American Charity Worldwide- Is It Too Much?

By Sal Bommarito

The recent immigration of thousands of young children from Central America has inspired a great debate about America’s responsibilities. What specifically are America’s obligations to non-citizens? And, what are America’s liabilities outside of our borders to those in jeopardy?


Many conflicting issues come into play in this conversation. Morally, should a wealthy nation like the U.S. come to the rescue of thousands of people under siege on a remote mountaintop in Iraq? Should the U.S. give citizenship to the aforementioned children because they were allegedly victims of abuse in their home countries?


In the U.S., millions of people are under duress, in need of food and shelter. Funds to help them are growing increasingly difficult to come by, in part because we are doing so much for so many in others around the world. The growing apprehension in our country about the level of our generosity is fodder for both progressives and conservatives. Discussing the need for more American aid is keeping talking heads along with philosophers and economists very busy these days.


The real problem in America is that it does not really budget for crises, so huge arms shipments to rebel groups in far off places together with hundreds of projects around the world put a great strain on our financial resources. The ones who suffer the most from redeployment of funds internationally are those in need in America.


Most Americans expect their government to come to the aid of those in trouble. But, there are serious consequences to such actions. For instance, over 10 million illegal immigrants live in the U.S. The federal government provides little data about these people, but it is likely that many are poor and need government support to eat, find shelter, go to school and get medical treatment. Frankly, they tax the resources of local governments across the country. The total drain from an inexcusable and incompetent immigration policy over the past quarter century is incalculable.


Taxpayers support the operations of the federal government. A significant amount of taxpayer money is being averted to support people residing illegally in this country. I am not endorsing a massive round up and deportation. It is too late for such an action. A great number of illegal immigrants are willing to obey our laws and pay taxes, so they should be given a road map to citizenship. But, new illegal immigration must end now. It is blatantly unfair to Americans to have to support any more interlopers.


The same holds true for aid sent overseas. The U.S. cannot police the world for three reasons. One, we cannot afford to do so. Two, foreigners should not have a call on U.S. taxpayer money. Three, the vast majority of foreign beneficiaries do not appreciate the aid we provide and do not support U.S. policies abroad. It has become an entitlement for them.


Many of us give dollars to people begging on the street. It’s human to feel compassion for the homeless and needy. Should we feel guilt if we do not? The answer to this question may hinge o what we do for those less fortunate in the aggregate. If a family donates 5 or 10% of its income to charity, should they feel an obligation to put money in the beggar’s cup? Or can they walk by and feel comfortable they are doing their fair share?


One final point relates to Americans who are very generous. Almost always, they are among the demonized “1%.” There are many other Americans who are not wealthy that do a great deal to help their neighbors. They should be lauded for their efforts. But so should those who write the checks.


The generosity of America and Americans is staggering. Our monetary contributions to world problems are always significantly greater than all other countries, and rightly so. But, America should not have the world’s problems on its shoulders. There are many other wealthy countries and people globally that should share the load with us. Our government must be more aggressive about making these other nations pay their fair share.

Feed Americans Now

JULY 2014

Poverty in the U.S. continues to plague our country. In the meantime, the federal government devises new ways to transfer our tax dollars overseas. Why are we more intent on sending cash to other countries while so many of our citizens live in squalor and go to bed hungry?

In the past, the beneficiaries of American altruism appreciated our generosity. The U.S. reaped the rewards of its goodwill in many ways and created great alliances. Today, the global community of nations periodically comes to the United Nations in New York City and bashes America. In spite of this disrespectful behavior, the U.S. continues to pay 22% of the U.N. regular budget and 27% of the peacekeeping budget. In 2011, we donated about $2.7 billion to the U.N. Why are we so generous to this organization, when so many of our citizens are starving? In fact, why do we continue to be host to a hostile U.N.? The cost of doing so is immense.

Every day 17 million American children go to bed hungry and 50 million are in hunger risk. 17.9 million American households are food insecure. One out of five children are at risk of hunger; one third of African American and Latino children are at risk. Yet, 40% of the food served to Americans is discarded each day. This equates to about $165 billion, which could feed 25 million people annually. This is a colossal waste that also needs to be addressed.

14.7% of Americans are food insecure. The greatest problems across the U.S. are Mississippi (20.9%, Arkansas (19.7%), Texas (18.4%), Alabama (17.9%) and North Carolina (17.0%). While politicians continue to endorse increased global assistance for indefensible reasons, their constituencies are hungry.

The following countries lead assistance to foreign countries:

U.S. $30.46 billion
U.K. 13.66 billion
Ger. 13.11 billion
Fra. 12.00 billion
Jap. 10.49 billion

Twenty-one government agencies funded economic assistance activities in 2012, including the State Department, USAID, the Treasury, USDA and HHS. I wonder what the administrative costs of these operations total each year. In any case, 2012 donations totaled $48.4 billion for economic ($31.2 billion) and military ($17.2 billion) purposes and were delivered to 182 countries.

The primary recipients were Afghanistan $12.9 billion ($3.5 billion economic), Israel $3.1 billion (all military), Iraq $1.9 billion (only $.5 billion economic), Egypt $1.4 billion (all military), and Pakistan $1.2 billion (all military). Of course, expenditures for the Department of Defense are not included in these numbers. The DoD represents a huge source of funds that can be redeployed.

I believe the point is clear. The U.S. is paying billions annually to fictitious allies. Is Iraq an ally? Is Egypt and ally? Is Afghanistan and ally? U.S. altruism is a farce. We no longer gain significant benefits from a national security perspective, or any other perspective, for these outlays. Expenditures should be radically decreased and redeployed to feeding Americans.

The current welfare system, in my opinion, is a disaster. It regenerates itself and discourages its prisoners from becoming self-sufficient. Many would quibble with this characterization, but few (liberal or conservative) would be averse to feeding hungry citizens. There is common ground. And, cutting back the expenditures to the ungrateful nations delineated previously could easily offset the cost of a national feeding initiative.

A feeding initiative could create new jobs as hungry people feed other hungry people for a living wage. Current food banks and other eleemosynary organizations are plentiful and could be the basis of the new effort.

As an American, I am appalled that somehow our government sends assistance overseas while our neighbors are hungry. Altruism beyond our borders should happen only after every man, woman and child in America goes to bed with a full stomach.