Former presidents on foreign aidIt is not widely known how much foreign aid is being spent as a part of the national budget, especially because statistics and figures can change dramatically under different administrations and eras. The policies of former presidents on foreign aid can reflect the national and international priorities of the nation itself and what the presidents themselves valued more compared to other factors within the federal budget.

5 Former Presidents on Foreign Aid: Who Spent What?

  1. Harry S. Truman is well-known for the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. While the Truman Doctrine was to extend economic and military aid to Greece, the Marshall Plan was more inclusive as it was designed to help Western European countries rebuild after World War II, consisting of $13 billion. Other goals achieved through these means were building markets for U.S. businesses and earning allies during the Cold War.
  2. Ronald Reagan believed in budget cuts domestically, but he was a strong advocate for non-military foreign assistance. He promoted the “0.6% of GDP” minimum to be spent on foreign aid, as he believed that such aid plays a large role in foreign policy strategies. Such strategies were to create stronger U.S. allies and to promote economic growth and democracy globally. Reagan also emphasized that it is an American value to provide foreign assistance based on the U.S. founding beliefs that “all men are created equal.”
  3. Jimmy Carter was an advocate for making human rights a priority of the U.S. foreign policy. Not only did he sustain foreign aid, he also made sure to redirect the routes of such aid away from brutal regimes, such as that of Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile-Mariam. He also ensured that foreign aid was an instrument used for luring in more American allies during the Cold War. For instance, by 1980, 75 percent of the total aid designed for Africa were redirected towards the Horn of Africa, as Mengistu was Soviet-backed.
  4. During Barack Obama’s presidency in 2011, figures on foreign aid were reported as being increased by 80 percent when compared to the reports in 2008. Foreign assistance kept increasing from $11.427 billion in 2008 to $20.038 billion in 2010 to $20.599 billion in 2011. During 2011, the aid was split into Economic Support Fund, Foreign Military Financing Program, multilateral assistance, Agency for International Development, Peace Corps and international monetary programs.
  5. In 2002, George W. Bush planned an expansion of 50 percent over the next three years through the Millennium Challenge Account which would provide $5 billion every year to countries where that governed unjustly. Additionally, Bush called for $10 billion to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean over the following five years. There were also emergency funds put aside, consisting of $200 million for famine and $100 million for other complex emergencies.

The policies of former presidents on foreign aid widely reflect their intents and objectives, such as wishing to create more U.S. allies during the Cold War or to stop health epidemics from spreading, like HIV. International assistance can be employed in differing areas of focus that all eventually reach out to help an individual or a community climb out of poverty.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid

Foreign aid is a topic that stirs controversy, with each side maintaining significant weight in their argument.

“You know the excuses: We can’t afford foreign aid anymore, or we’re wasting money pouring it into these poor countries, or we can’t buy friends—other countries just take the money and dislike us for giving it. Well, all these excuses are just that, excuses—and they’re dead wrong,” Ronald Reagan said in 1987.

The United States’ stance on foreign aid changes with each administration. The phrase, “you are damned if you do, you are damned if you don’t” comes to mind.

Foreign aid has been categorized as “soft power” since the late 1980s. “Soft power” is the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. Joseph Nye coined the phrase, arguing that security relies on winning people as much as winning wars.

Since the 1980s, soft power has become central in U.S. foreign policy practices. Is foreign aid a tool in the soft power toolbox?

Nye believes aid is purchasing power, not soft power. Despite the nuances of whether aid is categorized as purchasing power or soft power, foreign aid is important for the United States to achieve interests abroad.

According to Phil Vernon, “currency of soft power is values, institutions, culture and policy, then soft power is exercised by the choices you make and the actions you take, not by what you say.” If this is true, aid should be accompanied by anti-corruption monitoring organizations, tools of economic sustainability and keys of independence. The goal is not to have a country depending on the United States, but to provide the tools for a state to become independent.

If the United States does not ensure and monitor the aid given, corruption will prevent the money from reaching the population in need. Monitoring programs are even more vital than aid itself. Corruption is the kryptonite to foreign aid.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the more corrupt the government is, the more aid the state receives. There is no evidence that an increase in foreign aid reduces corruption.

Currently, corruption is not being punished. This lack of acknowledgment is only encouraging governments to abuse international funds. If corruption is reflected in next year’s funding, people will suffer. If the population suffers on the government’s behalf, this is motivation for the population to vote in order to correct the situation. Thus, reducing corruption will be imminent.

Despite the controversies and arguments surrounding international aid, it is important to remember that giving aid to corrupt governments is not giving aid to the people. Corrupt governments must be punished in some way in order to reduce international corruption. Corruption is the kryptonite to U.S. foreign policy success. U.S. interests must be maintained, and aid is a tool in the toolbox for doing just that.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

Top 5 Oldest US Presidents
The saying, “Age is but a number,” seems to apply in political contexts as the nation has seen individuals elected in their 50s and 60s. The prominent candidates for this year’s presidential election happened to be some of the oldest candidates yet — with Bernie Sanders at 74, Hillary Clinton at 69 and president-elect Donald Trump at 70. Nonetheless, some of America’s most memorable presidents have been older than most and yet sharp and on top of things.

The top five oldest U.S. presidents are as follows:

  1. Ronald Reagan — 69 years old at the inauguration, the Republican Party member earned the title of the 40th president of the United States and served eight years in office. He is remembered most for his economic influence in helping bring an end to the Cold War, as well as fulfilling his goal of achieving “peace through strength” and restoring “the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism.”
  2. William Henry HarrisonHarrison is the ninth and one of the oldest U.S. presidents; he entered office at age 68. Nationalistic in his outlook, he emphasized his obedience to the will of the people as expressed through Congress, but unfortunately did not have the chance to carry out his plans, only serving in office for one month before getting sick with pneumonia and dying shortly after.
  3. James Buchanan — James Buchanan entered the White House at 65 and served as the 15th president for four years. He is often acknowledged for his pro-slavery stance, which led to increased unrest between the North and South.
  4. George H.W. Bush — George H.W. Bush, 41st president and father to George W. Bush, is the only one of the top five oldest U.S. presidents who is still alive. Elected at age 64, he is known for his determination to make the U.S. “a kinder and gentler nation” in the face of a dramatically changing world and loyalty to traditional American values.
  5. Zachary Taylor — Taylor is the 12th president of the U.S. and also entered office at 64. Taylor represented the Whig Party, which advocated for national improvement projects and criticized the growth of executive power in response to the authoritarian policies of Democratic President Andrew Jackson. As a general in the U.S. Army, Taylor is famous for victories in the Mexican-American War.

Though age does play a part in voters’ decision-making, it did not seem to keep these individuals from being elected or hinder their large actions concerning the well-being of America. The men described possessed standout qualifications and had significant accomplishments that portrayed them as fit for office and capable of leading a great country.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

Over the years, several Hollywood stars have made the jump from silver screen celebrities to prominent political figures. Among the influential actors to serve in politics, the five listed below have been recognized as the most impactive, and perhaps the best to have done so.

1. Ronald Reagan: The United States’ 40th president Ronald Reagan landed his first Hollywood acting job in 1937, and went on to appear in numerous box office hits. At one point Reagan even served as the president of the Screen Actor’s Guild. He went on to become the Governor of California in 1966 and President of the United States in 1981, where he would remain in office until 1989. In his time in office, Reagan was referred to as “the great communicator,” a title that only he and Bill Clinton have ever held.

2. Fred Grandy: Fred Grandy, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Gopher in the popular television sitcom The Love Boat, was actually a Harvard graduate who was well on his way to a political career long before his years of Hollywood fame. Upon ending his nine-year career on The Love Boat, Grandy decided to run for Congress in Iowa. He served in the House from 1987-1995.

3. Clint Eastwood: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly star Clint Eastwood ran for office in is hometown Carmel, California in 1986 after he was told by authorities that he couldn’t remodel an old office building next door to a restaurant that he owned. This was clearly a huge mistake on the naysayers part, as he won the election by a landslide and then fired planning board members who voted against his proposal. Eastwood only completed one two-year term.

4. Arnold Schwarzenegger: Before he was the Governator, Schwarzenegger had an extensive career as both a body builder and big time Hollywood actor. Despite the many jokes thrown at him during his campaign for governor of California, he won the election and served two terms from 2003-2011.

5. Ben Jones: Famous for his hilarious character portrayal of Cooter in The Dukes of Hazzard, Ben Jones went on to serve two terms as congressman of Georgia’s Fourth District, after retiring from his acting career.

– Meagan Hurley

Sources: Time, IMDB
Photo: Ride Apart

It’s unusual to see Commanders-in-Chief without blazers and ties or standing at the podium. However, the most interesting photos often come about candidly. Those moments depict lives beyond the Oval Office, casting leaders in a more human light.

The images below show five rare photos of past presidents engaged in various out-of-office activities.

George W. Bush awarding Tee Ball trophies

George and Laura: the early years

Bill and Hillary Clinton

Bill and Socks

George Bush Sr. and his Superman socks

George Bush Sr. in the Navy

Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Lucky

Governor Ronald Reagan and son, Ron

Jimmy Carter at Camp David

Jimmy Carter with University of Iowa alumni

– Whitney Garrett
Photo Sources: IowaAlum, Library of Congress, The Atlantic, Fold3, LA Times, USA Today, American Heritage, Technorati,, George W. Bush Library