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January 05, 2005


Robert Speirs

Odd how nobody questions the morality of taking money from US citizens at the point of a gun and sending it overseas to people who didn't have the foresight to protect themselves against predictable disasters. Being generous with other people's money isn't called "charity". It's called theft.

Jack Tanner

So many are breaking their necks to reinforce the old saw about liberals, they're willing to give you the shirt off of someone elses back.


Drezner's data seems to concur with the jist of Kristof's column. We aren't the stingiest, but we are no where near the top of generosity -- even when you factor in a bunch of other things than just aid.

I'm sure Jack and Robert have no problem spending hundreds of billions on the military. Consider development aid a foreign policy tool and then you might stop caring. Anti-Americanism is wide-spread and damn strong. Spending some money to try and save a few millions lives will do nothing but buy us good will, cut down on anti-americanism, and in the long run be an investment in our own defense. This kind of "crazy talk" is mentioned in some of the Pentagon's own internal assesments on long term threats.

Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist, estimates that spending $2 billion to $3 billion on malaria might save more than one million lives a year. "This is probably the best bargain on the planet," he said.

It's not just malaria, but TB (which could actually come nad bite us in the ass too), diarrehea, measels, and several other diesases -- all very cheaply preventable.



But as a share of our economy, our contribution still left us ranked dead last among 22 top donor countries.

We gave 15 cents for every $100 of national income to poor countries. Denmark gave 84 cents, the Netherlands gave 80 cents, Belgium gave 60 cents, France gave 41 cents, and Greece gave 21 cents (that was the lowest share, beside our own).

It is sometimes said that Americans make up for low official aid with private charitable donations. Nope. By OECD calculations, private donations add 6 cents a day to the official U.S. figure - meaning that we still give only 21 cents a day per person.


Even if you factor in private giving, the United States ranks 19th out of 21 rich countries in terms of per capita expenditures, according to the 2004 Ranking the Rich exercise...

This does not mean that the United States is particularly stingy on other dimensions of helping the poor. The Ranking the Rich exercise included aid as only one of seven components -- the others are trade, investment, migration, environment, technology, and security. When you aggregate the different components, the U.S. comes in at 7th out of the 21 countries (intriguingly, among the G-7, the Anglosphere countries -- Great Britain, Canada, and the U.S. -- come in at 1-2-3). It turns out that the U.S. is comparatively more generous on other dimensions.

Our resident troll:

Drezner's data seems to concur with the jist of Kristof's column. We aren't the stingiest, but we are no where near the top of generosity -- even when you factor in a bunch of other things than just aid.

Hmm, 7th out of 21, versus dead last. Yeah, that was the gist, all right. Do you even read this stuff, or do you just disagree on principal?

But nice job on minimizing the typos. Now it is only your content that is ridiculous.


TM, I skimmed Kristof's column and read the drezner post when he originally posted it. Jist "We aren't at the top in terms of generosity". Drezner - "We aren't 20th, we are 7th". I agree with the Drezner #, but I don't like hanging 7th place ribbons on the wall. The numbers only give a vague sense of magnitude, Kristof is off by a bit, but his general point is right.

I dont even think it has to all be through traditional aid, I'd be in favor our farm subsidies and pressuring Europe to nix theirs. Maybe a nice advertising campaign on how farm subsidies kill the poor a la OxFam.

Dave Schuler

Where we rank depends entirely on how you construct the rating system. If you measure government-to-government or government-to-institution aid, we'll score lower than many European countries. Add in corporation-to-institution and we score higher. Add in individual-to-institution and we're yet higher. Factor in individual-to-individual (remittances) and we score among the very highest.

These things are as much measures of the nature of societies as of the the nature of giving.


Stingy? Fine. Give me my money back and you can be satisfied there's no debate.


Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Collinsville, Illinois

The past couple of days, I know some of you or your colleagues have asked about the President's contributions to some of the international relief organizations in the Indian Ocean -- who are working in the Indian Ocean region. The President has sent contributions totaling $10,000 to some of the relief -- some of the international relief organizations who are working in the region to help those in need recover from this grave tragedy.

Q Which ones?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are some from the list on the usafreedomcorps.gov website. And the President --

Q -- a list of them?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into specific ones. The President, as you heard the other -- as you've heard on a couple of occasions over the last week, the President has said he encourages all Americans to send cash donations as they're able to do so to these international relief organizations who are working in the region and have a good understanding of where the resources need to be directed to meet the needs of the people in the region.

Q Do you happen to know when he wrote the check or checks?

MR. McCLELLAN: They are being mailed today.

Q In the mail -- check in the mail.

Q How many checks --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll just leave it at "to some organizations on the list." And I think that's all I've got to --

Q Did he divvy them up equally? Can you put a finer point on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that, obviously, this information will be -- more information will be available when his tax returns are released. But at this point, I think he'd prefer to leave it at that and continue to encourage others to look at -- go to the usafreedomcorps.gov website and look at the list and participate to organizations of their choosing, as well.


First, italics off.

Second, can we now say we're dead last out of the top seven?

Jack Tanner

'I'm sure Jack and Robert have no problem spending hundreds of billions on the military.'

Speak for yourself asshole.


Of course, we won't be credited for the billions we spent making sure Europe wasn't overrun with stinking Marxists. Or the money we spent preventing genocide in the Balkans.

And how about those filthy Canadians? Do you think we might get some props for protecting their asses? Fat chance. Americans may be forgiven if they feel like we're doing enough for others.

Cecil Turner

What I want to know is: are those billions spent on aircraft carriers and various military transport aircraft and helicopters still evidence of our heartless drive for global dominance . . . or do we get to count some of them in the humanitarian (disaster relief) column? And am I being uncharitable when I see US military personnel delivering aid, and feckless UN representatives holding meetings and press conferences, and find the latter unimpressive?


As a retired military helicopter pilot who has "been there, done that," Cecil, I couldn't agree more.

Frankly I'm sick and tired of this whole "who's the stingiest in the land?" discussion, not to mention the "Bush didn't jump in front of the cameras fast enough" criticism.

I would hope we're providing an appropriate amount of aid to help where necessary because it's the right thing to do, not to buy friends (many of whom will find reasons to hate us anyway) or to move up on someone's UN "stingy list."


Forgot to mention ... I would imagine that the injured climbers I routinely rescued from the top of Mt Rainier didn't have much of a problem with spending billions on the military.

Seems we were always there for every mission when we were needed. I don't see that things have changed much, so, no, I personally don't have a problem with spending billions of dollars on a robust professional military that will stand watch on the wall for me and my family.

Cecil Turner

"As a retired military helicopter pilot who has "been there, done that," Cecil, I couldn't agree more. . . .injured climbers I routinely rescued from the top of Mt Rainier . . ."

More retired pilots is cool! I was on the FW attack side, so never got to do the rescue stuff . . . kinda envied you guys that mission. (Though at the same time wondered whether you all belonged in the nuthouse for doing them--especially in adverse weather.)


The US is somewhere in the middle of the pack for emergency aid, does pretty well on measures like trade protection and allowing in migrants, but remains very stingy in terms of aid –and that’s including private flows. See here for more.

Cecil Turner

"But the marginal cost is probably the correct number to use in this case. It isn’t as if C-17 transport plane purchasing decisions are made on the grounds that they might be useful in disaster relief. So, important as US military capacity is in terms of disaster response, in monetary terms it doesn’t add up to much."

Agreed it's sunk cost, but the monetary terms of the big-budget items are immense, and the assets are being used (it's analogous to chartering planes or rental cars). More importantly, you're ignoring Operations and Maintenance costs, which are also huge. Even if you only count the increased cost of sorties and aid delivered, it's significant, and I'd suggest the entire cost of running the carrier battle group (while it's doing disaster relief) ought to be counted.

" . . . the US is less generous than most countries."

I'm not sure I'm buying your measures of merit. In the first place, if the claim is that America should do more because it's richer, that's cancelled out by dividing by GDP--so a middle ranking is quite acceptable. In the second, maintaining a much higher level of defense spending has an obvious effect on what's left over for other programs. Those of us who believe the EU et al are shirking their responsibilities toward defense are less impressed with their aid numbers. (And I don't see things like funds for rebuilding Iraq in there anywhere . . . doesn't that count?)

Finally, US disaster relief is actually getting to people who need it. I'm sure many donors are getting credit for funding all the UN bureaucrats attending meetings in Indonesia . . . and remain unimpressed.


The US is near bottom in terms of overall aid flows as a percentage of GDP and near top in terms of military expenditure as a percentage of GDP. And military expenditures across all countries are higher than aid expenditures. So, if you count the Pentagon budget as generosity/non-stinginess in the same way as the USAID/MCA budget, the US is the most generous. If you think none of the Pentagon budget should be included, the US is stingy. If you think the marginal cost of military involvement in disasters is what counts, the US is still stingy. The 35-year life-cycle ownership cost of one carrier battle group— the aircraft carrier, its air wing, and supporting ships—is approximately
$65 billion (http://www.sdslink.com/SDS_International/PDF_PUB/VIRTUAL.PDF), two months of that cost is $309 million. Throw all of that into the generosity column, too, and it adds significantly to the scale of response to the tsunami, but doesn't do too much to overall generosity.

Having said all of that that, if you assume that ten percent of OECD defense spending counts as a 'global public good' and stick it in with aid flows, it would probably move the US at least to the upper middle of the pack...

Cecil Turner

"If you think none of the Pentagon budget should be included, the US is stingy. If you think the marginal cost of military involvement in disasters is what counts, the US is still stingy."

You're still not counting direct operating costs, but I agree it's not going to tip the balance significantly on the overall numbers. But I'd point out it's a very effective use of resources, since the aid actually arrives.

In the final analysis, it's a matter of choosing what's most important to spend money on. Personally I do not believe an elaborate international welfare system is necessarily the best choice, especially since those types of programs seem to suffer disproportionately from the law of unintended consequences. Helping with disaster relief (with the understanding that the affected nations will take reasonable steps to ensure the crisis isn't repeated ad infinitum) is fine . . . creating a dependency on endless aid streams less so, IMO. So, I guess I'm coming around to your "so what?" position. Cheers.


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