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October 21, 2020

Foreign Aid Folly

The Trump administration is threatening to withhold nearly $130 million in U.S. foreign aid to Ethiopia.

Good. But this is simply another case of the right policy for the wrong reason.

The reason is not important. I will make it as simple as I can.

Ethiopia wants to build a dam on the Nile River. Egypt and Sudan oppose the dam “until the countries reached a legally binding deal that would address how to manage water flows during droughts or dryer rainy seasons, and established a mechanism to resolve disputes regarding the dam.” The United States is trying to mediate the dispute.

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in fiscal year 2019, the United States provided $829 million in foreign assistance to Ethiopia. That amount is “only” supposed to be $144 million for fiscal year 2020.

The United States is threatening to withhold funding for security assistance, counterterrorism and military education and training, anti-human trafficking programs, and broader development assistance funding, but not funding for emergency humanitarian relief, food assistance, or health programs aimed at addressing COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS.

How many Americans know that the U.S. government gives millions of American taxpayer dollars to Ethiopia every year? Even back in 2001, American taxpayers handed over $151 to Ethiopia.

How many Americans would willingly give some of their money to the government of Ethiopia, NGOs that operate in Ethiopia, or directly to the Ethiopian people?

Americans are a generous people. Perhaps some of them would. Maybe they have family in Ethiopia, maybe they trace their ancestry back to Ethiopia, maybe they have a bleeding heart, maybe they want to do it for the children in Ethiopia, maybe they want to make the world a better place, or maybe they feel guilty about living a comfortable life in America?

But if the government of Ethiopia or the government of the United States sent a letter to every American household appealing for funds for Ethiopia, how many Americans would get out their wallet, checkbook, or credit card?

I think you know the answer.

And, of course, it’s not just Ethiopia.

According to ForeignAssistance.gov:

Today, the U.S. manages foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries around the world through the efforts of over 20 different U.S. government agencies. These investments further America’s foreign policy interests on issues ranging from expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global good will.

One hundred countries? If you think that sounds expensive, then you are right. The amount of foreign assistance requested for fiscal year 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020-Sept. 30, 2021) is $31.2 billion. This includes 3.3 billion for Israel, 124.5 million for Iraq, $371.8 million for Afghanistan, 1.381 billion for Egypt, 102.3 million for South Sudan, 90.7 million for India, and $316.9 million for Ukraine.

Again, how many Americans know this and how many Americans would willingly give some of their money to government of, or the people in, these countries?

The answer to both questions is undoubtedly the same: not too many.

Yes, foreign aid should be withheld from Ethiopia this year, next year, and every year after that. But it should also be withheld from every other country as well.

Fortunately, I have a new publication that tells the unvarnished truth about foreign aid.

Foreign Aid Folly is a collection of eleven essays written over the past ten years for six different publications. The contents include:

“The Foreign Aid Debacle”
“Not Tax-Funded Aid to Myanmar”
“Should the U.S. Military Go to Haiti?”
“Egypt and U.S. Foreign Policy”
“Condolences Yes, Assistance No”
“Republicans and Foreign Aid”
“Exporting Welfare”
“Conservatives and Foreign Aid”
“Time to End All Foreign Aid”
“Conservatives and the Looting of America”
“The Question that Is Never Asked About U.S. Military Aid to Ukraine”

Throughout these essays, there are five things relating to foreign aid that resonate:

  1. Foreign aid is simply money confiscated from American taxpayers and sent to countries that many Americans couldn’t locate on a map and may have never even heard of.
  2. Foreign aid is both foreign welfare and foreign bribery.
  3. No American should be forced to “contribute” to the aid of the people or the government of any other country.
  4. All charity should be private and voluntary. Charity that is not voluntary is theft.
  5. All foreign aid should be ended, and no exceptions should be made for natural disasters, humanitarian concerns, national interest, or political objectives.

To those Americans who think that aid should be given to foreign countries, I say put your money where your mouth is.

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