09/05/2012 09:15 am ET Updated Sep 05, 2012

US Foreign Aid: Should The United States Increase Its Budget?


Editor's Note: HuffPost College teamed with the International Debate Education Association to produce the following debate.

According to the World Bank, 22 percent of the world’s population lived on less than $1.25 per day in 2008. More than 1 billion people do not have access to food and 1 billion still lack access to clean, potable drinking water. The statistics on global poverty are endless and with one of the largest economies in the world, the United States is in a prime position to provide support to developing countries through foreign aid. America has a long history of using its economic advantages to help countries in need through multi-lateral and bi-lateral support. Successful, sustainable development and poverty reduction, however, is not easy, and often in the presidential debates, the intricacies of global interdependence—through multinational corporations, national defense, aid, or loans—get simplified.

In a 2010 poll, Americans were asked to estimate how much of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. While the median estimate was 25 percent, the median response for what they thought the “appropriate” percentage should be was only 10 percent. In reality, about 1 percent of the national budget is allotted to foreign aid. Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, said about the overestimate that it “may be due to Americans hearing more about [recent] aid efforts occurring in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.” The actual investment in foreign aid is a small fraction of the discretionary budget. David Kilcullen explains in his book The Accidental Gorilla that in personnel terms, the Department of Defense is about 210 times larger than the US Agency of International Development (USAID) and the State Department combined, and it has 350 times as large a budget.

While foreign aid is often left out of the Presidential Debates, we aim to take a closer look at how President Obama and Mitt Romney propose to deal with foreign aid, and more specifically global poverty, in the upcoming presidential election. Does the United States have a responsibility to the rest of the world to help reduce global poverty, or should the country focus on domestic issues and policies?

IDEA creates local clubs and establishes independent debate associations throughout the world, offering young people the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge by voicing and critically examining issues that directly affect their lives. Through helping individuals start their own local debate chapters, IDEA encourages students around the world to question, to listen to one another and to explore even the most volatile subjects openly and in the spirit of tolerance and cooperation.

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