Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We're number what, we're number what?

If donating 0.25% of one's budget to assisting the world's poor is generous, then the United States is one of the most generous countries in the world, and I am one of the most generous people in the world.

From here:
"And perhaps most disturbing, more than half of Americans today believe that the United States spends 24 per cent of its budget on aid to poor countries. In reality, the figure is actually less than one-quarter of one percent -- so the public view is off the mark by about 10,000 percent. As individuals, Americans are not stingy. They personally donated more to tsunami relief in Asia than their own government did. But they are woefully uninformed and misinformed by the media through which they perceive the world."

The US government spends 0.25% of it's budget on foreign aid. Which at any rate comprises mostly military aid and loans - which must be paid back by the poor country's people, while the money routinely goes to developed nations' corporations to build often needless infrastructure (or needed only by extractive industries that sell the country's resources at cheap prices to rich foreigners while concentrating profits in the hands of a few well-connected businessmen), with kickbacks of course going to the countries' often corrupt leaders. Meanwhile the magic of compound interest ensures that poor people the world over will for a long time be in the perverse position of paying out more money in interest and debt repayment to the governments of the world's wealthiest countries than these same countries offer in foreign aid.

"One therefore is tempted to question just what the term 'aid' has come to mean. Etymologically, aid in its modern sense means to help, assist, afford support or relief. But in feudal law it meant a customary payment made by a vassal or tenant to his lord. There is a certain irony here, because what has principally been helped by U.S. aid programs is the U.S. balance of payments, U.S. industry and commerce, and long-range U.S. strategic goals. Over time the net flow of foreign exchange is not from the United States to aid-borrowing countries as implied in the modern connotation of the term 'aid,' but from the borrowers to the United States as in the feudal connotation. So-called foreign aid is, indeed, feudatory. Aid has imposed vassalage on developing countries in the form of contractual debt services which represent mortgages on their future balance-of-payments earning power, as well as heavy opportunity costs of foregoing actions designed to guide their economies towards self-sustaining growth according to their independent desires." (From Super Imperialism by Michael Hudson)

If you want to see an arena in which the US government is (and has been, since Eisenhower warned about the military industrial complex) generous, look no further than the booming business of turning plowshares into swords:

So please do not make the mistake of attributing to the US government the quality of "generosity" in the foreign aid department, just because your information-malnourished mammalian brain can't get over the primitive desire to believe "we good, they bad." Because when it comes to aid:


Net ODA in 2007 as percent of Gross National Income
CountryAid amount by GNI

Source: OECD Development Statistics Online last accessed Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Zealand0.27

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