Foreign aid makes up less than 1% of the total U.S. budget, yet President Trump’s budget proposes to slash foreign aid by nearly a third.
What can you do to change that? Well, you can make sure that Congress gets the message that YOU – someone they represent – want to protect foreign aid. But it’s going to take a lot of phone calls and messages. So convince your friends and family to make calls, too!
I know, I know—that’s no easy feat! You may have neighbors, relatives, or even friends who think we spend too much on aid. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about foreign aid.
Here are some of the most common responses to the idea of foreign aid, and how to talk about them.
“What’s in it for the U.S.?”
In reality, foreign aid helps make America safer and helps create jobs right here in the USA. Here’s “what’s in it for us:”
- Security: Failing nations often provide safe havens for terrorists, criminal gangs, and human traffickers; which can be a threat to American security. Aid can be a critical counter measure to address these types of threats — and a whole lot less costly in money and lives than military interventions! That’s why military leaders are the first to tell you: Foreign aid isn’t charity — it’s an essential, modern tool of our national security.
- Economic gains: Helping people lift themselves out of poverty could mean hundreds of millions of new potential consumers of American goods!
- Better health: Diseases don’t respect borders. Our interconnected world makes it easy for deadly diseases to spread. The Ebola outbreak reached the United States because health systems in West Africa weren’t strong enough to stop it there. Helping developing countries strengthen their health systems will strengthen our health security.
“We have problems here at home that need fixing first!”
This might be the most common objection you hear. Of course—no nation is without problems, and America is no exception. But America is one of the strongest, most successful nations on the planet. U.S. foreign aid focuses on issues of extreme poverty — hopelessness and insecurity we simply don’t see or experience here in the U.S.
There are dozens and dozens of amazing groups that already focus on domestic poverty here in the U.S. (and some of them are also at risk of cuts in President Trump’s budget). Our country’s budget reflects our nation’s character: our compassion and generosity for the world’s most vulnerable people are part of what it means to be American. It really is possible to take care of the least among us, both here and abroad.
“Foreign aid doesn’t work—these problems are too big for us to solve.”
In 20 years, the number of people in the world living in extreme poverty and the number of people who are chronically malnourished have both been cut in half. And because of the bipartisan commitment to projects like PEPFAR and the Global Fund, we are close to turning the tide against the HIV/AIDS epidemic! Any old idea you might have about “foreign aid” is probably different than the reality of modern foreign assistance. America’s foreign assistance programs have been reformed and improved over the last 15 years, making them more effective and efficient than ever!
“We don’t know where foreign aid even goes!”
America’s foreign assistance programs are transparent, and you can see the spending outlined online at foreignassistance.gov. Much of our foreign assistance is implemented by non-profit organizations, including religious groups like Catholic Relief Services. Overall, U.S. foreign assistance is driven by innovation, modernization, and best of all, accountability!
“We’re just not getting any bang for our buck.”
You’d be surprised at how far a dollar goes:
- A dollar invested in an additional year of schooling for a child in a low-income country can generate earnings and health benefits of $10.
- Every dollar invested in global health yields a return of $10 to $20 in economic benefit. For example, every $1 spent by donors on basic nutrition programs returns $16 to the local economy.
- For every $1 invested in childhood immunization, $16 were saved through avoided healthcare costs, and lost wages and productivity due to illness and death, a 2016 study showed.
- Investments in agriculture are 11 times more effective than other sectors — like mining and professional services — at creating economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Other countries don’t appreciate U.S. foreign aid!”
In 2014, the Washington Post conducted a multinational survey that found that the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), established in 2003 under President Bush – has improved perceptions of the United States among the public in countries that get the funds.
Indeed, as Sen. Marco Rubio said on the Senate floor earlier this year in defense of foreign aid: “Imagine if you are one of these young people around the world whose lives are better because of the help of the American taxpayer. … It’s going to be a lot harder to recruit someone to anti-Americanism, anti-American terrorism if the United States of America was the reason why they’re even alive today.”
Cutting the budgets of State and USAID by a third would be shortsighted and devastating to programs that are saving lives, building capacity, protecting Americans, and advancing America’s interests around the world.
Thanks for helping us #DefendAid, both by spreading the word about the importance of foreign aid, and by joining our Budget Action Team. Remember – the proposed cuts can’t happen unless Congress approves them, and Congress works for you. So join us and make your voice heard.