"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Saturday, January 01, 2005

America's Giving

The New York Times, the United Nations, and the rest of the American Left have it all wrong in their reaction to the nascent relief efforts for victims of the Asian tsunami. As John Podhoretz points out in his current column for the New York Post,, "The political and ideological exploitation of perhaps the worst natural disaster in all our lifetimes is almost beyond belief — were it not for the fact that nothing these days is beyond belief. Even as tears spring into the most hard-hearted person's eyes at both the unimaginable scope of the tragedy and at the wrenching individual stories of loss, opinion leaders just can't help themselves. They are using this cataclysm as little more than cheap debate fodder about the nature and character of the United States, its president and its citizens."

Podhoretz agrees that the U.S. foreign aid policy is a fit matter for debate, but he correctly points out that this is not the time for such an argument, as the disaster is not about the United States but about its multitude of victims. Absolutely. Moreover, the Left, led by the NYT, the UN, and certain vile European heads of state, are attempting to shift the issue from disaster relief to development aid, which is a different matter entirely.

Podhoretz does not mention, but should have, that the United States has always led the world in private giving, by far, and I am sure that this situation will be no different. To pretend that the United States will not do enough for disaster victims because the president is a Republican and conservative is perfectly absurd.

In my view, the U.S. (and European) Left's treatment of this issue has been disgraceful: the most cynical and brazenly opportunistic political behavior I have seen in a very long time. It is they who have brought shame on us in this matter.

5 comments:

Tlaloc said...

"The political and ideological exploitation of perhaps the worst natural disaster in all our lifetimes is almost beyond belief"

Why precisely has it been fine for the right to abuse 9/11 but it's wrong for the left to abuse the tsunami? Just wondering.



"Podhoretz does not mention, but should have, that the United States has always led the world in private giving, by far, and I am sure that this situation will be no different."

You're mistaken.
Consider this study that shows the US near the bottom of the list as far as both Private and Public giving:
http://www.cgdev.org/rankingtherich/aid.html



"In my view, the U.S. (and European) Left's treatment of this issue has been disgraceful: the most cynical and brazenly opportunistic political behavior I have seen in a very long time. It is they who have brought shame on us in this matter."

The US initially pledged 15 million. Then upped it to 35 million after criticism. And finally gave in to severe criticism and upped it to 350 million. That "shameful" behavior helped browbeat the administration into actually doing something to help. I somehow doubt the people of south east asia share your view of whose actions brought shame to the US.

S. T. Karnick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tlaloc said...

"The index Tlaloc cited is not measure of the quantity of money given, which is what I and both the critics and opponents of the Bush administration were talking about. The Center for Global Development index is a measure of the "quality" of the giving, which of course can be made to say whatever one wants to say. It is worthless."

Come on, Karnak, at least actually read the site before commenting. Here's exactly what it says on the matter:

"All rich countries give development assistance to poorer countries. But the design of development assistance programs means that some dollars or euros are more effective than others are. So, the index development assistance component rewards countries not only for the quantity of their development assistance, but also for the quality. It subtracts development assistance that comes right back to donors as debt payments. It penalizes donors for "tying" development assistance-requiring that it be spent only on goods and services from the donor country-or funding many small projects that can overload the staff of poor-country governments. It rewards selectivity-giving development assistance to countries that are particularly poor and particularly well governed. New in 2004, the index rewards tax incentives for charitable donations."

How is that unclear to you?



"Overall money given (both public and private) is the most important measure, especially since the numerical amount of giving was what the original argument was about. Here, the United States is and always has been exemplary."

Except that it isn't. The amount is less important than the GDP% where the US is a huge amount more stingy. Again all of this is made clear if you actually bother to read the study.



"Finally, no one in the government ever said or even suggested that the initial pledge of $15 million of taxpayer money was all that the United States would ultimately give. That is a false and despicable claim."

Did they claim they would give more? No. They said "we'll give $15 million." Then people got pretty upset given the $40 million being spent on a party for Bush. Its never false or despicable to report history as it happened no matter how much you wish it had been different.



"No, the motive for the attacks was to use the tragedy as an opportunity to berate a conservative, Republican administration for lack of compassion, an entirely false charge. Their behavior was utterly contemptible."

The motive for saying "America is giving a pitance" may have just been that America was giving a pitance. We're still giving far less than we should. $350 million sounds nice until you realize that we've slated $10 billion this year alone on a missile defense program that has never worked and is already obsolete with the development of the new Russian ICBM:
http://www.christiansciencemonitor.com/2005/0104/p09s02-coop.html

But whatever, you go ahead and blame the people who made sure Bush didn't ignore the body count if you like.

S. T. Karnick said...

Tlaloc does not answer my point that the criticism of the U.S. government response to the tsunami was based on a figure that was never claimed to be the final amount the U.S. government would give, not to mention the vast amount the U.S. public would surely add on its own. It was a cheap shot, the worst kind of moral grandstanding, and they knew it when they did it.

I did read the study Tlaloc cited, and his latest comment actually confirms my statement about it: he quotes from the study as follows: "So, the index development assistance component [sic] rewards countries not only for the quantity of their development assistance, but also for the quality." That was exactly what I said, that the authors of the study fashioned their interpretation of the data--their assessments of the "quality" of development efforts--to come up with the answer they wanted to ceate. It is also important to note that the study Tlaloc cited was about international development giving, not disaster relief. As I noted earlier, this was an attempt on his part to use the unseemly rhetorical device of changing the subject.

I did not say the study was unclear but that it was worthless. I reiterate that point.

Tlaloc argues that the amount of giving a nation does is not as important as the percent of GDP that its giving takes up. I should point out that people do not eat, live in, or sleep on percentages. But it is indeed true that percentages matter when we are making a judgment of a person's generosity or stinginess. It is good to see Tlaloc listening to Jesus on the matter.

If, however, we wish to look at percentages, it is essential that we get the numbers right, and the Center for Global Development study Tlaloc cited does not do that; like all other such studies so far, it leaves out a huge amount of American aid that goes abroad, because the changing nature of philanthropy has made the old methods of measurement obsolete. The internaional development expert Carol Adelman of the Hudson Institute documented that phenomenon comprehensively in the November/December 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs (see http://spp.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=3479) Adelman notes, "the OECD's outdated measure fails to take into account how Americans now give abroad. In 2000, the last year for which comparative figures are available, U.S. ODA totaled $9.9 billion. This figure includes the budgets of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Peace Corps, contributions to the World Bank, and some State and Defense Department humanitarian assistance. Together, these programs account for just over one-sixth of total U.S. assistance -- public and private -- to developing countries. Private giving makes up more than 60 percent. The remainder -- $12.7 billion in 2000 -- is government aid that, although not within ODA guidelines, is still foreign assistance. This includes aid to Israel, Russia, the Central Asian Republics, and central and eastern European nations and support for the National Endowment for Democracy and international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund.

"Private foreign assistance still includes the proverbial food relief shipments and missionary health clinics in rural villages, but its scope has grown considerably in the last decade. Its components now range from $100 million vaccination campaigns to support for small indigenous foundations wherein community members allot grant money to local causes. Immigrants in Maryland can use the Internet to send groceries and medicines to needy relatives in El Salvador or Vietnam. Although the total value of these types of private aid is much bigger than ODA, data on such giving are much weaker. The international development community knows little about where these private funds are spent or how well they work. But in order to grasp the new environment for assistance abroad, and in order to adapt U.S. government assistance in the crucial third wave of foreign aid, it is critical first and foremost to understand this private dimension. . . .

"Between 1990 and 2000, the number of U.S. foundations grew from 32,000 to 56,000. At the same time, more and more of them established international giving programs, which account for 11 percent of total grants. (Although there is little comparative data on European foundations, it is clear that they give considerably less than those in the United States, despite having grown dramatically in the past 30 years.) That decade also saw the emergence of 'megadonors,' such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and the UN Foundation, with backing from Ted Turner. As a result, international giving by U.S. foundations nearly quadrupled between 1990 and 2000. It now totals some $3 billion, almost double what the 'most generous' governments -- Denmark, Norway, and Sweden -- each give yearly in ODA. Many large foundations have sought especially to foster local philanthropy in developing countries, aiming to increase accountability and the effectiveness of aid dollars by funding independent community foundations. This kind of support exports the American tradition of private giving, allowing countries not only to develop economically but also to begin meeting development needs on their own.

"American PVOS -- such as the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, and the YMCA -- have also continued a strong tradition of international aid. They give almost $7 billion a year in foreign assistance, including volunteer time, thereby heeding Cotton Mather's call for 'a perpetual endeavor to do good in the world.' Since early relief efforts in Greece in the 1840s and in famine-racked Ireland, PVOS have delivered financial assistance and fostered political pluralism, volunteerism, and compassion.

"Corporate charitable giving abroad, once disallowed by U.S. courts, amounted to at least $2.8 billion in 2000 -- a figure that is surely low, since corporate giving is difficult to track. U.S. businesses give cash and non-cash grants, encourage employee volunteer programs, and conduct cause-related marketing, such as that generated by the alliance between Starbucks and care. The most important force in this regard is the pharmaceutical industry, followed by telecommunications and computer firms. In fact, drug donations by pharmaceutical companies in 2002 were valued at $800 million -- almost twice the World Health Organization's budget for that year.

"Least documented among U.S. private donors abroad are religious organizations. A low estimate of their annual contribution to foreign aid is $3.4 billion -- a figure that includes neither collections taken in individual churches nor the value of church volunteers' time. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. congregations consider international activities among their top priorities, and they fund and staff a wide array of programs in health, literacy, agriculture, and vocational training.

"U.S. universities, meanwhile, give more in scholarships to students from developing countries than Australia, Norway, or Spain gives annually in ODA. Over the last 20 years, such funding has increased dramatically, from less than $100 million to $1.3 billion. In 1955, there were just 34,000 foreign students enrolled in higher education in the United States; by 2001, there were more than 500,000.

"Finally, and most dramatically, comes what the Financial Times has called 'the diaspora that fuels development': remittance payments from immigrant workers to their homelands. Despite the fact that global remittances to developing countries roughly equal total ODA, development circles have long overlooked this category of aid. Remittances receive far less attention than official aid, trade, and investment but have an equal or greater impact on the quality of life in developing countries. The United States alone accounted for $18 billion in remittance payments to the developing world in 2000, and this figure will surely grow as efficient on-line services replace costly money transfer services and immigrant communities organize 'hometown associations' to plan fundraisers and development projects. Worldwide, remittances to developing countries have more than doubled -- increasing from $21 billion to $50 billion (excluding numbers for Russia) -- over the past decade. Latin America received the greatest share ($14.5 billion), followed by India ($11.5 billion), the Middle East ($10.4 billion), and eastern Europe ($6.2 billion). Every year, the amount sent to Latin America exceeds the region's total annual financing from multilateral development agencies. In six Latin American countries, remittances represent more than ten percent of GDP; in Mexico, they are the third-largest source of foreign exchange.

"Although we need more and better information on the impact of remittances in the developing world, clearly such massive private giving -- worth almost twice U.S. ODA -- is changing the nature of development. Some economists argue that remittances tend to go toward consumption, rather than savings and investment; others counter that they nonetheless stimulate the supply chain and have a strong multiplier effect. But while questions abound, no one doubts that individual remittance payments, which carry little or no overhead, efficiently meet basic human needs in developing countries. Poverty is lower among households that have members who have emigrated, and surveys show that a substantial portion of remittances funds roads, clinics, water pumps, schools, and other development projects.

"All in all, the United States is most generous. In addition to giving more foreign aid, in absolute terms, than any other country, it has long provided the most foreign direct investment to the developing world and generated the bulk of the world's research and development, spurring long-lasting economic development and saving lives through better food and medication. The United States also contributes the most militarily, guaranteeing the security necessary for growth and democracy. The big point -- that the totality of U.S. foreign assistance far exceeds U.S. ODA -- corrects the criticism that the United States is stingy in giving abroad."

This is all very real money flowing from America to the rest of the world, but as Adelman points out, it is not being counted by these reports critical of America. The obsolete measures of international philanthropy affect the United States numbers vastly more than those of other nations, Adelman notes, because so much greater a percentage of U.S. giving is by private entities rather than government. Adelman recently followed up on that thought in the New York Times, on January 4: "How can we, the richest nation in the world, not be more caring? The answer is simple: we actually are.

"The fact is, foreign aid is being privatized. A study by the Foundation Center found that international giving by foundations grew by 79 percent 1998 from 2002, while overall giving grew by only 42 percent. Private giving is usually faster, nimbler and more directly accountable than government aid. Overhead costs are lower, and it can better avoid interference by corrupt officials. It's no surprise that some of the first groups on the scene in Asia were private; on the day of the earthquake, CARE bought food for more than 8,000 Sri Lankans along with purification supplies and sleeping mats for 500 families.

"The Europeans assist the needy abroad as they do the needy at home, primarily through government programs. This makes them appear generous: Norway ranks first in allocating 0.92 percent of its gross national income to foreign aid. But Norway's $2 billion of yearly aid is less than what American companies alone give.

"So rather than talking about our stinginess, the Europeans and the United Nations should look to increase the role of private donors. After all, the victims of a tsunami do not care whether the food, medicine and clean water come from a government or an independent charity."

Adelman is right, and Tlaloc is wrong: Americans are a generous people, and our total worldwide giving reflects that. The lies, distortions, and obscene moral posturing of the New York Times and UN did not make us this way; it is just the way we are.—STK

S. T. Karnick said...

I accidentally deleted an earlier comment of mine. Here it is reprinted.—STK

The index Tlaloc cited is not measure of the quantity of money given, which is what I and both the critics and opponents of the Bush administration were talking about. The Center for Global Development index is a measure of the "quality" of the giving, which of course can be made to say whatever one wants to say. It is worthless.

Overall money given (both public and private) is the most important measure, especially since the numerical amount of giving was what the original argument was about. Here, the United States is and always has been exemplary. Shifting the ground to another subject is a common dishonest rhetorical tactic.

Finally, no one in the government ever said or even suggested that the initial pledge of $15 million of taxpayer money was all that the United States would ultimately give. That is a false and despicable claim. The obvious motive for the attacks by the NYTimes, the UN, and certain EU prigs was not to prod the U.S. government to commit more money; they knew as well as anyone that the United States would ultimately contribute the most of anybody, as usual. As we certainly will. No, the motive for the attacks was to use the tragedy as an opportunity to berate a conservative, Republican administration for lack of compassion, an entirely false charge. Their behavior was utterly contemptible.
5:07 PM