Those "Stingy" Americans
January 16, 2005
It is agreed that America is the richest nation on the planet. With a third of the worlds GDP and less than five percent of the world's population, no doubt the United States is the wealthiest nation on the planet at this time, and perhaps ever.
So it is no wonder who Jan Egeland, a UN emissary, was talking about when He lectured the press about rich nations. "We were more generous when we were less rich, And its beyond me why we are so stingy, really." This type of mentality dominates the UN and many international organizations, which attack the US for having immense resources, and doing nothing with them to assist any cause outside their boarders. Recently, your two columnists entered into a discourse on this subject.
M.A.B. The fact used by these individuals to indict the United States is that in terms of absolute aid, the US is first, but when it comes to aid relative to the GDP the US gives far less than their Western European allies. The evidence they claim is that the US gives about one tenth of one percent of their GDP to foreign aid.
R.L.H. So the claim is that the United States can afford to give more, and apparently is obligated to give more due to its far larger GDP and economy. With a third of the worlds GDP it is argued that the US should give a third of the worlds foreign aid. That's what they are saying, is that not correct?
M.A.B That's right. However, they fail to account for many things. The only portion of foreign aid that is counted is "official foreign aid." Or aid which is directly from one state to another state. Take for instance, a payment from the United States to Egypt would be an example of official foreign aid, and these are the only types of aid that are included in these highly deceiving and inaccurate figures.
R.L.H. Inaccurate is an understatement. These figures in no way reflect the US tendency to give. This means the Red Cross, United Way, Children's groups, Missionary groups, Universities, Civic Organizations and Service groups and all their counterparts are not included in these figures. This is disturbing to most Americans. In addition, this fails to account for the numerous individual contributions to specific causes of interest.
M.A.B. Exactly so. When it comes to any kind of giving the US is constantly under-estimated by their total charity. Only 18% of total foreign aid offered by the US public is official foreign aid. That means that 82% of the aid given by US interests is not included in these figures. According to the 2003 report from the US Agency for International Development, US international assistance to poor nations in 2000 was $56 billion dollars. And as mentioned above, only 18% was "official." Some $34 billion or about 60% came from the private sector. $3 billion came from Corporations, Religious organizations gave nearly $3.5 billion, and individuals gave over $18 billion dollars in aid. This fails to include foundations, volunteer organizations, humanitarian organizations, and private organizations such as Bill Gates Charities or any contributions from universities. All of which benefit the worlds poor, and developing nations, no doubt.
R.L.H. So when the math is done, if only 18% is actually recorded that means that our one tenth of one percent is more like one half of one percent of our GDP, making the US the most generous nation in the world, in both ratio of giving and total amount of giving. That fact alone may explain the rationale for the concern that many Americans are expressing over the comment made by many foreign officials and foreign news agencies.
BOTH IN CONCLUSION: That's absolutely right. The US has been, and remains the most generous nation on the planet. The US sends armies for defending weak tribes and people around the Earth, and funds to many places on the planet that needs them. To say the US is not generous enough is to bite the hand that has fed the world. Our Economy has lead the world in advancing humanity for the better, and we ought to ignore the critics who say its not good enough. That is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.