The United States Foreign Affairs budget is currently fueled with $51.6 billion. Though that may seem like a generous amount of money that could be better spent elsewhere, the surprising fact is that this $51.6 billion only makes up a minuscule portion of the overall federal budget.
Americans vastly overestimate the amount of aid their government contributes for foreign affairs. Proof of this is shown in studies done via polls since 1995, when the question first arose. While many Americans tend to assume that the government spends up to 25 percent of the federal budget on international aid, that is simply not the case, at all. In fact, only 1 percent of the overall U.S. budget fuels this effort–a number much smaller than many Americans had expected.
It is, contrary to popular belief, in the interests of our own economy here in the United States to increase this international funding. Reasons for this adjustment include the promotion of overseas trade, the creation of new jobs, and the preservation of national security and American economic health. President Obama himself stated his support with a partnership with USAID, saying that it is important to “develop partnerships with countries committed to enabling the private sector investment that is the basis of sustained economic growth to open new markets for American goods, promote trade overseas, and create jobs here at home.”
The promotion of overseas trade helps America in many ways. Not only do we become a larger player in the global economy, which in turn raises our international standing, but we also are able to support our national economy through trade. The United Nations 2013 Development Report stressed its findings that increased growth in the economy made a major contribution to poverty reduction in 40 developing countries. Those millions of people that were pulled out of impoverished lifestyles in turn pushed many more into a new global middle class.
Even Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates agrees that the federal budget should focus more on international affairs. Gates believes that the 1 percent that currently goes to such efforts “not only saves millions of lives, it has an enormous impact on developing countries–which means it has an impact on our economy.”
By funding efforts that reduce global poverty, we are able to create new jobs here in the United States. One out of every five American jobs is export-based, and 45 percent of our exports now go to developing nations. What exactly does this mean for Americans? It means that helping people in these countries provides a huge benefit at home. The drop in poverty creates an increase in the amount of active consumers in the country. Consequently, as more people are able to purchase items that the United States exports, American profits increase. Those that argue against buying foreign items in favor of supporting American business can find comfort in this–by helping them, it helps us. This increase in profits leads to better business for the American people.
Cutting foreign assistance puts national security in jeopardy. Even former president George W. Bush said, “No national security strategy is complete in the long run without promoting global health, political freedom, and economic progress.” Lack of funding in such at-risk areas as Afghanistan and Syria creates a vacuum that can easily be filled by powers that do not have American ideals held in the highest esteem. By exerting influence in such fragile areas, the risks of a national security breach are much lower.
– Samantha Davis