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Daniel P. Malito Headshot

Foreign Aid and Domestic First-Aid

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Currently, one of the biggest coverage hogs on the nightly news (besides the Casey Anthony travesty) is the increasingly alarming size of the national deficit, and the impending government shutdown due to the debt ceiling not being raised. States are having their budgets slashed left and right, and countries like Greece have actually turned to violence due to the draconian measures taken to save the state from disillusion. What it all comes down to is money, and the fact that everyone needs more of it. Right now, our government still spends money like it is going out of style, though. If we can't stop them, we should at least be aware of what some of the money is being spent on, and try to stop the hemorrhaging.

For those of you who do not know what the debt ceiling is, let me explain it. The "debt ceiling," set by congress, is basically just the amount of money that the U.S. Government is allowed to owe at any one time. This debt includes public debt (treasury bonds), and money borrowed against trust funds used for Medicare and Social Security. The first limit was set in 1917 at 11.5 billion, which at that time was considered more than enough. Now, the debt ceiling is set at $14.29 trillion, and as of May 16, we hit that threshold.

You may say "so what? Why should I care?" Well, it might not affect you now, but it will, and soon. Come August 2, the United States Government will no longer be able to honor all of its debts. If this actually happened, it would be a tragedy of immense proportions, and might even lead to the collapse of the United States. Fortunately, and you can quote me on this, the debt ceiling will be raised, and the U.S. will never default on any of its debts. Why do I say this? Because of one reason and one alone -- our credit rating. Now, I hate to simplify the problem to such a degree, but ultimately, it's the crux of the issue. The U.S., like any other borrower in the world, has a level of risk assigned to them that alerts lenders to the chance they are taking when dolling out funds. The U.S. currently has the top credit rating, AAA. This is because the United States has never welched on a debt, and probably won't anytime soon. If we lost our top credit rating, overnight, interest rates for entities lending to the U.S. would skyrocket, and that's if we would be able to borrow money at all. You can see the potential for a domino effect if the government you and I rely on can no longer fund day-to-day operations.

So, congress is going to increase the debt ceiling like they have 74 times in the past, and we will continue to accrue debt. The debate currently underway in the congress is simply a dog and pony show with a bit of posturing thrown in. Everyone knows the ceiling will be raised. The question we really need to be asking is how we are going to start recouping some of the funds that we owe. Every bit helps, and while there are many ideas on the table, there is one area that no one seems to be talking about -- foreign aid.

While the exact numbers are not known, it is believed that the United States spends about $37 billion dollars a year on other countries. While this number seems like nothing compared to $14 trillion, and it isn't, it is the most logical place to start the spending cuts. Logical and practical.

As of 2010, there are more than fifteen foreign countries that receive aid from Uncle Sam. Two of those countries, Israel and Egypt, receive the lion's share of the money that taxpayers contribute. Other recipients include Pakistan, Russia, Ethiopia, West Bank/Gaza, Colombia, Kenya, Indonesia, Yemen, and Jordan. I hope, after listing the countries that rely on the hard-earned and wantonly-spent money we hand them, you understand why foreign aid is a logical and appropriate place to start the budget slashing. Several of the countries on that list not only hate America and Americans, but also actively participate in the effort to destroy our way of life.

Richard Reid, the shoe bomber who attempted to ignite a bomb that was built into his shoe on United Airlines flight 63 in 2001, trained in Pakistan for a time. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "Underwear Bomber" who attempted to blow-up Northwest Airlines flight 253 above Detroit, was trained in Yemen for a time. Times Square Bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was in and out of Pakistan throughout his whole life. Afghanistan has the Taliban. According to reports, Al Qaeda is making money by helping Colombian rebels to smuggle drugs through Africa into Europe. There is a known Somali Al Qaeda branch in Ethiopia, and I don't really need to detail the whole West Bank / Gaza for you. Are you beginning to see a pattern?

As anyone with eyes can see, many of the countries we provide aid to have proven to be havens for anti-American organizations, or at the very least, encourage anti-American sentiment. Sure, there is an argument to be made for not condemning an entire country by the actions of some of their citizens, but I say that is simply a crutch used by administrations that don't want to take a hardline stance. Why is it wrong for us to insist that in order for countries to receive aid, they must prove they are taking an active part in working against our supposedly common enemies? You have to prove you deserve unemployment insurance before you can receive checks. You have to prove you are financially insolvent before receiving welfare. Why don't foreign governments have to prove that they aren't going to take our money and build a nice, shiny, new, terrorist training camp, and then laugh all the way home? In addition, when we find that time and again a country that is receiving aid does nothing to help our cause but pay lip service, why do we not cut off or lessen the aid they receive? It costs these countries nothing to tell us what we want to hear, but it may cost us lives to listen. Words are nice and cheap, but actions, well, they cost money and make enemies. Unfortunately, insincerity by foreign governments who receive aid seems to be the norm. We even caught Pakistan red-handed when they lied to us about Al Qaeda's presence in their country.

It paints a humiliating picture, does it not? So, among all this talk of reforming Medicare and cutting government services to those who need it, why is no one even considering cutting foreign aid? People in this country are starving, people here need jobs, and people here could benefit from homes and schools being built or rebuilt. I'm not naïve enough to think that these foreign aid payments don't come with, well, let's call them "unpublished accords," but we should still levy consequences when the recipients do not hold up their end of the bargain. Somewhere along the line, it became the American way to give blindly and un-American to give and expect basic concessions in return - like not colluding with our enemies. Before we throw our elderly out of the hospitals and on to the street, let's see if we can't stop funding a terrorist training camp or two.