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Trump’s Foreign Aid Proposal Leaves the U.S. on a Sinking Island

Water pump provided by USAID

Water pump provided by USAID (cc)

When beginning the discussion regarding foreign aid policies in the United States, one must first establish a few basic facts. While most Americans estimate that foreign aid takes roughly 15-20% of our nation’s GNI (gross national income) in reality it actually constitutes far less than 1% of it (approximately 0.17%)1.. While the United States currently contributes the highest amount of money to foreign aid, just over 30 billion, in terms of percent of GNI it ranks nearly 20th. Donald Trump’s recent proposal aims to slash foreign aid by 28% and cut some programs entirely while increasing the budget for the military by 54 billion dollars. Despite those facts and figures, foreign aid is much more than that; it is a narrative of people. Over 1.3 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, and according to UNICEF 22,000 children die each day due to poverty and more than 750 million people lack access to clean drinking water.2. Poverty, starvation and illness are huge issues for developing nations; however, foreign aid is much more than a charity case and needs to be taken seriously when considering the fate of our own country. By cutting foreign aid, Trump is setting the United States up for economic failure, vulnerability to disease and disaster and increased political conflict.

A leading argument against the distribution of foreign aid is that burden it places on the United State’s already indebted economy; however, this is only looking at one side of the coin. Pumping money into another country’s economy increases their health, efficiency and eventually purchasing power. “95 percent of the United States’ top trade partners were, at one time, U.S. aid recipients... today, 45 percent of all U.S. exports go to developing countries.” 3. In essence, foreign aid is generating a new cluster of United States consumers. By abandoning these countries’ fragile infrastructure before they have solidified, we are fundamentally killing off our customers, neglecting the opportunities to establish strong, advantageous trading partners and losing money instead of saving it.

The health of our planet is only as strong as our weakest link and is therefore a collaborative effort, independent of any single country. One can set up fences, which trap those inside as much as they block those outside, however diseases and disaster knows no such boundaries. While the western world has made great strides in the creation of immunizations and antibiotics to fight diseases, children in the developing world face death from curable illnesses including diarrhea and pneumonia everyday. This lack of immunity harvests the creation and dispersion of variations to these illnesses and leaves even the United States vulnerable. A recent example of the United State’s lack of immunity is the presence of the Zika virus throughout the United States where there are 38,212 confirmed cases according to the CDC. 4.  Had this virus been eliminated from its origin in Uganda, individuals around the globe, including in the United States, may not have been affected. By helping others maintain and improve health conditions, the United States is actually investing in the health of our own futures as well as the futures of the developing world.


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An important component of foreign aid is the concept of disaster relief assistance. While the proposed budget cuts not only weaken our ability to help others during these scary situations, they also leave the United States vulnerable in the occurrence of a disaster within our own backyard. Cutting budgets and setting up barriers purposefully places United States on an island of it’s own; however, these changes assume consistency within our unpredictable world. The budget proposal assumes that the United States is immune to disasters such as hurricanes, disease outbreak and tsunamis. This, however, is not, and will never be, the case. For example in 2005, over 90 countries offered a total of 800 million dollars in relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina left over 80,000 Americans displaced. Without the generosity of so many countries, both wealthy and impoverished, the outcome of Hurricane Katrina would look quite different. With the proposed budget’s cut to foreign aid, other countries are less likely to assist the United States, because they know that the generosity will not be returned. “How could this be justified in today's world where over 65 million people are displaced, and we are faced with multiple humanitarian crises? To abandon the vulnerable for armaments would not make America greater but would make her smaller.” 5. This budget places the United States on a sinking island, or should I say an island with the waters are rising around it, leaving each and everyone of us vulnerable.

Donald Trump has proposed this plan in order to increase the budget for our military, however the only reason we would need an increase in military spending would be because of the cuts. Cutting foreign aid will no doubt weaken the United States’ relationship with countless countries, leaving us in a situation of vulnerability. While our aid once gave us leverage within governments around the globe, abandoning these countries in their time of need will no doubt lead to hostility and resentment. In our physical world, this anger often leads to violence, and while our increased military may be able to avoid complete destruction, the purpose of our armed men and women shouldn’t be to sacrifice their lives but instead to harbor peace. While increasing the military spending may improve security, it will ultimately leave the world in a state of greater disparity and conflict.

The proposed plan to cut foreign aid programs will cause economic loss, health decline and an increase in conflict within our already distraught world. While Trump aims to increase military spending at the expense of programs including but not limited to foreign aid, he will be leaving foreign countries as well as the United States helpless.  Trumps plan very literally fences the United States onto an island, vulnerable to rising sea waters, cultural singularity and widespread injustice.

Hannah Ranalli

Hannah Ranalli

Hannah Ranalli is currently an undergraduate student at the Pennsylvania State University studying community, environment and development with an international emphasis.

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