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While Budget Cuts Hurt U.S. Troops, Foreign Aid Remains Unscathed

by Wendy Innes, published

Much of the news out of the defense department recently has revolved around all the cuts that are coming, particularly in the realm of troop numbers, pay, and benefits. But while the White House and the defense department are trying to make the case that everyone is suffering from the belt tightening, one group that isn't suffering are all the countries around the world who receive billions of dollars in foreign aid.

It would seem that the country doesn't have money to pay for bullets, bombs, and beef jerky, but America apparently has enough taxpayer money to give to other countries, many of which are openly hostile toward the U.S.

Since taking office, President Obama has

steadily increased the amount of money that is spent on foreign aid. Between 2008 and 2011 alone, he increased foreign aid expenditures by 80 percent and that upward trend continued every year until sequestration went into effect in 2013.

However, also since taking office, Obama has steadily weakened the country's military and undermined security concerns. It has affected troop morale and many men and women in uniform have begun to wonder what they've been fighting for when they are surviving with less while corrupt governments get more.

According to estimates, the U.S. spends about $56 billion on foreign aid programs annually, with some slight variations. But, that number doesn't include extra funding that is funneled through the DoD or other departments, so the actual amount of goods and money sent overseas could be considerably higher.

This also doesn't include any amount of money that comes from private charitable giving, since the government is not involved in that philanthropy.

To be sure, the amount that is spent on foreign aid is small when compared to other areas of the budget. Eliminating the "friendship dues" that are paid to countries that are anything but friendly will not solve the entire budget problem that the U.S. faces, but many wonder why we spend this money to begin with. At what point did the United States become the police force and nurse maids of the rest of the world?

Contrary to what the name implies, this money doesn't necessarily end up going to the poorest countries on earth. According to the Congressional Research Service, the top recipient for U.S. foreign aid money is Israel. However, Russia and China receive money as well, which begs the question, "who is this money really helping?"

The answer to that is the American politician.

What few people realize is that

special interests groups benefit immensely from the money spent on foreign aid, which then gets passed on to members of Congress in the form of campaign contributions. If the topic of discussion was the mafia, the money might be called "pizzo." But in Washington, this perfectly legal form of extortion is called a fundraiser.

The power of special interest groups is well known at home, but their power overseas via foreign aid programs is sort of a dirty little secret. Using the food program as an example, when special interest groups pressure the government to purchase crops to send to supposedly poor countries, they don't really care that providing free food to these countries destroys local food markets.

The destruction of these food markets has caused the U.S. government to rethink the food program as officials propose simply sending cash instead of food, but it will never come to fruition. The reason is that lobbying efforts aim to keep politicians from voting to reform a program in such a way that it would take away from special interest groups. It's a vicious cycle.

While eliminating the money spent on foreign aid won't completely eliminate America's financial problems, the country can no longer afford to keep spending billions of dollars trying to buy hearts and minds, especially at the expense of our own men and women in uniform who often get stuck in the middle of the political game.

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