. That’s more than 10X what we spent in FY 2010 on foreign aid.
5. Another way to think about this: If we balanced the budget this year, and then completely eliminated that $1.389 billion, it would take us 10,281 years to pay off the national debt (~$14 trillion).
6. In FY 2010, the Department of Defense’s budget was around $690 billion. That comes to about $1.89 billion each day. The DoD spends $1.389 billion every 17.5 hours. They spend the equivalent of the ANNUAL USAID budget in less than one day. Every day. All year long.
7. Yet another way to think about this: we’ve spent around $1.18 trillion on dubiously successful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. That comes out to about $118 billion per year.** $118 billion annually / 365 days = $323 million each day. That means that we’ve spent the equivalent of the ANNUAL USAID budget in Iraq & Afghanistan every 4.3 days ($1.389 billion / $323 million = 4.296 days).
I could go on and on, but I imagine you get the point. Just in case, lemme put it in big letters:
Cutting foreign aid isn’t going to get our fiscal house in order. IT WON’T EVEN GET US CLOSE.
These numbers don’t necessarily show that every dollar of military spending is bad, or that we should eliminate the Department of Defense’s budget, or that every foreign aid dollar is perfect, or that we can’t cut some money from foreign aid. Those are debates for another post. These numbers just show that we won’t get anywhere near solving our deficit/debt problems by starting with the foreign aid budget.
Imagine a messy “fiscal house” nursery. In one corner, you have a 15-foot tall pile of dirty diapers. There are bottles, pacifiers, and other such detritus all over the floor. There’s throw-up on the walls. Where do you start, if you want to get this cleaned up? Do you start with the fetid diaper pile? The soiled walls? Probably! That’s how you get the nursery in order. You start with the big problems, the biggest messes, the most substantial sources of trouble. Starting with foreign aid cuts is like starting the nursery clean-up by picking up a strip of tinsel that’s under the crib.
I’ll close with an example (better than the nursery one) that I used previously: Cutting the foreign aid budget to attack our fiscal problems is like trying to lose weight by pulling one hair out of your head. Not gonna do it.
**$118 billion happens to be, in the worst-case scenario, the TOTAL cost of health care for state taxpayers through 2023…stupid Laura Ingraham (and Orrin Hatch, and Fred Upton). Your call: a year of two-front warfare or 12 years of expanded healthcare! They cost the same, if we use the GOP’s inflated numbers.