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January 07, 2005

Republicans Lead U.S. Selfishness

The Regressive propaganda machine has kicked into high gear following the recent Asian tsunami, claiming generosity while in fact opposing any significant assistance to the less fortunate. These fanatics, who currently control the Republican Party, do not understand the importance of foreign development assistance to our own prosperity and security. To them, this spending is a gift to foreigners, not an investment in our own well being and, worse, potentially a personal payment by them to others.

Facts and logic do not support their position therefore the Regressives, as usual, fall back on distortion and obfuscation. Propaganda machines like the Hudson Institute are busy feeding claims to their pay-for-placement distributors that the majority of U.S. giving is private rather than public, therefore we are more generous than we appear, and our government need offer no helping hand to desperate neighbors.

An exponent of this strategy is Carol Adelman, a "Senior Fellow" at the Indiana-based Institute. An  examination of Adelman's argument, as presented in her paper "The Privatization of Foreign Aid" published in the November-December 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs reveals it to be a tissue of unsubstantiated claims. Adelman has trumpeted her shallow claims on any media source that will have her in recent weeks as her clique fights U.S. aid to the tsunami sufferers.

Adelman admits the U.S. is a miser when government development assistance is considered. The U.S., she writes, "comes in last among industrialized nations in terms of aid as a percentage of national income." However, she says, the primary way Americans help others abroad is through the private sector. As evidence she cites (1) the number of U.S. foundations increased from 32,000 to 56,000 between 1990 and 2000 and most charitable giving in the U.S. is made by foundations, and (2) Alexis de Toqueville's observation that "mediating institutions," as she calls them, played an important role in the lives of colonial Americans. That's it. Her other claims are made without any citations or references other than to unspecified "surveys and voluntary reporting" and, apparently, whatever she can make up.

She claims: international giving by U.S. foundations totalled $3 billion in 2003; European foundations gave less; U.S. Private Voluntary Organizations like the Red Cross and YMCA sent $7 billion abroad, including the value of time spent by volunteers (an assessment of the value of volunteer time, even if true, that would not be shared by the IRS, which prohibits classification of volunteer time as a charitable donation); corporations gave $2.8 billion; religious organizations contributed $3.4 billion; U.S. universities gave students from foreign countries $1.3 billion in financial aid; and U.S. workers remitted $18 billion to family members in foreign countries. She adds the numbers and determines a conservative estimate of annual U.S. foreign assistance is $35 billion.

Finally, Adelman maintains that private investment by U.S. businesses, research in the U.S. that produces better food and medicine, and U.S. military spending "guaranteeing the security necessary for growth and democracy" (perhaps she means in Iraq) are forms of foreign aid.

Adelman surveys her pyramid of unsupported assertions, student loans, and remittances from migrants and concludes that "All in all, the United States is most generous."

Of late, Adelman has underlined that propaganda is her basic objective by presenting these tenuous conclusions as incontrovertible fact. On 31 December 2004, for example, in a piece titled "United States Is Not 'Stingy' on Foreign Aid," Jeremiah Norris and she stated flatly that in 2002 "Private foreign giving reached more than $35 billion." Their source? The piece reviewed above. Alexis de Toqueville would be appalled.

Posted by Bob at 02:22 PM in National | Permalink

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