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Opinion

Foreign aid isn't foreign. It's American.

Republicans bent on cutting foreign aid have forgotten their patriotic, moral duty. We better ourselves and bring pride to the US by feeding the starving, healing the sick, teaching the young, housing the exposed, and supporting democracy. And we help prevent terrorism.

By Laurie Garrett / March 3, 2011



New York

I am proud to be an American – no more so than when the ideals of freedom, liberty, and equality on which this nation were founded are espoused by those living in far-off lands. It is our American patriotic duty to wholeheartedly support the betterment of the lives of those struggling overseas under conditions of deprivation, oppression, stifled economic hope, and strangled dreams.

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Remove the word “foreign” from foreign aid. We better ourselves and bring pride to the nation by feeding the starving, healing the sick, teaching the young, housing the exposed, and providing the instruments of democracy to the world.

So it is troubling to find the first shots out of Washington’s budget cannons taking aim at foreign assistance. Critics are calling it wasteful, partisan, and even – at a time of high American unemployment – unpatriotic.

Foreign aid may be a convenient political target, but the truth is that our overseas aid is effective, bipartisan, and reflects the very best of America. Never has its need – or its return on investment – been greater.

Cutting aid won't cut deficit

Total nonmilitary foreign assistance spending accounts for about 1 percent of the FY2011 federal budget. Cutting this aid won’t make a difference to either debt or deficit reduction. But it will make a huge difference to the hundreds of millions of people who count on US aid for food, medicines, job training, child education, irrigation, small business subsidies, and a litany of other life-enhancing benefits. The gratitude they feel today for American generosity would swiftly yield to contempt and anger for services withdrawn.

Even before the crumbling of the Soviet Union made the United States the sole superpower, President George H.W. Bush warned Americans: “Use power to help people. For we are given power not to advance our own purposes nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power and it is to serve people.”

Though she is cut from the same Texas Republican cloth as President Bush, Rep. Kay Granger recently glowed with pride when she told the Congressional Quarterly that foreign aid, “received the third largest percentage of cuts out of the 12 Appropriations subcommittees. The reductions made to my section of the bill are a good start. As long as I am chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, I will ensure that our foreign aid is not used as a stimulus bill for foreign countries.”

Washington is now in the grips of a major budget war. Republicans, mindful of the hardline positions they took on government spending in last fall’s campaign, are determined to make big cuts, which Democrats oppose. The impasse could force a government shutdown.

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