Does the US Have an Obligation to Give Money Abroad?
Well, do we? This question is commonly debated among politicians, intellectuals and average U.S. citizens. Is it correct to only focus on our own citizens, or should we help other countries through aid, health services and advice? This article will explore common sentiments toward and factual evidence about the effectiveness of foreign aid.

Before considering moral obligations, we should consider how much foreign aid the United States gives to other countries. The United States gives less than 1% of our $4 trillion budget to foreign aid. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a poll where Americans were asked to guess how much the United States spends on foreign aid. On average, respondents guessed that 26% of the budget went to foreign aid.

About one-third, or $5.3 billion, of foreign aid goes to health. About $3.1 billion goes to HIV/AIDS projects. About one-sixth, or $2.7 billion, of foreign aid goes to economic development, such as building infrastructure. Another $2.7 billion goes to humanitarian assistance or helping refugees.

Among developed countries, the United States gives one of the lowest percentages of gross national income (GNI) to foreign aid. The United States gives about 0.2% of the GNI to foreign aid. Some developed countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Luxembourg, give about 1% of their respective GNIs to foreign aid.

In sum, most Americans think that we give more money abroad than we do. Additionally, the United States gives a small percentage of its GNI to foreign aid when compared to other developed countries. Does this mean that, according to public opinion and government policy, we do not think we have much of an obligation to give money abroad?

Some people argue that the United States should focus on helping its own citizens before helping people abroad. What they don’t seem to understand is that the two can occur simultaneously. The United States can focus on helping the poor both domestically and internationally.

It is also important to consider that the poorest people in America are significantly better off than most. A person in the bottom 5% of the American income distribution is richer than 68% of people in the world. This may mean that we have more of an obligation to donate abroad than we currently do.

Still, some people may think that the problem is too large to fix; they might think that the United States cannot make a significant difference.

Global poverty is a substantial issue. However, the United States has helped to improve the living conditions of people globally. For example, more than 3 million lives are saved every year through USAID immunization programs. As a result of USAID’s population program, more than 50 million couples use family planning. These are only a few examples of how U.S. foreign aid has helped reduce global poverty and related issues.

Some may argue that foreign aid will not benefit the citizens if it is given to corrupt governments. This implies that we do not have an obligation to give to corrupt countries.

Even if a country is corrupt, this does not negate a moral obligation to help disadvantaged people. Furthermore, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. governmental organization, helps identify countries that are committed to good governance, economic freedom and investments in their citizens. This changes the way that the United States gives foreign aid. The United States can strive to give money abroad without supporting corrupt governments.

Intuitively, it seems as though the United States does have an obligation to give money abroad. The U.S. Government has the capability to give money abroad while still helping the impoverished in our country. The United States has already made significant strides in improving global health and alleviating poverty abroad. Presumably, the United States could help even more if we allocated more money to foreign aid.

– Ella Cady

Sources: Forbes, Giving What We Can, Millennium Challenge Corporation, NPR, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, USAID
Photo: The Daily Beast