The recent government shutdown made it abundantly clear that there is little agreement about what should be cut from the federal budget. Cutting the U.S. budget is proving to be more than daunting. It is nearly impossible.
The one area proposed for federal spending cuts that is favored by a majority of citizens is foreign aid. Taxpayers and voters believe, according to polls, that 24 percent of the U.S. budget is spent on foreign aid and that the level needs to be cut.
While the U.S. does give more foreign aid than any other nation, foreign aid in fiscal year 2013 was not a quarter of the budget, but 1.5 percent, and that 1.5 percent was split between military aid to countries such as Israel and Egypt, and economic aid to Jordan, Nigeria and Kenya.
“Economic aid is going toward irrigation or clean water systems,” said Amy Damon, an economics professor at Macalester College. “These are important investments for the United States, that promote economic stability, political stability around the world.”
Even the conservative business publication Forbes magazine believes it’s the right thing to do.
George W. Bush, who was hardly a soft touch as president, launched a $6 billion initiative in Africa to combat HIV/AIDS that saved millions of lives. In terms of sheer self-interest, millions more African orphans would have added to political instability on a pivotal continent.
Foreign aid makes a huge difference in the lives of people provided opportunities for service in their own country. Consider the case of Anna Andavuki, a medical student in Kenya.
With funding from the Agency for International Development, Indiana University has created a partnership with Moi Medical School to expand both medical education and primary care in western Kenya. Andayuki’s scholarship is funded through the partnership.
“This scholarship has changed my general outlook toward life. I am now working so hard, and it’s a resolution I have made within myself; to be a donor also someday. I just work hard to ensure that I am the best doctor that I can ever be and return my services back to humanity with an open mind. Here in Kenya, people still need to do a lot to improve the living standards and health care, and my future dream is to participate fully here in Kenya and also globally.”
Building a future with young people like Andayuki and the children whose parents lived to help them grow up is surely worth less than 1 percent of our taxes.