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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Most Americans have long believed, in embarrassing ignorance, that the share of the US federal budget spent on foreign aid is an order of magnitude higher than what we actually spend abroad. Years ago, this mistaken view was amplified from the far right by the John Birch Society; today, it is the Tea Party movement complaining that joblessness and poverty in the United States result directly from the lamentable fact that “President Obama keeps sending our money overseas.”

Actually, spending on foreign assistance has remained remarkably steady for many years in Washington at around 1 percent, a minuscule level compared with what other developed nations spend to improve living standards in the developing world.  But perhaps that is because those other countries have figured out what we may soon learn from the latest Ebola outbreak: Disease vectors do not respect national or political boundaries – and the lack of medical infrastructure in one country can ultimately threaten all countries.

At this very moment, the health systems built by many years of painstaking effort in Africa — inadequate as they are — struggle to prevent the spread of this awful illness beyond the countries already struck. We would be far safer if those systems were more modern and robust.

The likelihood that Africa’s Ebola outbreak will spread to the United States is vanishingly small – and the chances that American medical authorities would be unable to control it is even smaller still. While Americans appear to be terrified by even this relatively minor risk, however, many seem unable to comprehend why we might want to spend money to improve health systems in countries where such threats originate. So Republicans in Congress echo the Tea Party rhetoric about foreign aid, seeking to cut assistance of all kinds from minuscule to non-existent.

In the same vein, the Republican right remains hostile to federal science spending and to science as a public priority, evidently because scientific research on such topics as climate change, health, the environment, and nutrition consistently clash with the priorities of its corporate clientele. The Tea Party constituency increasingly distrusts scientists, whom they regard as elements of a broad conspiracy to control rugged, freedom-loving Americans such as themselves. Presumably that is why Republican budgets in recent years have consistently sought billions of dollars in cuts to important research agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and – yes – even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You read that correctly: In their endless zeal to cut federal spending, Republicans have demanded substantial spending reductions at the CDC, the frontline agency that is responsible for controlling exotic bugs such as Ebola if and when they should ever reach our shores. If there were an outbreak of Ebola or any other such malady in the United States, those same budget-cutting Republicans would ask in tones of outrage how and why the CDC had failed to prevent it.

In a wealthy nation like ours, citizens are accustomed to a multi-layered defense against pandemic disease, with strong capacity to identify and isolate such threats before they do grave harm. But HIV/AIDS, which almost certainly came here from Africa, told us that our defenses are not impenetrable; now Ebola is telling us again that a menace to Africans can quickly become a potential threat to us as well.

If we want to continue to enjoy the peace of mind and quality of life that Americans regard as our birthright, we would be well advised to reject the Tea Party’s ideological hostility to aid and science. We ought to fully fund our scientific institutions, rebuild our public health infrastructure, and devote much more money to improving the health systems of the world’s poorest nations – or else live to regret our stupidity.

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo

40 Responses to Ebola’s Message: Foreign Aid And Science Funding In A Time Of Global Peril

  1. Foreign aid has been a controversial issue in the USA for decades. Some object to it because of isolationist tendencies and because they fear anything foreign, others hate it because most of our foreign “aid” has nothing to do with the need to combat famine and disease in Third World countries, and a lot to do with geo-political imperatives.
    The sad truth is that our foreign aid, when military aid is excluded, is tiny compared to what other developed nations spend trying to eradicate poverty and fight disease in some parts of the world, and it is a tiny percentage of the Federal government budget.
    Not surprisingly, while the recipients of American foreign aid appreciate the weapons and bribes we give them, our competitors are gaining ground in the long term battle of international public opinion.
    Hopefully, fighting the spread of Ebola will not become one of the usual political footballs, with both parties trying to score points and, instead, is as large as it must be to limit the spread of the virus and eradicate this disease. Considering the level of poverty is Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, the task is not going to be easy, but it can be accomplished if all industrialized and wealthy nations provide the material, scientific, and human help it can and is able to give.

    • What’s kind of interesting here Dominck, is that back in 2010, according to an article in the Huffington Post, a survey was done asking what Americans thought the percent of our government’s budget was being spent in foreign aid and if people felt that it was too much, what was about the right percentage. Well, the mean response gotten during the survey was that Americans think we’re spending 25% of our national budget on foreign aid and that at most we should be spending about 10%. While in fact, as I think you and/or the article above pointed out, we actually spend less than 1%. And even with that, considering our national income, we’re actually big pikers in the world with respect to providing foreign aid.

      For example, despite all the troubles Europe has been having with their economies and budgets, one thing the European countries have not done is cut back on providing foreign aid to other countries. Because somehow what they realize, and we don’t, is that today’s world really knows no borders; so what they fail to keep from happening in developing countries through not providing foreign aid or helping them in some way, may well come back to haunt us. As may be the case today with the ebola virus getting out of hand in west Africa because not enough has been done to help the countries there develop adequate healthcare systems.

      With that in mind, despite England’s financial difficulties recently they have continued to provide about .52% of their nation’s Gross National Income; and most European countries apparently also provide about that level of foreign aid;while in contrast, America spending a little under 1% of its budget only provides about .21% of our Gross National Income (less than 1/2 of what most other countries do). Certainly nothing to brag about; and actually something to be ashamed about considering our national wealth.

      And in my past research, I know I came across an article published by a group that did a several decades evaluation of the foreign aid America has provided. And in addition to the no borders situation I mentioned above, and despite the incidences where some aid is provided for political reasons and some never really gets to where it’s really intended, this group concluded that when all is said and done, that America had realized over those decades an economic benefit of about $4 for every $1 of foreign aid it had provided during those decades.

      • Our isolationist tendencies, the belief that we are number one, and suspicions of anything foreign all contribute to our stingy policies when it comes to foreign aid. The most pervasive part is that the little we do give does not go to Third World countries, and countries where disease and famine are rampant.

        • For the record Dominick, here are the 25 nations that we provided foreign aid to for the FY 2012 (in declining order by amount of aid given):

          U.S. Foreign Aid for FY 2012 in $US Millions
          Country/Total Aid/Economic Aid/Military Aid

          West Bank-Gaza/457/457
          South Sudan/444/396/48
          South Africa/275/273/2

          • well its looks nice at a first glance untill you realize that 2 of the top 4 isreael and egypts arnt reciving aid but are given money straght to their militaries and therefore that money have nothing to do about fighting disease, helping build a better society.

            USA are the only country that counts weapons, ammunition and direct funds to a countrys military as foreign aid,

          • Well, look at it this way, if without the military aid, Israel would be overrun by those who hate it, what good would all the economic aid in the world be to a destroyed country.

            With respect to Egypt, it’s a little more complicated, but I think the same thing holds true. Eygpt was given military aid in the hopes that whomever the people felt was the best to really lead the country, would have the resources to prevent opposing factions from tearing the country apart; which if they did, would similarly make all the economic aid in the world a futile effort. Kind of like what’s happening in Syria – what good would a lot of economic aid do to the people who are being killed right and left by the warring factions there?

            Remember, we do provide humanitarian efforts to provide food and other resources during times of war to many countries, which I’m not sure get its way into aid summaries like I posted above. For example, we’re providing food and other supplies today to people in Iraq who have been trapped by ISIS on a mountain top and elsewhere. And I believe we’ve done similarly many times to the people in Syria.

  2. Foreign aid may have remained relatively stable however research funds do enter foreign countries esp. Africa via grants to American Companies that then spend the funding on research and rx off shore. See Sonia Shah’s latest book: FEVER for enlightenment. US research granting is poorly designed to say the least. Independent researchers in the US are unable to get funding as large companies gobble up the grants. As an American, I’m not concerned with Ebola. I am concerned with lack of funding for Cardiac, American’s number one killer, specifically arterosclerosis research and rx. One disease with three different causes but only one treatment that does not fit all: angioplasty. Doctors are denied treatments that are clearly warranted and less invasive because the research has not been funded and conducted. Thus the medical community is denied use.

  3. So long as the selfish, narcissistic, sociopaths of the right cling tightly to the idea that they can enrich themselves using taxpayer dollars to do it, foreign aid will remain relatively low. For red states, it’s all about how NOT to touch a dime of state revenues. That’s how these 17 CON states live off tax dollars hard earned by the rest of the states and why the US lags behind in foreign aid. It’s all about the Reds.

  4. All the bases are covered.As long as we are dealing with the plague of the gop/t,we will not require such a pitiful excuse for a disease like ebola.We should wish those all so fiscally responsible right wing turds POX Vobiscum.

  5. Leave it to the National Memo to make this political. With our borders proven unsecured, eventually, if not already, persons with the Ebola virus could already be in the U.S., just as all the diseases we had once eradicated in the U.S. are back!

    • “With our borders proven unsecured,”

      LOL….And this is new, how? I’m 65 years old, retired Army Infantry (1969-2004) did 3 stints at Ft. Bliss, Tx (3rd ACR), 4 at Ft. Hood, Tx (1st Cav), crossed the border numerous times and it’s ALWAYS been unsecured….don’t act like this is President Obama’s fault. You people are really pathetic.

      • Amen! Fellow brother. I have crossed that border from the Matamoros area to El Paso numerous times and never had to show any ID. Latinos did the same. This was almost 60 years ago. And the right wing nuts have JUST NOW proved the border is unsecured?. Wow !

    • It’s far more secure now than when Obama took office. He followed through on what Bush started and the inflow of illegals is dramatically lower than when he took office too. Anyone who thinks that you can build a fence that will keep everyone out is a pure idiot!! Which suits you just fine!! And the situation we’re having now with all the kids crossing the border HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BORDER NOT BEING SECURED!! AND RICK PERRY WAS AN IDIOT TO HAVE PUT THE NATIONAL GUARD THERE!!! W

      What did Rick expect the National Guard to do, hold the kids hands as they came up to the border stations looking for asylum??? They weren’t illegally crossing the border, AND HE KNEW IT!!!

  6. It’s been known that a group (14+) of white republicans
    secretly met on the President’s inauguration day, January 20, 2009 and swore
    out a pack to obstruct, deny, and oppose anything this President or his
    administration attempts, the republican party led by the likes of Boehner,
    McConnell, Ryan, Cruz have taken that oath to the fullest! These people are absolutely pathetic in their
    hate for President Obama and even more pathetic when I hear the term “she’s
    hot,” that’s why they wanted to vote the air-head Palin in office, because they
    think she’s hot…SAD!

  7. If we are such a wealthy nation, why do we have so many homeless people, so many people living below the poverty level, so many people on welfare, food stamps, so many unemployed, so many not even looking to get employment anymore. Maybe these folks would like to have some of that “small” amount of money being sent overseas.

    • You don’t have to look very far – it’s called the GOP. The party that’s hellbent on making every American homeless except the 1%. The party that insists on “right to work laws” so employers can pay the peons who work for them poverty wages. And fights against unions that go overboard sometimes but try to fight for employers to pay their employees a “living wage”.

      And you can thank the idiot GOP legislators in the House that have refused to do anything with 2 of Obama’s jobs bills – being more than satisfied to allow millions of their constituents to struggle for years on unemployment and many of them homelessness.

      And you can thank those 15 GOPers who met the night Obama was inaugurated and planned how to destroy the American economy in an effort to make Obama a one-term president.

      Yup!! If the GOP had it’s way, instead of just 20 GOP states leading the nation with people living in poverty and homelessness, it would be all 50 states that would look like quasi 3rd world nations!!!

      You don’t have to look very far to answer your question – just look in the mirror!! You’re one of the reasons WHY!!!!

        • Absolutely not!! No programs can work as intended when a political party deliberately does everything in its power to sabotage those programs by underfunding them to almost the point of elimination. Which is exactly what the GOP tried to do to Obamacare, and what they consistently try to do with every social program in America!!!!!!!!

          The answer to your original question still, and will always point TO THE GOP!!!!!!!!!

          The GOP is the SATAN of American politics!!!!!!!

          • No! The 716B cut in Medicare over the next 10 years is all SAVINGS realized from cutting inefficiencies, refusing to pay for readmissions that shouldn’t be happening, and from doing a better job of keeping from overpaying doctors and labs etc. by catching their overbilling and not paying twice sometimes and in some cases actually cutting back on reimbursements.

            And according to reports that are coming back, these savings and more are being realized in hospital upon hospital across the nation. In fact, there are hospitals in Washington State and Arizona that are actually seeing profits for the 1st time in their existence because they’re serving far less uninsureds who can’t pay for their care than was expected. Instead of running red ink that had to be covered by their state governments.

          • I asked if the obamacare tax had cuts for Medicare. You said no then in the next sentence you talked about the Medicare cuts. Great political double speak.

          • You’re the one that’s trying to doublespeak – you don’t even know what you’re talking about. The Obamacare tax and Obamacare itself has absolutely nothing to do with Medicare. The only connection is the 716B in Medicare savings which are being used to fund some of Obamacares benefits. Otherwise there is NO CONNECTION!!!

          • Of all the GOP’s sins over the years, trying to destroy Obamacare is probably one of their greatest; including the 24 red states who have refused to expand Medicare. As several of us have said, including Maine’s Independent Senator King, the Republicans doing this are nothing but MURDERS!!!

            See the death projections because of their callous murderous choice:

          • And you GOP loving hypocrites have a lot of nerve whining about the immigrant children looking for asylum possibly bringing into America some kinds of virus when you’re more than willing to let as many as 17,000 Americans or more die prematurely by refusing to expand Medicaid!!!!!!!

          • And by the way, why don’t you explain to all of us here how people who support a party of murders sleeps at night. I happened to come across a video of some ISIS fighters murdering innocents along a river bank by shooting them in the head and then dumping their bodies into the river. The Republicans in 24 red states are no different than those ISIS fighters just because their allowing innocents in their states to die prematurely by proxy – by voting to not expand Medicaid. They’re every bit as much murders as those ISIS fighters. Please explain how you sleep at night knowing you’re supporting nothing more than a party of murders!!!!!!!!!

          • Medicaid and CHIP sign-ups have exceeded 7 million since ObamaCare’s
            new coverage options opened for enrollment last October, the government
            reported Friday.

            The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that 7.2
            million people have gained health insurance through Medicaid or the
            Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), both designed to serve
            families with lower incomes.

          • What numbers am I making up?? I never quoted how many people were enrolled in Obamacare. Those numbers you just quoted do not include the Medicaid expansion numbers nor the millions of children that are now covered under the family Obamacare policies that are included in that 7.2 million new enrollees. Nor do your numbers include the more than a million people who have enrolled in Obamacare after the March deadline. People who have changed jobs and lost their coverage under their emplyer and had to find individual policies in the exchanges. The actual numbers of total enrollees even according to the Gallup Poll is closer to 14-15 million under Obamacare.

            And what is the date on the article you just copied??? My hunch is it’s from sometime near the end of April before all the final ACA enrollee numbers were compiled.

            And I still would like to know what numbers I’ve quoted that you’re taking issue with.

          • As usual, your numbers aren’t worth diddly squat. Here are a the updated numbers through 6/15/14 from the Obamacare Dairy:

            William Tomasko: The New Grand Total: 14 Million People Signed Up To Get Covered Since October 1

            We got a new Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment report from the feds this week, and it marks a new milestone. Between the health insurance marketplaces, Medicaid, and CHIP, 14 million Americans signed up to get covered between October 1 and the end of April. Compared to the sign-up stats from before October 1, Medicaid/CHIP enrollment has increased by 6 million people since open enrollment began on October 1, including 1.1 million in April alone.

            In states that expanded Medicaid, enrollment increased by more than 15 percent, and sign-ups still increased by 3.3 percent in non-expansion states. It’s important to remember that even though open enrollment ended for the health insurance marketplaces on March 31, people can still sign up for Medicaid and CHIP at any time. So that 6 million figure will go up as the year goes on.

          • Are you a lying creep who obsessively hates Obama and everything he’s tried to do to help the nations?

        • Johnson’s “great society” has long since been repealed, which might have something to do with its alleged failure.

    • Truly. “Ebola as the fault of the Tea party”. You can’t find that kind of profound insight anywhere else but here. The greatest friend Africa has had in the last half a century was George Bush. The guy this clown despised. Bush. The guy who was twice elected, and twice elected not by the dung beetles who flock here mind you, but by the very conservatives this Bozo boy now rips as the ones responsible for the disease. Priceless? Isn’t it?

      • Yeah, smart guy.
        Did you read the article? It pointed out a few facts about the GOP. You know, those inconvenient things you guys hate and fear so much.
        George W. Bush wasn’t a friend to anyone but arms makers, polluters, and idiots like you.

  8. I am very against foreign aid and/or science projects to Mars primarily and loudly and angrily and disappointedly and, and, and — because we simply do not take care of our own. Billions to foreign aid — what about a few million to our starving, homeless, sick children right here under our collective noses.
    Why do we give foreign aid — ‘they’ say to stop violence and civil unrest and ‘their’ wars on each other. Bollox! The foreign countries that we give to have a knee-jerk formula for bleeding our coffers. First, the media starts talking about violence. Second, the media starts showing pictures of crying, dying, fly infested babies and children. Staged?? Hmmmm. Third, it’s in our face and on the news and because we really do have compassion for the human race — we write a check.
    We are hypocrites! I don’t want one cent of my tax money to go out of the country until we have cured our own deficiencies!! We have over 1500 homeless in our capital city. God only knows how many in other states much larger and more populated.
    We are like the cobblers children who walk barefoot while his clients are well-heeled. (a joke) We are becoming a country of beggars and it’s pathetic!!
    Common sense tells us we must heal, educate and house our own. Oh, wow, I forgot — we lost common sense years ago.
    Soooo? What’s one to think? There must be oil or a feigned act of loyalty out there where our money goes. We are like teenagers trying to buy friends, but if we looked at our own ‘family’ – we would have – and do have tons of wonderful friends. Not to mention babies and children who are meant to be the future of our country. Will we wake up in 10 or 20 or 30 years and whine that our parents – our government abused us by neglect?? What say we grow up America??

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