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article imageOp-Ed: In seeking spending cuts, U.S. should examine foreign investments

By Michael Krebs     Nov 6, 2010 in World
The American voting public is being told that our belts have to be tightened and that our benefits have to be sacrificed and that our taxes have to be increased - but should we not take an objective look at foreign aid?
The GOP claims that President Obama's trip to India will cost American tax payers $200 million a day - a figure that is soundly denied by the White House. But the trip will certainly have a price tag - and one can ponder infinitely what will come from a visit of this nature and at this time in history.
The American voting public is being inundated with equations that increasingly point to more meager outcomes. The federal government would like us to believe that we have two choices - increase our taxes to tread water in support of our current and future programs, including government-sponsored health care, or retain our current tax structure and face the kind of fiscal abyss that can only yield broad losses in social and infrastructure programs.
In other words, stomach these changes now or the sky will otherwise fall in nasty shards upon the fabric of American society.
Social Security and Medicare are cited in these dire examples - and both are projected mathematically to fail within an alarmingly short time period. Americans are also faced with the grim prospects of crumbling infrastructure, a health care system that is on a compound growth trajectory, an immigration management disaster, homeland security measures that are tallying significant budgets, state and federal pension issues, unemployment benefits, and housing market pressures that are seeping from the mess that is Fannie Mae.
Simply put, the numbers do not work.
So - as ugly as it may seem, the United States is going to have to start looking at the totality of its foreign aid program - inclusive of military aid and military bases worldwide.
The U.S. defense budget in 2009 was $782 billion, or 23 percent of the entire federal budget. Social Security represented 20 percent, and Medicare and Medicaid composed 19 percent - rounding out the top three budgetary priorities of the American federal government.
But how much of that defense budget is allocated toward bases in Europe and Japan and South Korea where open combat is not present? How much of that defense budget is allocated toward countries that frankly use it as blackmail not to fight each other? Israel and Egypt come to immediate mind, as detailed below.
In April 2010, the Heritage Foundation commissioned a report to analyze the tangible benefits of U.S. foreign aid - looking specifically at the support garnered by American aid in terms of like-minded votes in the United Nations. Studying an eight-year period from 2000-2008, some alarming investments were noted.
The top five countries receiving foreign aid from the United States over the eight years studied represented a total expenditure of $135.4 billion:
Iraq received $51.2 billion
Israel received $29.4 billion
Afghanistan received $25.6 billion
Egypt received $18.5 billion
Russia received $10.7 billion
However, in 2008, Iraq supported U.S. initiatives in United Nations voting only 8.6 percent of the time; Israel did so 90.2 percent of the time; Afghanistan 17.5 percent; Egypt 12 percent; Russia 25.1 percent. The Iraqi and Egyptian figures are stunning - given that they are the lowest among the 30 countries measured in the Heritage Foundation report, and yet they rank first and fourth respectively.
The Heritage Foundation findings point squarely to the fact that American foreign aid is not yielding a proper return on investment in terms of global mind-share toward American aims. This failure in results should allow for more scrutiny in terms of any perceived ongoing need to continue with these programs.
While some could argue that the United States' foreign aid program represents a small percentage of overall GDP, the GDP is a very large figure - and the percentage allocated reflects a very large amount of money. These dollars could be better invested in environments where they are more readily appreciated - namely within the U.S. borders.
The American empire is in a state of retraction - and this should be celebrated. An American pullback from the rest of the world would have a flurry of awkward outcomes, but if our nation's objectives are not being met globally or domestically we are likely foolish to stay the course.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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