Why you should care
Because it’s your tax dollars at work.
Welcome to Third Rail With OZY, our electrifying TV show where we debate provocative hot topics each week. Last week, we asked: Is foreign aid a waste of money? You answered, and here are your thoughts, edited for clarity.
Mike Yoder, Bethany Beach, Delaware
All money to be used for foreign aid should be limited to humanitarian uses only — aid that supports the health and well-being of people, such as food, water, clothing and housing. It is immaterial how much we spend or what percentage of the budget [it is] as long as it’s used to support life. Currently too much of the foreign aid is not used for this purpose. As a combat veteran, I have seen that humanitarian aid most always saves lives, but I’ve also seen the waste of other foreign aid for foreign governments. The USA is not here to make their country great, only ours. We need to use that money to help our own citizens first.
Gloria Feather, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Foreign aid is not a waste of money. It benefits our safety by creating goodwill with people in other countries. I once had a guide in Jordan tell me, “You [meaning Americans] built this road for us. Thank you.”
It’s a hard answer, but the easiest is to put America first. I don’t think that the foreign aid we give is being utilized the way it should be, and we (America) don’t get anything in return.
Mitch Downey, St. Louis, Missouri
Whether or not foreign aid is a waste of money depends on the answers to two very different questions: a) Does foreign aid have effects? b) Do those effects justify foreign aid? Opinions only belong in the answer to one of these questions. “Does foreign aid have effects?” is an objective, empirical question where we have decades of evidence. The second, equally important, question, however (“Do those effects justify foreign aid?”), is inherently a matter of opinion.
John F. Egan, Folsom, California
It’s hard to state categorically that foreign aid is good or bad. In some cases it is; in others it is not. We already know that humanitarian aid after disasters makes those countries receiving aid think of the U.S. in a very good light — that’s a positive! However, for example, we also give $3 billion-plus each year to arm Israel. All that does is upset the Arabs … that would seem to be very, very bad.
JC Wandemberg, Hyderabad, India
I am a product of USAID! I was given a scholarship for my MSc and Ph.D., and I am very grateful to USAID despite the fact that they voluntarily released me from my obligation to go back and work for the Ecuadorean government. The education and guidance I have provided to thousands of U.S. students in the USA and abroad has paid handsomely their investment in me.
Susan McCabe, Vashon Island, Washington
Aiding countries in need, or even when they’re not in horrific need, builds global relationships for the U.S. — something Trump is destroying at every turn. He is systematically deteriorating the United States’ international ties, and that’s a prescription for disaster in the long term — hell, it’s a serious problem now. When we provide aid to foreign countries, we build allies — allies are less likely to make war [against] the U.S., more likely to trade. It’s a win-win, and a practice that has supported a tenuous world peace for decades. It would be far smarter for the U.S. to reduce its humongous defense spending and put it toward foreign aid — not to mention domestic programs that support the 99 percent. But that’s another topic …
A great deal of foreign aid is a waste of money, particularly when one considers how much of the recipients’ own resources are lost through rampant corruption.
There’s a difference between feathering some corrupt foreign leader’s nest or pushing U.S. military hardware called “aid” versus digging wells for villages and educating girls. It really depends on how foreign aid is spent — hopefully to genuinely improve people’s lives and protect the environment, with the added benefit of building international goodwill toward the U.S.