By Jacob G. Hornberger
As most everyone knows, the federal government is now in debt to the tune of more than $22 trillion. Since federal officials are now spending, on an annual basis, around a trillion dollars more than what they are bringing in with taxes, that is going to raise the federal debt by a trillion dollars every year. We are reminded of this phenomenon by the periodic debate on whether Congress should raise the debt ceiling, an implicit acknowledgment that too much federal debt is not a good thing, especially since the feds will ultimately tax the American people to pay back what they have borrowed to fund their welfare-warfare state.
On the welfare-state side, the big-ticket items are Social Security and Medicare, the two crown jewels of the American welfare state. Abolishing them would go a long way toward resolving the fiscal problem.
Yet, to even suggest such a thing brings howls of lamentation, despair, and rage from both conservatives and liberals. These two socialist programs go to the core of their joint statist philosophy. They’re not about to touch either one, especially since that would alienate seniors, who unfortunately have grown dependent on the government dole.
On the warfare-state side, the big-ticket items are the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, the CIA, and the NSA, along with their foreign and domestic empire of military bases and their forever wars, occupations, regime-change operations, coups, invasions, wars of aggression, and ongoing assassination program. Dismantling America’s national-security establishment and restoring a limited-government republic to our land would go a long way toward resolving the fiscal problem.
Yet, to even suggest such a thing brings howls of lamentation, despair, and rage from both conservatives and liberals. The warfare state goes to the core of their joint statist philosophy. Moreover, there is no possibility that the national-security establishment would ever consent to its own dismantling or to even a major reduction in the amount of tax money that it expects to be allocated every year.
In the middle of this fiscal morass are a multitude of mid-sized or small-sized federal programs, such as the drug war, farm subsidies, education grants, the SBA, and Radio Martí. Abolishing all of them would go a long way toward resolving the fiscal crisis. But conservative and liberal supporters maintain that abolishing any one of them would do nothing significant to reduce overall federal spending and, therefore, they say, each and every one of them should be left intact.
So, where does that leave the nation? On a track toward national bankruptcy, where the federal government lacks the money to cover its welfare-warfare state spending and, at the same time, service the interest on its debt, much less pay down the debt.
Think Greece. At some point, things could get pretty nasty, with the feds desperately looking everywhere they can to seize money, such as IRA accounts and 401k accounts, and replace them with government bonds, much like President Franklin Roosevelt did during the emergency economic crisis in the 1930s when he seized everyone’s gold and replaced it with government bonds.
But here’s an idea: Why not abolish foreign aid, all foreign aid?
After all, foreign aid is really nothing more than welfare for foreign officials. Like other welfare-state programs, it’s funded by money that the IRS extracts from American taxpayers. After covering the expenses of the IRS and the federal bureaucracies that perform this “service,” billions of dollars are sent to public officials in foreign countries.
What do those foreign officials do with it? Some of them line their personal pockets with it. Others use it to help cover governmental expenses.
The obvious question arises: Why should the American people be plundered and looted to subsidize the personal lifestyles of foreign officials or to subsidize foreign governmental operations? Why shouldn’t Americans instead be free to keep that money for themselves, for such things as mortgage payments, children’s education, a new car, or a vacation? Why should the needs of foreign officials have priority over the needs of American citizens?
If U.S. officials were honest, they would acknowledge that foreign aid is nothing more than bribery. The foreign aid is never “free.” It comes with strings. The strings say: Do as we say or you will lose your dole. So, when the U.S. government needs votes in the United Nations, international dole recipients know full well what their duty is. Or when the U.S. government needs a “coalition of the willing” to support one of its imperialist adventures, it knows that it can call on its international dole recipients. Even when the U.S. Empire is going it alone in some foreign escapade, it knows it can count on no criticism from its dole recipients, or else.
There is also a moral element to foreign aid — the fact that American tax money is being used in immoral ways, including oppression of innocent people. Two good examples of this phenomenon involve Israel and Egypt. U.S. foreign aid to Israel helps the Israeli government maintain its brutal system of oppression against the Palestine people. U.S. foreign aid to Egypt enables the Egyptian military dictatorship to maintain its brutal system of oppression against the Egyptian people.
If American citizens want to support the Israeli government or the Egyptian government with private donations, so be it. But why should any American be forced to support either system of oppression through a system based on plunder and foreign-aid welfare?
Abolishing all foreign aid would not, in and of itself, resolve America’s spending-debt fiscal crisis. But at least it would move the United States in the right direction — a direction of morality, fiscal responsibility, and freedom.
This article was originally published at The Future of Freedom Foundation.