When Kentucky senator Rand Paul recently proposed cutting off the entirety of American foreign aid, his plan was immediately denounced by almost every corner of the ideological spectrum. Most of the disagreement centered on his willingness to do away with foreign aid to Israel, a suggestion many Americans find unacceptable when it comes to our long-time Middle East friend. Paul found himself with few allies, a scenario underscoring just how difficult it will be to ever truly get our deficit under control. Though the $3 billion in annual aid provided to Israel is a drop in the bucket compared to overall annual federal expenditures, the fact that conservatives and liberals alike cannot picture a world without foreign aid is quite telling.
One of the fallacies that leads many to oppose cutting foreign aid, be it to Israel or another nation, is the assumption that the absence of federal aid to Israel would somehow impoverish the nation having funds cut off. But this notion is very suspect. Americans are a notably charitable people, and the wide support for Israel demonstrated by public opinion polls indicates Americans would be apt to generously give to that nation by way of private donations. Sure, there will be initial howls and obligatory accusations of callousness. But the public dole would quickly be displaced by donations from private organizations and individuals, which is the means conservatives are supposed to favor when it comes to helping those in need. Numerous Jewish and evangelical Christian organizations would no doubt pick up any slack left over from the elimination of government funds.
Domestically, we refer to recipients of government transfer payments as ‘welfare recipients’, but as far as I know this title is rarely applied when referencing foreign aid. Rand Paul indicated as much when discussing his foreign aid proposal; do conservatives really think the Israelis so lack self-sufficiency that they would be an economic basket case if not for U.S. taxpayer dollars? Do we really want other countries who receive the other $22 billion worth of foreign aid to feel as if America is merely buying their goodwill, or would we instead prefer to have peaceful exchanges of trade and commerce with them that foster reciprocal good feelings?
Whether applied to Israel or Egypt, conservatives should not favor the spreading of American’s tax dollars around the globe on the whim of a D.C. politician. Instead, individual donating on their volition and time would not only be more rewarding for all those involved, but it would allow our government to take a small step in the direction of solvency.
For years, we have given money to Israel’s avowed enemies, some of whom even share a physical border with that small nation. The subsidization of Mubarak in Egypt was just one of many foreign dole practices that should cause Americans to scratch their heads. Would not an even handed approach dictate that we simply cut off the spigot of money to all overseas governments? It is astonishing that our politicians are all but oblivious to this sentiment, one that is widespread among the everyday public.
After all, we are rapidly nearing $15 trillion debt; at what point do we begin taking the steps necessary to get our own house in order and cease subsidizing the lifestyles and military budgets of countries thousands of miles from our shore? Some might incorrectly call this “isolationism”, but our current foreign aid policy, when you get down to it, comes perilously close to qualifying as socialism. Is that any better?
We need to begin treating the Israelis like the grownups they are and stop interjecting ourselves in their finances and internal affairs. To do so is in no way to be anti-Israel, but instead would be a commonsensical approach for fiscal conservatives to adopt across the board. The minimal amount of money saved would pale in comparison to the feelings of sovereignty this would grant both to Americans and Israelis, as a recent Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies study shows.
Countries who formerly received aid would no longer need a paternal figure looking over their shoulder as they are freed up to manage the affairs in a manner they, not America per se, see fit. Many of us have been taught as conservatives that success should be defined as how many people are able to leave, not sign up for, welfare programs. This line of sound reasoning need not be divorced from our approach to overseas assistance either.
Douglas Casey once stated that: “Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.” This quote has a lot more truth to it that those in Washington are willing to admit.
Perhaps the time has come to stop forcing Americans to aid those in poverty overseas by gunpoint, and instead let them do so out of the goodness of their own hearts.