Generosity

December 28, 2004 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’m at home, so I get to read the Missoulian daily. That means I come across Mona Charen columns. Today’s was pretty interesting.

America the greedy and cruel

The school movie. What a glorious thing it was to a student eager to avoid real work. The lights were dimmed, and nothing was expected from us except to gaze at a screen. (Later, we understood that lazy teachers liked movies for the same reason.)

But at least the films we saw conveyed good information, unlike so much of the leftist drivel that is marketed to our kids today. I remember in particular the films about American aid to the Third World. I recall those huge white sacks of grain with “gift of the USA” printed on the sides. And the faces of the starving children (Biafra was the starvation current when I was in elementary school), as their bowls were filled with nutritious food. You wondered whether it was too late for those hollow-cheeked, haunted faces.

Silly me. I was proud of the United States for trying to help those people in distant lands. I did not have the benefit of the tendentious, anti-American claptrap that is routinely served up in American schools today.

Hmm, me neither. We watched Saving Private Ryan. Damn those anti-American bastards.

Paging through The New York Times yesterday, I came upon just the same sort of spin in a news story about world food aid. “U.S. Cutting Food Aid That Is Aimed at Self-Sufficiency” announced the headline. Reading on, one learns that, “In one of the first signs of the effects of the ever tightening federal budget, in the past two months the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping millions of people climb out of poverty.” Nowhere in this page 3 article does the New York Times reporter Elizabeth Becker place these cutbacks in context.

The Times does not tell readers that the United States is the world’s largest food aid donor by far. In 2004, the United States provided $826,469,172 — almost a billion dollars — to the United Nations World Food Program. The next largest donor, the European Union, contributed $187,102,068. This, despite the fact that the European Union has a total population of 453 million, compared with the USA’s 281 million, and a gross domestic product that is larger than that of the United States.

Japan was third on the list, giving $126,906,097, and the United Kingdom was fourth, with donations totaling $109,247,050. Iran gave $40,000. The Saudi Kingdom gave $3,345,325 — about the cost of one trip to Paris for the Crown Prince. And Kuwait, the OPEC fund and the Russian Federation gave nothing.

I suppose the reporter could have put it in the context that tax cuts for the rich are more important than food for starving children. I don’t think Charen would have liked that, though. In any case, one point made in the article is that we promised the agencies the aid, then changed our mind:

“We have between five and seven million people who have been affected by these cuts,” said Lisa Kuennen, a food aid expert at Catholic Relief Services. “We had approval for all of these programs, often a year in advance. We hired staff, signed agreements with governments and with local partners, and now we have had to delay everything.”

Ms. Kuennen said Catholic Relief Services had to cut back programs in Indonesia, Malawi and Madagascar, among other countries.

Officials of several charities, some Republican members of Congress and some administration officials say the food aid budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 was at least $600 million less than what charities and aid agencies would need to carry out current programs.

Also, we aren’t talking about the UN WFP, where Charen’s statistics are from. I think that gives me enough of an excuse to use overall economic aid statistics (slightly older ones, though I doubt they’ve changed much). The U.S. is 20th in economic aid per capita and 21st per dollar of GDP (second in absolute dollars, however). We give 15% of what France gives per person.

In any case, I think we can all agree that cutting food aid is not good. Charen would like to obscure that, apparently, but it’s clearly something we would rather avoid.

  1. December 29, 2004 at 5:12 pm | #1

    Ouuk! Just mentioning Mona Charen makes me ill.

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