A brief overview of US foreign aid

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found, “When survey respondents are told that only about one percent of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid, the share saying ‘the U.S. spends too little’ more than doubles (from 13 percent to 28 percent), while the share saying ‘we spend too much’ drops in half (from 61 percent to 30 percent).”

In fiscal year 2012, the United States paid out $31.2 billion in economic assistance and $17.2 billion in military assistance.

According to USAID, the top five categories for economic aid include aid for “global health and child survival, international narcotics control and law enforcement, and migration and refugee assistance. Other programs in the economic assistance category include the Peace Corps, international disaster and famine assistance, and disease control through the Centers for Disease Control.”

The last category, for example, would include funds for combating Ebola in Africa. (Some of the aid is funneled through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that work to protect civil liberties, the rule of law, religious freedom and equality for women.)

It is hard to imagine a world — let alone aspire to one — in which the United States eliminated all economic aid. We would not send government resources or personnel, for example, to Hatti for a hurricane; to Japan for the nuclear accident; to any Middle East ally to cope with refugees from the Syrian civil war; to Ukraine for economic assistance in the wake of Russian aggression; or to our ally Colombia (which gets more than $660 million) for economic growth and restitution/reconciliation efforts for victims of previous governments’ abuse.

[Read full Washington Post blog]

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