Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bill to the Senate Wednesday that, if successful, would prohibit the sending of U.S. tax dollars to Pakistan as foreign aid. Rather than send the money to so hostile a nation, Dr. Paul proposes we use the funds to improve infrastructure at home.
Hundreds of Millions Down the Drain
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, who maintains a website handy for tracking foreign aid by country, we gave Pakistan over $777.5 million in 2016 alone. And that wasn’t an unusually generous year. They received a little over $1.1 billion in 2015, $999 million in 2014, $812 million in 2013, and $1.2 billion in 2012. The site reports $485 million for 2017, but warns that it’s only a partially reported year.
Pakistan seems an odd choice for foreign aid anyways, given their reluctance to help curb Islamic terrorism. Liberty Nation’s Jeff Charles covered the issue earlier last month, when the president announced his intention to cut funding to Pakistan:
Not only has Pakistan not done enough to combat terrorism, many believe that rogue elements within Pakistan’s military actually provide assistance and protection for terrorist entities. Islamabad has not made a concerted effort to root out the factions that support terrorism.
Additionally, as LN’s Leesa K. Donner pointed out, the nation ranks in the top five worst violent persecutors of Christians worldwide.
A Better Way?
Dr. Paul tweeted his argument against continuing to fund Pakistan – or, for that matter, any other nation hostile to the U.S. – early Thursday morning.
We fail our responsibilities to protect our country and properly steward taxpayers’ hard-earned money when we support countries that chant ‘Death to America’ and burn our flag. Let’s bring that money home and use it to help rebuild our infrastructure. https://t.co/e5EPOF8shN
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 25, 2018
According to his announcement, the bill will redirect $1.28 billion from the State Department and $852 million from USAID to the Highway Trust Fund.
The Path Ahead
This bill will have a tough road ahead. This isn’t Rand Paul’s first attempt to cut out or redirect foreign aid. While some have come close to succeeding, his most recent efforts have been soundly defeated. Why? As the Brookings Institute explains, modern foreign aid is supported by a very effective three-pronged message:
- National security: “The military alone cannot keep us safe.”
- Jobs and the economy: “95 percent of consumers live outside the United States.”
- Moral leadership: “America is that shining city on the hill.”
Establishing foreign aid was a tough sell, many years ago, but now it’s an even tougher idea to kill. Any call to eliminate it today is met with the moral obligation argument: We have; therefore, it is our duty to help those who do not have. There is, of course, a flaw in this argument that many like to ignore. Andrew Moran of Liberty Nation recently explained the error in his call to cut out foreign aid entirely:
A moral imperative? This is usually how foreign aid works: the government takes money from poor people in prosperous countries and then transfers it to corrupt public officials in impoverished nations. This is iniquitous, to say the least.
Simply put: there are those with just as severe a need for that money right here in the U.S. Additionally, once we’ve given it to other governments, we can’t really control where the money goes. Not every state receiving American aid likely abuses the gift, but some do, and Pakistan isn’t the only one. Just look at the Palestinian Islamic Jihad: According to the Council on Foreign Relations, quoting the U.S. State Department, the PIJ receives money and aid from both Iran and Syria, which in turn received $3.4 million and $916 million respectively in American funding in 2016, which doesn’t count the $417 million that went directly to that area.
But this bill may well have a shot. The Trump administration has called a lot of attention to Pakistan’s lack of cooperation, and the recent debacle at the U.N. regarding the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital hasn’t exactly fostered warm and fuzzy feelings for the international community in the hearts of Americans. Throw in the fact that Dr. Paul has offered up what will, for many, be an appealing alternative use for the funds, and it likely has a greater chance of success than his previous efforts.
Indeed, one of the larger points of contention this bill might face today is the alternative use of the money. Some would argue it should go to infrastructure, as Dr. Paul does. Others would rather see it fund the U.S.-Mexico wall. Others still would rather see it bolster Social Security, and then there are those who would argue for additional tax cuts – leaving the money in the pockets of individual Americans and corporations.
Whatever American project ends up funded by money formerly slated for foreign aid, it seems that just about anything is better than sending it to countries that in turn support and fund anti-American terror organizations. Will Dr. Paul’s efforts see fruition? Only time will tell. For those interested in keeping up with it, progress on the bill can be tracked at Congress.gov.