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Posted at 10:44 AM ET, 01/21/2011

Defunding USAID Is a bad idea

By Adam Serwer

Yesterday the Republican Study Committee released a plan for cutting government spending more geared towards pleasing its base than actually governing, targeting the minimal government funding for NPR, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and, of course, the United States Agency for International Development. The cuts don't touch Medicare, Social Security, or the defense budget, but they do defund the Affordable Care Act and cut so much aid to the states and infrastructure spending that, as Steve Benen wrote, "if lawmakers were to get together to plot how Congress could deliberately increase unemployment their plan would look an awful lot like this one."

Andrew Exum at the Center for a New American Security explained why defunding USAID is a particularly bad idea:

[T] the money we spend through USAID is part of our national security budget. Some money, such as the money we spent through both the defense and aid budgets in Haiti last year, we spend for mostly altruistic purposes. But the two biggest recipients of U.S. international aid through USAID are Afghanistan and Pakistan. We can have a separate debate about whether or not this money is being well spent, but we cannot have a debate as to why it is being spent: it is quite obviously being spent to advance what are seen to be the national security interests of the United States.

Exum has actually written in support of cutting aid to the point where it can be subject to effective oversight, but that's not what Republicans are proposing. It's one thing to say the war in Afghanistan is no longer in the U.S. interest, it's another to ostensibly support the mission while entirely eliminating the funding for development.

The focus on entirely defunding USAID is a little bit like the Republican fixation on earmarks -- it relies in part on an inflated perception of how much America actually spends on foreign aid. Ezra Klein posted a fun chart a while ago that explained how this works:

foreignaidbudget.JPG

The other problem is that politicians, eager to out-hawk one another, have gradually helped push the U.S. towards greater militarization at the expense of the civilian tools of foreign policy. The reason why Republicans want to entirely defund USAID but avoid touching a hair on the defense budget is that they see every single matter of foreign affairs as a nail, and so they don't understand why we should be spending money on anything other than hammers.

By Adam Serwer  | January 21, 2011; 10:44 AM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy and national security, House GOPers  
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Next: Is support for repeal vastly overstated?

Comments

[Adam cites: "the money we spend through USAID is part of our national security budget."]

Well make up your minds, progressives.

Do you want to slash defense spending, or don't you?

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 21, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Great graph


What liberal programs should we cut so we can send money to the ingrateful Latin American countries who are going to hate us anyway?


_____________________________

AND if we are going to have to listen to all this "big lie" garbage -


AFTER all the DECEPTIONS OF OBAMA, AND OBAMA'S BAIT AND SWITCH.....


AFTER ALL THE FALSE CHARGES OF RACISM...


Things are not going to be Civil -


AND the American People already can see the BS of the democrats


Obama and the liberals have turned our political system the GREATEST DEMOCRACY IN THE WORLD INTO A CIRCUS.


It is a complete disgrace to the nation.


How long did it take the democrats to go back to their BS ? Less than a WEEK??? How pathetic and WORTHLESS does that make anything the democrats say ????


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 21, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Obama is going up in the polls a bit

However, whenever there is a tragedy, the President gets a temporary bump.


Also, Obama pretty much abandoned the repeal of Don't Ask, Lieberman is the one who pulled the votes out -

Nevertheless, I think 2-3 points in Obama's approval rating is the gays happy with that. However, that also will be short-lived when the gays realize that Obama is against gay marriage.

Finally, the smear campaign probably gives the liberals another temporary bump. People wouldn't smear if it didn't. The problem is, of course, that the smear campaign and the False Charges of Racism are doing permanent damage to Obama which Obama is unable to recover from.


So, here we go again.

The democrats, not even a week has gone by, and they are LYING ABOUT LYING.


Time to throw these people out of government AND DRIVE THEM OUT OF TOWN.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 21, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

The simple fact is that every dollar spent by the federal gummint has a backer who swears that absent the money catsasstrophe will ensue.

this will be a looong hard slog for those of us who demand that the gummint's spending be reduced. The liberals are already doing vocal warm ups so that they can be an effective stuck-pig chorus to howl at every idea advanced by their political opposition.

and of course no liberals screed would be complete without a heaping helping of left wing bigotry. Here's today's dose from MR Serwer:
=========================
Republicans want to entirely defund USAID but avoid touching a hair on the defense budget is that they see every single matter of foreign affairs as a nail, and so they don't understand why we should be spending money on anything other than hammers.
=============

bigotry is the ONLY word that adequately describes what Mr Serwer is saying here. And that bigotry is now the primary feature of liberal thought. How sad for the left that it has lost both its soul and its majority. Gosh, I wonder if the two loses are related?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 21, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Adam


Don't hate the PLAYA, hate the game.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 21, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

"this will be a looong hard slog for those of us who demand that the gummint's spending be reduced."

As it should be. There are valid expenses that the government should incur. The chorus demanding cuts ad nauseum refuse to concede that there will be an impact to those cuts; instead insisting on cuts, regardless of the impact. That is asinine.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 21, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

$2.5 TRILLION is hardly "minimal" government funding.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 21, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Great graph


What liberal programs should we cut so we can send money to the ingrateful Latin American countries who are going to hate us anyway?

___________________

Not much unlike the question


WHAT taxes are we going to raise so the ingrateful liberals can come back and ask for more, and STILL call everyone foul and racist names???


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 21, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

"$2.5 TRILLION is hardly "minimal" government funding."


More asininity. The absolute number is irrelevant. Instead, the question needs to be whether we're getting good value for our dollars. For some, the answer is always 'no', which seems to stem from a lack of understanding of what the country would look like if government didn't exist.


.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 21, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

here's the crux of the problem;
=============
As it should be. There are valid expenses that the government should incur. The chorus demanding cuts ad nauseum refuse to concede that there will be an impact to those cuts; instead insisting on cuts, regardless of the impact. That is asinine.


=========================

How do we determine the definition of "valid"? As I noted, every penny spent by DC has a proponent who insists that it is vital. Are we to spend forever arguing about the "impact"?

I think we should spend as little time as possible on that as it is a distraction. Just like the left's demand that the Republicans give a substitute for Obamacare. It is just a way to change the subject.

The assault of Ms Palin and the American right after the shootings in Tucson was an attempt to change the subject.

The phony calls for "civility" after the left trashed innocent people was an attempt to change the subject.

Demands that "impact" be examined ad infinitum is an attempt to change the subject.

Sorry bsimon1, but sacred cows are about to be turned into ground chuck. something someone thinks is "vital" is about to lose some of my money. I can hardly wait.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 21, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"The focus on entirely defunding USAID is a little bit like the Republican fixation on earmarks -- it relies in part on an inflated perception of how much America actually spends on foreign aid."

It also relies on the cuts that would be most meaningful to their base (a political criteria) and also subscribes to the "broken windows" theory of budget cutting. While these earmarks and foreign aid allotments may not be huge in the overall budget, how are we ever going to reign in spending if we can't even make small cuts, and small reforms, in the margins of budgeting?

BTW, cutting USAID and taking away earmarks doesn't necessarily mean there will be no foreign aid, humanitarian help, or pork projects, just that these things may happen in different ways.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Interesting to note: one of the biggest recipients of the USAID expenditures is Israel. Is the RSC really ready to cut their aid?

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 21, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

"Demands that "impact" be examined ad infinitum is an attempt to change the subject."

How so? I'm not saying there should be no cuts, I'm saying any cuts should be justifiable in terms of cost-benefit.

If I need to cut my personal budget, eliminating the car expense would be stupid if it meant I could no longer get to my job. A better solution might be finding a cheaper car. Or cutting another expense. Point being, which some here are apparently incapable of understanding: not all spending is equal.

Of course, Serwer makes that exact point, in noting the conservatives' collective refusal to cut the sacred cow of defense spending, while demanding that all else go to the butcher.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 21, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

bsimon-

Word. Why is defense spending not on the chopping block? Because too many folks equate spending with military success and/or preparedness. The Right creates its own perfect storm for this by creating bogeymen and thus, finding instand markets for the Military-Industrial Complex (copywrite 1960, President Eisenhower (R))

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 21, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

All, this is the clearest evidence yet that support for full repeal is vastly overstated:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/is_support_for_repeal_vastly_o.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 21, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Great graph


What liberal programs should we cut so we can send money to the ingrateful Latin American countries who are going to hate us anyway?

___________________

Not much unlike the question


WHAT taxes are we going to raise so the ingrateful liberals can come back and ask for more, and STILL call everyone foul and racist names???


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 21, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Barely on topic, this is a true story, dimly recalled, about USAID in the field. After the Yugoslavian wars of the 90s, State lent my good friend of forty+ years to USAID b/c he was the resident Balkans pro. My friend had to go to major Balkans towns to ask them if they needed help rebuilding schools or hospitals or playgrounds after the conflicts. One town council insisted that they needed aid to build a tower antenna tall enough to retransmit satellite TV broadcasts from Europe and America.

The town was in a valley surrounded by mountains that interfered with
satellite reception. He tried to explain that he was supposed to find humanitarian projects. The Mayor was blunt: "build us a big TV tower retransmitter and we will watch American TV and we will love America. We don't need playgrounds."

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 21, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

""Demands that "impact" be examined ad infinitum is an attempt to change the subject."
---------------------------------

And where did bsimon indicate the impact be examined ad infinitum.

There was virtual never ending scream of bipartisan and compromise over the last 2 years and anyone with their eyes open realized that compromise when uttered by republicans really meant, do it our way. Now Republicans get a perfect chance to act on their demands for compromise and they give us this list of cuts, with nary a compromise in sight.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | January 21, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Re: cutting defense spending

What part do you cut? The lions share goes to pay money to people (i.e.: employee people, civilian and military). What group of politicians really wants to slash the defense budgets and put people out of work?

A portion goes to scientific and medical research, and good stuff comes from that money. Do we really want to cut that?

Should we cut veterans benefits?

Research and development into things that keep our soldiers more and more out of harms way?

Or, should we cut the budget to armor humvees and provide body armor to our troops?

Afghanistan and Iraq are being paid for via separate spending bills, and aren't in the defense budget at all. Why don't we just pull out of both theaters and cut that spending?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

@sue: "Interesting to note: one of the biggest recipients of the USAID expenditures is Israel. Is the RSC really ready to cut their aid?"

It's a shell game, sue. Congress can create new spending bills with the stroke of a pen. USAID will be cut and the Support Of Middle-East Allies bill will be passed, and Israel will get their money.

Politicians are what they are.There are very few of them honestly interested in giving up the power of spending other's people's money, or being an international sugar daddy. They aren't doing anything to limit their power to create new spending (or replace cut spending) so it's mostly like me deciding I'm going to save money by not buying any snacks out of the machine, and then a week later I think, "well, one can't hurt" and so on.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"Do you want to slash defense spending, or don't you?"

Military spending, we definitely need to cut. Most Americans agree on that.

Defense spending for "painting schools" kinds of projects that win us hearts and minds? People already think the amount we spend on that is too low, as Greg illustrates above.

So, yes on more defense spending, no on more pentagon spending.

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 21, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

@Kevin-

Like someone said on another blog, "everyone likes generic spending cuts-no one likes specific cuts."

I'm willing to analyze what *could* be cut, but the GOP won't even consider it. Non-starter for them of course.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 21, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

ChuckinDenton, how about we "start" with $2.5 TRILLION?

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 21, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Navy Laser Death-Ray Proven Feasible
http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/01/20/raygun-breakthrough-revolutionize-naval-power/

The "Holy Grail" of Military Lasers
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWdGkb7r1iA

Now we just need big frickin' sharks to mount them on!

*gimmee*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 21, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Part of the reason the Republicans feel less need to go after defense spending is that the Pentagon has already started identifying areas to cut on their own.
___________________
What part do you cut? The lions share goes to pay money to people (i.e.: employee people, civilian and military). What group of politicians really wants to slash the defense budgets and put people out of work?
___________________

Exactly Kevin. Defense is one of the last industries where we can say a product is primarily made in the US. So we cut the C-17 (for example) program and 1000 people at Boeing loose their jobs. I'm not saying that cuts can't be made or aren't necessary, but if we want to protect the industrial base of this country, there has to be defense spending. Cut the programs that are failing, reform procurement to put less emphasis on developmental items, and define what we really need and what type of wars we are going to fight in the future. But the blanket call to cut defense spending is just as silly and counter-productive as calling for a non-defense cut without regards to how this will help/hurt the country.

Posted by: Bailers | January 21, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

It is important to understand how the massive standing government is likely to respond to federal spending cuts.

to obtain a glimpse of this one must only recall how fannie mae, under the excellent leadership of "Frankie" Raines dealt with any member of congress with the nerve to call for a change in anything related to the rice bowl. they spend a fortune on lobbyists and actively sought the electoral defeat of their opponents.

Significant federal (read taxpayer) money goes to federal agencies's efforts at "legislative relations". these publically funded lobbyists will work hard to insure that the alphabet soup agency that employs them doesn't lose a dime. Meanwhile the citizens of the country will be asked to work hard and pay taxes so that the lost electricity reclamation bureau (ht firesign theatre) can carry on its obscure mission.


while I understand the lofty words shared by bsimon, I also understand how all this will work. Demanding cost/benefit justifications is just giving the publically paid mouthpieces of the standing government an opportunity to show their stuff.

Oh, and how many of these cost/benefit analyses are published before these alphabet soup agencies release new regulations?

Ms Pelosi arrogantly told us that we wouldn't know what was in the obamacare bill until it was passed. OK, fine. Now let's see what happens with spending is cut AFTER the cuts are made. The law of unintended consequences works boths ways. I understand that. But at least we're not wasting our money in the meantime.

the calls for defense cuts can be turned around using bsimon's car analogy. I live in a tough neighborhood. When money gets tight, should I cancel the burglar alarm system to save the monthly fee?

The world is dangerous and we've enjoyed a pax Americana for quite some time now. The liberals want to throw that away so we can support even more unwed mothers.

No thanks.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 21, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Kevin_Willis asks
"Re: cutting defense spending

What part do you cut?"


I think Sec Gates has done a pretty good job on that front. His biggest challenge is overcoming congressional insistence on projects the DOD doesn't want - and that's a problem with bipartisan contributors.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 21, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

"I live in a tough neighborhood. When money gets tight, should I cancel the burglar alarm system to save the monthly fee?"


It depends. Maybe adding a deadbolt is both cheaper and more effective.

.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 21, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Claw-

I was referring to Defense.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 21, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"What group of politicians really wants to slash the defense budgets and put people out of work?"


Shouldn't the same rule apply to any government spending that would put people out of work? Or is defense the sacred cow that skipsailing28 is so worked up over?

.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 21, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I would recommend a complete overhaul and full review for drastic reductions and substantial defunding of USAID programs world wide . It is a great idea particularly at this time . We have much greater need of funding our domestic programs e. g. , Head Start ,VISTA , Senior Corps programs etc . We get most for our buck in domestic programs here in poor and low income communities across the U. S . than in Egypt , Israel , Pakistan and/or other developing countries . As an economist and former Federal employee , having served in US AID and ACTION/ National Service , I know it . My heart has always been in our domestic anti poverty and community service programs started by Presidents Johnson and Clinton .

Posted by: dmfarooq | January 21, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I still find it hard to understand the mindset of those on the right who don't want to pull out of Afghanistan, but don't want to do what it takes to win that war. When your commanders on the ground tell you that to win the war, you have to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, but you oppose giving the Afghan people development aid because they are foreigners, you aren't serious about winning the war. This isn't news; back in 2003 conservatives revealed that they were more interested in chasing after Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction than in achieving victory in Afghanistan. But even with eight years for it to sink in, I still find it astonishing.

Posted by: KennethAlmquist | January 21, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Adam Serwer's statement that "Republicans see every single matter of foreign affairs as a nail" is as much a gross generalization as a conservative saying "all liberals are socialists." There are intelligent and stupid people on both sides of the argument. But stereotyping an entire population of people is not wise,nor accurate, and only reveals naked bias.

Posted by: jcwalton98 | January 27, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

A very biased article.

Posted by: jcwalton98 | January 27, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

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