Sunday, December 16, 2012

Editorial: Foreign aid: Small dent, big impact

Once again we find the editor aiming for the right target, but his technique isn't quite up to hitting it.

For starters, he undermines his own point by parroting the talking point, "Congress has been spending too much money for decades." Every time researchers ask Americans about specifics, they find that we generally support the spending. What Congress has failed to do is maintain the revenue streams to pay for it.

At the end of the same graf he yarbles, "foreign governments such as China hold the notes on our debts." It's true that China holds American debt, but it's a minor piece. Over half of total US debt is held by the Federal Reserve and the US government itself. Americans hold over half the remainder (right, three quarters of the debt that everyone's screaming about we owe to ourselves), and China holds about a quarter of the foreign component. Here's a primer on our public debt worth studying.
Every American should know this stuff, especially a newspaper editor.

"We deem [foreign aid] an investment of monumental proportions," writes the editor. What he pretty clearly means to write is that it's a small investment with monumental returns. Would it be so hard to run this stuff past a copy editor?

The embarrassingly tiny amounts of money relative to GDP that we reluctantly leak out to assist foreign governments and NGOs for humanitarian aid are indeed invaluable investments in the people they reach and our own image and security. The editor's entrapment in teevee thinking and slapdash writing unfortunately cripple him in his otherwise noble attempt to defend common sense.

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