By John Seager, President and CEO
If federal programs were contestants in some beauty pageant – albeit a bit different from the one Donald Trump brought to Moscow, foreign aid would never win a coveted crown.
THAT achievement goes to defense spending — the perennial “winner” in the funding game — even though increases in aid spending would negate the need for pouring more dollars into our already bloated military industrial complex.
Yet, foreign aid just isn’t popular — in part because it’s wildly misunderstood.
Donald Trump’s preliminary federal budget calls for a 29% cut in the State Department. This would entail massive reductions in foreign aid. And, on his first business day in office, Trump imposed an odious Global Gag Rule which will imposes harmful restriction on US foreign assistance in many of the poorest places on earth.
According to a survey commissioned by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Americans believe that 26% of the federal budget goes for foreign aid. They’re off by a country mile – and then some. Actually, it’s about 1% of the federal budget.
Just 1% of that 1% goes for international family planning, which costs the average American about $2.00/year. Here’s what that modest investment yields:
Personally, I feel good that we can help so many women and couples for such a modest cost. Not Trump, though.
Some argue we can’t afford foreign aid because we have a massive national debt. On campuses across the nation, I ask students which country holds the largest share of our $19 trillion national debt. The response is almost always the same: China. I let students know that China holds about 7% of that debt.
The #1 country, far and away, is the United States and our citizens. We own about 67%. That’s right. We owe most of our national debt to ourselves. Tongue in cheek, I ask what we’d do if we didn’t pay it back. Bust our own knee caps, maybe?
There is a thriving cottage industry led by billionaire and former Nixon Commerce Secretary Pete Peterson. He has done a shameful job for decades of convincing many Americans that we can’t even afford to take care of our own here people at home. It’s pure bunk. But, boy, does it sell.
Investing foreign aid in family planning works. For example, we’ve helped Ethiopia reduce average family size by more than 2 children since 2000.
In 2013 General James Mattis, now Trump’s Secretary of Defense said, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.” This view was recently echoed by 120 retired generals and admirals.
There is real peril in a world with soaring population growth where billions struggle to get by. Doesn’t it make sense to lend a helping hand by removing barriers to contraception?