Friday, August 28, 2015

The myth of US foreign aid

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I remember when I was young and somewhat naïve I used to spout certain views on subjects that I really knew nothing about; communism/Stalinism, the Vietnam War, Britain’s role in the world and particularly its colonial history for example. Despite being a Catholic of Irish background I had no clue why they were fighting each other over there. I would have mistakenly attributed it to religion, a mistake, but I knew nothing about the history.

I remember as a boy, hearing news reports about the Mau Mau uprising and through no fault of my own drew the conclusion that these people hated us and simply did not want British help in making their country a prosperous one or they just didn't like white people.  That was the conclusion I was supposed to draw. We gave all this aid to people around the world and they just didn’t appreciate it. My mother would simply blame global poverty on humanity in general and my dad’s views, as an ex army man, would be influenced to a great degree by that experience.

Although I had a certain class-consciousness, I felt I was a worker and never really had a desire to leave this class of people, but I wasn’t overtly political until I started traveling. Meeting some Americans in Europe helped me a lot as they were politicized by the Vietnam War and I am sure the Civil Rights movement, women’s movement and the general turmoil of that decade. The African colonies were driving British capitalism out and that's what the Mau Mau uprising was.

In a discussion on Facebook the other day, a former co-worker of mine was defending the ideas of Donald Trump and in the course of the discussion made all the nationalist type claims that the US is doing good all over the world and defending us all against despots and that other nations never refuse all the military help and billions in aid we give them. He was joined by a fellow traveler in this venture. A number of us disagreed of course but it reminded me of myself 45 years ago. I at least had an open enough mind to find out the reality of the situation before I was 50.

So here is a little detail about US foreign aid. I think it’s 2009 figures from the OECD:

How much aid does the U.S. give to the world’s poor?
$30 billion goes to programs that assist the world’s needy.

How does that compare to other foreign policy priorities?
$663 billion goes toward military spending.  Dept.of Defense

Also from the OECD

"The Major Players in Global Do-Gooding

In 1970, the world’s richest countries agreed to give 0.7% of their gross national income as official international development aid. Most rich countries have failed to reach this reasonable goal, but five countries have exceeded the target: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The U.S. is ranked toward the bottom at 0.2%."

I am sure that readers of this blog are aware that myself and others that write for it explain that the cause of the poverty, low life expectancy and death of millions of children every year in the former colonial world, has nothing to do with the inability of human society to cure certain diseases or build social infrastructure or deliver water or heath care to people.  It is obvious to anyone who takes the time to look for it that the reason for this crisis, and it is one of catastrophic proportions, is not a lack of resources but a lack of will. The owners of capital, which, along with human labor power is the crucial ingredient in the production of human needs, refuse to provide the capital necessary to eliminate these problems.

They refuse to allocate capital because it is not profitable to do so.  The crisis in these countries is one of capital allocation.  The same applies here in the US, the economically and militarily most powerful of the advanced capitalist economies. We are told the money is not there to provide health care for all or education for all or decent housing and livable wages. There’s never the money we are told, but that lie can be exposed with the click of a mouse. The problem in the US is also not one of no money but of how the wealth workers create is spent.

Here Bill Nye makes a much better argument than me.

Mr. Nye shows how easily we could solve the problem of poverty for example, the resources are there. Maybe a difference I would have with Mr. Nye is that capitalism cannot solve it. In the capitalist mode of production and the political superstructure that arises from it, it is not only legal to extract surplus value labor power of the worker without paying for it, it is the right of the owner of capital to do with it what they please.

There is a certain arrogance that develops among some workers in the major imperialist country. The crass arrogance of the US ruling class finds expression among some workers as they adopt this selfish arrogant view of the world.  They become little Donald Trumps.

The problem for them is they don’t have his money and sometimes they hit bottom before they realize how the world really works.

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