The end of the Second World War saw a Europe truly devastated, prostrate; in some cities the number of buildings with an undamaged roof could be counted in the fingers of one's hand, with winter aggravating survival of civilians. George Marshall's idea of a massive infusion of American capital to Europe energized the continent in 1948. It is no exaggeration that it saved millions of lives and reconstructed entire countries. Such was the pace of rebuilding Germany and such was the shortage of manpower after the war that "temporary guest workers" from Turkey began arriving (the "temporary" guests became permanent and today are a cancer in German society). The Germans call it "the German miracle," as if the rebirth came about in isolation, like Venus rising from the sea. Gratitude from those countries towards the United States proved ephemeral.
Even though the purpose was to reconstruct European countries that had been devastated by the war, it was expanded to include European countries that had not been touched by the war at all (Sweden, Portugal, Turkey, Switzerland, Iceland and Ireland). They, too, never showed lasting gratitude.
The idea of foreign aid took deep root in the psyche of American rulers. It was wrongly thought of as a panacea to communist subversion in the Third World. The mistaken assumption was -- and still remains to this day and has even expanded to explain Islamofascism -- that it was the poor, "the downtrodden," that were most receptive to Marxist propaganda. In this, American intellectual and political leaders inadvertently adopted the Marxist ideology that communist movements come from the lower class. In reality, totalitarian movements of all persuasions are populated by middle class intellectuals. Anyone who has read Eric Hoffer's works would recognize this. This is especially so looking at the leadership of such movements, not only the ones that succeeded in grabbing power in Europe and Asia but those that failed to do so (including in the U.S.).
At any rate, America started pouring vast amounts of money into other countries for development and improvement of those countries: roads, dams, hospitals, schools, and relief in times of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, epidemics, hurricanes. This was done with such regularity that to this day it has come to be expected that if a country has a misfortune or a need to fulfill, America will give away hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money to those countries to combat anything from resurgent Marxists to Ebola virus to AIDS to clean water to ingrown toenails. Some of it has gone to fight the war on drugs -- and we all know how well that has turned out.
The Soviets decided that they, too, would use foreign aid as a political weapon and could match, if not exceed, American foreign aid. The rulers of the Third World became adept at playing one side against the other and milking both, without committing themselves politically to either side (I encourage the reader to read both The Ugly American and The Ugly Russian).
When the Soviet empire collapsed, American foreign aid should have logically ended, just as once Osama bin Laden was finally found and killed, America should have left Afghanistan. But the bureaucracies would not permit it. Although the original raison d'etre for foreign aid vanished with the end of Soviet expansionism, foreign aid has continued unabated to this day. In this, Americans are further handicapped by three obsessive traits in their national character which are an infantile craving to be liked by foreigners, a desire to always help a neighbor in need, and an obsession to correct a problem, or if you will, "right a wrong."
This neverending outpouring of wealth continues to occur while certain unpleasant realities go ignored: (1) an enormous degree of theft and corruption takes place at the receiving end, to which Americans are oblivious (2) there is a lot of exaggeration -- lying -- about the reasons for the aid, especially the gravity of the "problem" (3) there is no gratitude on the part of the recipients for the aid, as it has become to be viewed by them as their due* (4) the aid never seems to end because the "problem" is recurrent---or never solved---and it is naturally in the recipients' best interest to keep the wealth coming in; besides, the relevant bureaucracies will not allow themselves to become extinct (5) American citizens are being taxed in order to maintain the increasing levels of foreign aid (6) since almost every country in the world is receiving foreign aid from the United States, in one form or another, America is on the verge of going bankrupt -- not that the recipients care.
By the end of the 20th century, giving foreign aid had become an addiction of both the government and the media (and all addictions are exceedingly difficult to break). It is also important to point out that many in the American government offering foreign aid to other countries were, and are, frankly, idiots. Worse, a veritable army of lobbyists in Washington D.C. exists, financed by foreign governments, whose sole purpose is to dine and wine and flatter and convince congressmen and other bureaucrats into keeping the money flowing into other countries to the detriment of America (I would argue that these lobbyists are essentially traitors. As are the legislators).
Equally guilty is the political left in America whose fanaticism with the Socialist concept of "redistribute the wealth" that does not belong to them is extended from an internal policy to an external policy.** We often hear this with individuals mouthing off slogans that rich countries have to help poor countries, that it is their "duty," that it is their "moral responsibility," etc. They have turned compassion into a weapon with which to silence dissent. The corrupt, dictatorial leaders of recipient countries have learned to parrot such slogans in order to elicit a knee-jerk response in that political section of America. And it has worked.
In order to appreciate -- truly appreciate -- the magnitude of this cancer, the reader should go through the list below, one by one, of all the countries that are receiving aid, and the gargantuan amount that is being doled out (all figures come from the United States Agency for International Development), while remembering that we don't have enough money with which to help American citizens, that our country's infrastructure is crumbling around our ears, our country is about to become bankrupt, Social Security is about to go defunct, and American citizens are being crushed by taxation to finance this obscenity. The United Nations has not been included in the list (the United States is the largest contributor to the United Nations, paying 22 percent of the $5.4 billion core U.N. budget and 28 percent of the $7.9 billion U.N. peacekeeping budget). Some of the countries have been underlined as meriting special attention, either because the amount is simply gargantuan (even when the country is miniscule), or, because they are rich, or, because they are our declared enemies. Please note that every single country in the continents of Africa and South America, and almost every country in Asia, is receiving money from us (and, as with other countries, we get nothing in return). Uncle Sam is covered from head to foot with leeches.
It is also important to realize that as colossal as the amounts are for one year, these amounts have been repeated, and are being repeated, every year.
Also note that over the years many of these African and Asian countries have received ten times more aid than some devastated European countries received from the Marshall Plan in just one year, so those countries should by now be a paradise (see Table). Whereas those European countries rebuilt and modernized their country with the proceeds of one infusion of the Marshall Plan, most of these African and Asian countries are still pigsties.
2011 $237,363,215 $1,539,308,744
2012 $360,580,246 $1,392,494,300
2013 $314,591,280 $1,570,212,963
2014 $672,901,439 $179,479,760
2015 $245,813,394 $1,525,466,191
2016 $258,925,027 $98,826,384
2011 $13,400,380,402 $379,121,199
2012 $13,111,490,049 $540,393,416
2013 $9,736,127,455 $519,474,952
2014 $7,259,300,766 $595,551,195
2015 $3,072,502,383 $592,349,645
2016 $1,024,314,522 $438,551,346
Kenya South Sudan
2011 $899,791,412 $144,144,175
2012 $999,967,033 $636,566,059
2013 $907,868,125 $625,412,388
2014 $891,665,076 $867,773,855
2015 $941,251,462 $838,589,050
2016 $508,196,564 $502,659,864
While many American citizens are living in cardboard boxes and under bridges, billions of taxpayer dollars are sent overseas by our glorious politicians, who see nothing wrong with what they are doing. And it never ends. Billions of taxpayer dollars are constantly being sent into a black hole -- without taxpayers' consent.
Note also that, with three or four exceptions here and there, all the countries receiving aid in Africa and Asia are despotic dictatorships, some of which have erected a façade of being democratic.
The solution to this problem is really very, very simple, but one that will be forcefully resisted by the cancerous bureaucracies, lobbyists, and compassion-manipulators: eliminate all foreign aid. Not reduce it! Eliminate it! Beginning with eliminating the United States Agency for International Development bureaucracy. One does not reduce a cancerous tumor because it will regrow. One excises it!*** The same with foreign aid. To this end, a Constitutional amendment should be adopted that reads: "The United States will not send money to other countries or organizations in other countries unless those countries are allied to us by treaty and are at war with our common enemy. Nor will other countries receive material aid without immediately paying in full value for said aid unless those countries are allied to us by treaty and are at war with our common enemy."
Perhaps the new administration will do so.
ADDENDUM: I was going to leave it at this point, but I feel that I need to point out -- in case you have missed it -- that recently, we are witnessing the beginning of a (actually, the periodic) concerted effort to send additional money to Africa because of drought causing a famine---the same phenomenon that has been going on for the past sixty some years (in fact, I think that they are using the same picture of the same malnourished child that I saw when I was in my teens). You have been warned
*And they often receive the aid after they insult us. Recently, the psychotic president of the Philippines, Duterte, quipped that Secretary Kelly gave his country $33 million of money (that did not belong to Kerry) after Duterte told us to go to hell. He said perhaps he should insult us some more. A European leader (I forget his name) years ago stated that America was like a woman whom you slap in the face---she gives you more of her money. Both were talking about the jackanapes in the American government.
**To make matters worse, some Senators have complained that the Politically Correct fanatics inside the USAID have given money to far left political groups, with violent philosophies, in other countries, under the guidance of George Soros.
***To cite just one example. When the March of Dimes was created, its original purpose was to find a cure for poliomyelitis. When that occurred in the 1950s, the bureaucracy did not dissolve itself, now that the goal had been accomplished. Instead, it continued to exist . . . by targeting other diseases.
Armando Simón is a retired college professor and the author of A Cuban from Kansas, The U, and, The Only Red Star I Liked Was a Starfish.