• Freedom
  • Innovation
  • Growth

Rand Paul Is Right: We Should Scale Back Our $48 Billion In Foreign Aid


The media are trying to pull a “gotcha” on Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul by accusing him of flip-flopping his position on foreign aid. But his proposal is both consistent with his long-held views, while recognizing that in politics one often has to take incremental steps. 

As a general principle, Paul would like to end foreign aid to other countries, but also recognizes that an immediate cut off of aid, especially for some allies like Israel, wouldn’t be prudent. As a first step, he says let’s end foreign aid to those countries that oppose our policies and burn our flag. That not only sounds reasonable, you have to wonder why that isn’t obvious.

And there’s a lot of cutting to do.

According to the federal government’s USAID, for fiscal year 2012 (the latest data available), “The United States remained the world’s largest bilateral donor, obligating approximately $48.4 billion—$31.2 billion in economic assistance and $17.2 billion in military assistance.”

The United Nations boasts 193 member countries, and the U.S. provided economic assistance to 184 of them, or 96 percent. We also provided military assistance to 142 countries.

So the question isn’t which countries receive U.S. foreign aid, but which ones DON’T get it?

Afghanistan was by far the largest recipient, $12.9 billion obligated in military and economic assistance. Israel was next with $3.1 billion. (Note: In many cases USAID identifies only the “obligated” foreign aid funds as opposed to already “disbursed.”)

Third was Iraq, with $1.9 billion, then Egypt with $1.4 billion, Pakistan got $1.2 billion and Jordan $1.1 billion.

Thus, out of the top six U.S. foreign aid recipients, five of them were Muslim countries. And yet it seems the U.S. can’t buy good press in the Middle East—though apparently it’s not for lack of trying.

And you will love this: Along with allies that arguably need U.S. taxpayer assistance you find Russia ($339 million), Venezuela ($9 million), Syria ($107 million), Cuba ($11.4 million), and even the People’s Republic of China ($59.5 million).

And—wait for it—$1 million to Iran.

Of course, State Department officials might claim that some of that money is to help the poor. But China has the second largest economy in the world—and is a major buyer of U.S. debt. So we borrow money from China in order to give them financial assistance? Just sayin!

Foreign aid proponents also claim the total amount given isn’t that much when compared to the size of the U.S. government. Maybe so, but that’s only because the U.S. government is too large and spends too much.

Back to Paul’s point, doesn’t it at least make sense to end foreign aid to Russia, China, Venezuela and a host of other countries that don’t like us very much? It may not be prudent to end support for some of our allies, at least for the time being, but why are U.S. taxpayers paying to be abused by some of our biggest critics?