Letters

American 'generosity' shrinks when put under a microscope

Regarding Bruce Bartlett's Jan. 5 Opinion piece, "A Stingy US? Hardly": Mr. Bartlett claims that US foreign aid in 2003 was $37.8 billion, but this figure includes all US financial transactions with poor countries, including corporate investment, bank lending, and other flows, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The correct figure is $16.5 billion. He claims that aid is 0.34 percent of US income, when the actual figure is 0.15 percent. For private giving, he uses the $35 billion estimate given by Carol Adelman of the Hudson Institute, whereas the official figure for US private foreign aid is $6.3 billion.

In sum, the documentable figures show that total US foreign assistance (public and private) amounted to about 0.21 percent of US income, or about one-fifth of one percent. Whether that makes the US stingy or not is up to readers to decide.
Steven Radelet
Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
Washington

The author points to the fact that the US provides for the defense of nations whose foreign aid is much greater in proportion to national income, and hence those nations do not spend nearly as much in military spending as the US does. But defense from whom? The greatest threat to these countries is terrorism, but with the quantity of aid they are giving to the world and the lack of military aggression from these nations, I don't believe they have to fear a terrorist attack. In short, the US prefers to invest more in the proverbial stick rather than the carrot when it comes to international relations.
Ruben R. Espinoza
Pomona, Calif.

Mr. Bartlett cites some startlingly unfounded arguments in his Jan. 5 Opinion piece. First of all, foreign workers' remittances to their home countries are important to their economies, but this is not aid.

Trade undeniably can help developing countries, but trade is a mutually beneficial transaction, not a generous act. Arguing that the US is not stingy because we buy about a third of our foreign-made goods from poor countries is like saying that Rockefeller was not stingy because he sometimes hired poor people or shopped at Woolworths. World trade patterns are such that in many cases the more disadvantaged party has little or no choice, and must accept unfavorable terms.

Investment, like trade, is beneficial to the poorer countries. But due to debt, their cash flows are always negative. Charitable donations are indeed higher in the US, but to a great extent, they compensate for services that in other countries would be provided as entitlements by the government.

Well, we are on a planet where there is no world government. "Charity" is all we've got. And our country is a Rockefeller, exploiting the poor, shopping at Woolworths, and giving very little to those in need.

Yes, we Americans are stingy.
Danny Kutner
Geneva

US foreign aid is a paltry sum, especially in light of the waste of men and machinery in Iraq. More effective would be the US strongly encouraging mega corporations to help others, especially in Latin America and Africa. Drug companies could be much more charitable by donating AIDS medicine. They could get an IRS deduction for doing so.

The US could also help by enlarging the Peace Corps, sending more doctors and agriculturalists to teach people to care for themselves medically, as much as possible, and nutritionally. The US could certainly send more medical and agricultural machinery and computers and other types of electronic tools as well, all of which would help people to educate and support themselves.

Let's examine our giving, and then let's increase it. The US can afford it.
Leonard Adame
Chico, Calif.

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