Editorial: Trimming foreign aid

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Foreign aid is on the federal chopping block, and not a moment too soon. The United States can hardly afford to pour billions into other countries when itís awash in red ink at home.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that leaders of both the House and Senate are eyeing the first significant cuts in overseas aid in nearly two decades. Foreign aid and the State Department budget totalled $55 billion in fiscal year 2010. The figure fell to $49 billion by the end of fiscal 2011.
Thatís about 1 percent of federal spending overall, so the cuts wonít have a big impact on the federal deficit. But the cuts will be felt around the world as the U.S. curtails spending for food and medicine in Africa, disaster relief for places like Pakistan and Japan, and economic assistance for new democracies. Even the Peace Corps may be affected.
The United States canít turn its back on the rest of the world. President George W. Bush supported increasing foreign aid after 9/11 to help as part of an effort to combat the roots of extremism. Desperate people often adopt radical causes.
Spending less on those efforts now, though, may please taxpayers who are desperate to see Congress deal with our fiscal realities at home. Cutting foreign aid may symbolically hurt our standing in some countriesí eyes, but at least we will still be standing.