Rumor has it that the Trump administration will try to bypass Congress and cut billions in funding for foreign aid, and as you might have guessed, Congress isn’t happy about it.
Every year, billions of the U.S. tax dollars extorted from the citizenry are sent around the world, ostensibly to help folks who are worse off than we privileged Americans. In the pursuit of his “America First” agenda, President Trump has pushed both tax cuts and federal spending cuts – the second, of course, being necessary in order to make the first practical.
In his first year in office, Trump was handed a tax cut bill by Congress, which he signed happily, achieving one of his many seemingly impossible campaign promises. Now it seems he’s eying foreign aid money as one of his primary targets to get spending down.
Congress folk on both sides of the aisle, led by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), have vowed to push back on any effort by the president to actually do this. Of course, neither party likes the idea of real spending cuts – it seems Democrats and Republicans alike are statists when it comes to keeping the gravy train rolling.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has allegedly asked the State Department and USAID for information for a recission package targeting foreign aid. Reuters broke the story, but their source – some administration officials – spoke on condition of anonymity. So while this is hopeful news from a normally reputable source, as you should with all “unnamed source” stories, take it with a grain of salt and a shot of penicillin.
Assuming the claim is true, the administration is going after money that has been appropriated by Congress already, but not spent. According to these unnamed officials, the OMB is after about $3.5 billion that is no longer needed for the original purpose for which it was appropriated. According to a cable from the OMB to the Department of State and USAID that Reuters claims to have obtained, “the package will focus on expiring international assistance funds that the administration considers unnecessary.” Here’s how they plan to make it happen:
“If Congress fails to take action to release the funds they will remain on hold until the end of the fiscal year, September 30, at which point they will expire and be returned to the treasury.”
The funds to be cut in this plan aren’t even funds that are actually going overseas; it’s the leftover money that doesn’t make it. However, as reasonable a plan as this appears to be on the surface, the aforementioned Bobs aren’t happy.
“I don’t know how they can do that legally, but we certainly look forward to seeing how to counter that, if that’s the case,” Bob Corker said.
“If they do it in the way that they’re going to… in essence, it effectuates a cut without Congress being able to act, then I have to look at the nominations in a whole different light,” Menendez said, meaning that he would consider blocking Trump nominations as retaliation.
The Bobs lead a powerful Senate committee, the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and plan to throw their considerable weight against the president in this endeavor.
Is it true?
As is the case with any story originating from an unnamed source, the veracity is immediately called into question. How many times did The Washington Post, The New York Times, or CNN rush to publish anti-Trump stories from their own “reliable sources,” “officials close to the matter,” “officials speaking on the condition of anonymity,” and other unnamed sources, only to end up with egg on their faces and retractions in their publications?
But Reuters hasn’t seemed to jump on the anti-Trump bandwagon. On August 16, around 350 news outlets joined to publish editorials rebutting Trump’s claim that the media has become the enemy of the people, but Reuters was not among them.
More to the point, Trump has often suggested cutting foreign aid, and even made the attempt in the latest budget suggestions, though Congress shut him down on it. Neither the State Department nor USAID have commented yet, and the OMB said that it doesn’t comment on alleged leaks and that it won’t discuss deliberative and pre-decisional information.
A Step in the Right Direction
Regardless of whether Donald Trump or Mick Mulvaney really has some clever plan to work around Congress to cut foreign aid, it’s still a practice we need to cease. It isn’t right to force Americans to turn over their hard-earned money to send it off to other countries. It wouldn’t be right even if it actually ended poverty. There’s nothing charitable about giving if what you’re giving was taken by force from someone else.
But as Andrew Moran astutely pointed out, much of this money isn’t going to the poor:
“[o]ver the last 40 years, the U.S. government has given $500 billion in aid to Africa alone. Is the continent any better off? Millions still reside in slums, suffer from curable diseases, and starve to death – but at least the despots live in mansions and drive luxury vehicles.”
Some of it has undoubtedly helped common folk. But at what point are they responsible for their own fortunes? And what gratitude has the world shown us for our enforced “charity”? Foreign aid is a drain on the taxpayer, and it’s a bad investment for the nation. It’s time to pull the plug on it all together – and we can nix any contributions to the UN while we’re at it. If President Trump can get the ball rolling, then good for him and good for the American people – whether Congress likes it or not.