We’ve all seen the memes that are some version of: “How can we give other countries money, so-called foreign aid, when we don’t (or can’t) take care of our own Homeless, veterans, (and or) homeless veterans, etc.? If you agree that we should take care of our own first, share this!” Often there’s a little 0n-line shaming involved: “I know only ______(fill in the blank with a very small single-digit number) % of you will share this.”
Usually these things are posted by your most conservative Facebook friends and/or family (more on this later) but no matter where you stand politically, purely on face-value alone it’s hard to argue against the point. The idea that “Charity begins at home” is not a specifically or particularly left or right notion.
The problem is that this is complete and utter nonsense. The fact is, the United States doesn’t “give” money to other countries and foreign aid is not charity; it’s commerce. If it were about “charity,” as in helping out those most in need of help, pretty much all of our foreign aid dollars would go to sub-Saharan Africa, just about the poorest place on the planet, but it’s the exact opposite; Africa gets very little foreign aid from the United States and the reason for that is because multi-national corporations (the real makers of U.S. policy, foreign and domestic) do very little business in Africa. In a phrase: there’s no profit in helping Africa so they don’t get much help.
So why do we give foreign aid and to whom? Well, mostly we give foreign aid to keep trade unhindered by regional conflicts. Case in point: Right after the Camp David Accords were signed – which stopped hostilities between Israel and Egypt – we started to give huge sums of money in foreign aid to both countries. Israel was all ready getting a lot but after Camp David the aid to Israel went through the roof. In total dollars, after Afghanistan (“You break it, you bought it!”), Israel, in fact, gets more U.S. foreign aid money than any other country and broken down to a per-person dollar amount, Israel gets almost twice as much as Afghanistan ($380.00 vs. $229.00).
Why would the U.S. give Israel, a fairly well off country, a huge amount of foreign aid? Well, put simply, Israel is in the Middle East, they’re our only “friend” in the region and there’s a lot of oil in the Middle East. Basically, the U.S. is playing one side against the other not really caring who does what to whom as long as the oil keeps flowing and the Persian Gulf is open to oil-tankers. (Ironically, neither Israel nor Egypt are oil-producing nations though both play a huge role in how things in the region go down; in other words: Geo-political business/trade concerns can be pretty complex and often not at all obvious or particularly straight forward.)
Then there’s the foreign aid in the form of bombs, fighter-jets, rifles and various arms of all shapes and sizes. These are not surplus or donated military equipment; all of it is bought and paid for by the American Taxpayer and given to the leaders – sometimes elected, sometimes dictators – the multi-national corporations want to stay in power. Significantly, the United States is the biggest arms dealer in the world.
The bottom line: the U.S. doesn’t “give away” a f—king penny out of the goodness of our collective hearts; they’re “buying” something: Loyalty, peace, weapons, open trade-routes, etc. If any of those things increase the profit margins of a multi-national, the U.S. will procure them. If there’s no profit in it; fergetaboutit.
And that’s why the U.S. gives foreign aid to some countries that don’t really need any aid and doesn’t give aid to many countries that desperately need aid.
And here’s where the conservative angle comes in: What makes anybody think that if the U.S. stopped all forms of foreign aid – less than 1% of the total federal budget – that the government would take that relatively paltry savings and put it toward helping the Homeless, Veterans, and/or Homeless Veterans? Do you think conservatives who hate all government spending that doesn’t involve a weapons-system are going to approve of any program to help anybody – veteran or not – who’s down on his/her luck?
Take a good look at Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan’s policies and political beliefs and you’ll find he wants to cut just about every social program in existence (including Social Security and Medicare – talk about absolutely necessary aid for needy Americans!). Does anyone honestly believe that he’s going to take money saved from one program to give to another? Hell NO!
So here’s the moral to this pitiful story: When you see one of those memes on your Facebook page, don’t read the words, read what they really say: “Instead of giving anyone in the world aid, let’s all give the super-rich another tax break!”
And whatever you do, don’t share it.