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Inanity on Facebook: Foreign Aid Is Not An Inanity

by George Jones on April 21, 2011

Facebook is an amazing technology that connects millions of people to each other with a dynamism that is breathtaking. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the best methods to promulgate utter bullshit.

The most pervasive problem is that highly-complex problems are reduced to a few sentences to fit in the Facebook “Status” field. Typically, they are designed to trivialize topics of eminence into something Homer Simpson could readily understand.

FacebookFor example, the little bit of sophistry (below) is designed to be less than 420 characters – the length of a Facebook post:

“Tell me if this makes any sense. I’m still scratching my head at this one. Homeless go without eating. Elderly go without needed medicines. Mentally ill go without treatment. Troops go without proper equipment. Veterans go without benefits they were promised. Yet we donate billions to other countries before helping our own first. Have the guts to re-post this. 1% will re-post and 99% won’t!!!”

The problem here is that these are half-truths that lack an appropriate context, yet are served up like an aphorism of eminence you should actually pay attention to. Actually, it’s just bait for a knee-jerk reaction.

USAIDThe amount of money spent by the USAID, the government’s foreign assistance entity, amounts to less than one-half of one percent of the federal budget. Even if you add all elements of foreign aid – including military aid – the percentage of the federal budget rises to just 1%.

Unfortunately, most Americans think we spend 25% of our budget on foreign aid – and I’m guessing 100% of them watch Glenn Beck.

Some foreign aid money is spent on humanitarian relief; however, it is also used to develop markets for U.S. goods. Since selling things we make in new markets helps us grow our economy, foreign-aid is actually in our own best interests. It’s really more investment than an extravagance.

Foreign aid is not the boogeyman that the aforementioned sophistry suggests it is, but it is a convenient target for jingoists to bloviate about.

No Bullshit

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

mikeross April 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!


George April 21, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I wouldn’t disagree that the government does not always spend money wisely, but that’s a different point than that erroneous Facebook post is making.

That post is suggesting that the homeless are starving (they aren’t), that elderly are going without medications (some are, but most are covered under Medicare Part D), and that veterans are not getting benefits they were promised (which are?), among other things – while suggesting that foreign aid is this simply extraneous program that’s taking money away from the elderly, the homeless, and veterans.

What it fails to mention is that we are already spending more than a trillion dollars annually to deal with these social issues nor that if we stopped providing foreign aid we would be living in a much more dangerous world.

It also fails to mention that we’ve doubled defense spending in the last 10 years while cutting taxes again and again. There is probably no clearer example of unwise spending than what we’re spending on defense. We are the the point where we almost spend as much on defense as the rest of the world COMBINED.

By comparison, this makes the foreign aid expense positively trivial.

As to whether the deficit will sink us, well, it may – but I think not. We’ve been in tougher spots before.


Kathleen Mayberry April 21, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Good point George! Like your banner picture…no b.s. zone!!
Actually more than one point, I’ve always seen most of government spending on other countries as necessary. I should mention that my sister taught me how your point of view makes a lot of sense. And, that was what 45 years ago!


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