U.S. spends $38 billion on foreign aid? (Not nearly enough)

May 22, 2014

Glenn Beck got all worked up over this chart, as if it revealed some great, cardinal sin:

Chart on foreign aid as a part of the U.S. budget, from http://www.financedegreecenter.com/foreign-aid/

Chart on foreign aid as a part of the U.S. budget, from http://www.financedegreecenter.com/foreign-aid/

FinanceDegreeCenter.com is a mysterious organization that does no-one-really-will-say what on the internet.  A few months ago I got a series of e-mails from the group, telling that they were changing their name from an earlier iteration and claiming my links to one of their charts jeopardized all the good work they did for people seeking higher education, merely by accurately citing where I got the chart.  That sounded fishy, so I asked them what they did, really, and I got a barrage of e-mails . . .

I think they get paid to steer people to for-profit, on-line schools.  That doesn’t mean their charts are inaccurate, though it does mean I don’t post them without a lot of checking first (this is the first one I’ve posted since then).

Which is a long way of saying, Beck sure has crumby sources.

Bad as the source may be, the information isn’t far off.  But there’s the problem.

Beck’s audience probably believes, as Beck has told them, that the U.S. pays way too much in foreign aid.  Polls repeatedly show most people think we spend anywhere from ten times to a hundred times what we do.  A great little article with charts at the Washington Post explained:

The poll result that seems to most frustrate budget analysts is the apparent belief among Americans that foreign aid is a huge cost to the federal government. The latest poll that my colleague Ezra Klein cites finds that the average American thinks the United States spends 28 percent of the federal budget on aid to foreign governments — more than the country spends on Social Security or Medicare or defense.

In reality, we spend only 1 percent on foreign aid.

This gap between perception and reality is ridiculously large. That’s depressing, but it also presents an opportunity. The case that 28 percent of the budget should go to foreign aid is very strong. And if Americans already think we give that much — well, the least we could do is accommodate them!

We don’t spend enough.  Yes, we spend $38 billion.  That’s less than 1% of total U.S. outlays, and it’s been declining as a share of our Gross National Income and Gross Domestic Product since 1960.

Glenn Beck gets outraged, and shouts away, “$38 billion,” hoping that his shouting will make the number appear larger than it is.  He thinks, and says, it’s too much.

$38 billion?  Less than 1% of the budget.  Less than one penny of every dollar.

As a nation, the U.S. does not spend enough on foreign aid.  We should spend more.

Think of the good that could be done, if our nation actually did increase foreign aid to equal 25% of the federal budget (without taking it out of the hides of poverty-struck, homeless newborn babies and baby ducks as GOP legislators would insist).  How would the world be different?

More, and resources: 

What does Superstorm Sandy tell us about how to vote? Is disaster aid “immoral?”

October 29, 2012

Is it immoral for the federal government to coordinate disaster responses, and to provide aid for disasters, especially during and after superstorms like Sandy?

SUOMI view of Hurricane Sandy, early October 29, 2012 - NASA image

Caption from NASA: This night-view image of Hurricane Sandy was acquired by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite around 2:42 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (06:42 Universal Time) on October 28, 2012. In this case, the cloud tops were lit by the nearly full Moon (full occurs on October 29). Some city lights in Florida and Georgia are also visible amid the clouds.
CREDIT: NASA/Suomi NPP – VIIRS/Michael Carlowicz

I was troubled when GOP Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called for cuts to disaster forecasting and especially our volcano monitoring systems, in 2009. I’ve been troubled by slams at NASA and NOAA with calls to cut budgets for orbiting satellites used to forecast storms and floods and other disasters, from the GOP.

And, with Sandy bearing down on the U.S. Northeast, Middle Atlantic and New England states (where older son Kenny lives in building that is, we hope, about 20 feet above sea level), I’ve been troubled by memories of calls for cuts to FEMA in the Republican presidential primaries.

Correspondent James Kessler tracked down a transcript from a campaign event in June, a presidential candidate cavalcade broadcast by CNN, with John King as moderator/anchor.  Look at this exchange:

KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Can you imagine how different the world would be today had Americans shared that view in 1936, or 1940, or 1942?  Immoral to do what is necessary to preserve the future, because we have to borrow to do some of it?

Has Romney changed his position in the last 24 hours?  I predict he will change it very soon, if he hasn’t already flip-flopped on it.  Of course, he may double down on crazy, and stand pat.   What do you think a rational patriot would do in this case?  [At about 1:00 p.m. Central Time, I heard an NPR radio news report — Romney urges private contributions to the Red Cross.  Meanwhile, President Obama has been working all morning to make sure the disaster response from the federal government is coordinated with affected states.] [Ha! But within hours, Romney has taken the almost-opposite position again.  World land speed record for flips on an issue?]

I erred, perhaps.  I had thought Mitt Romney the most capable and sober of the GOP candidates for president, and I urged by GOP friends to support Romney if they had no chance of completely recovering their senses by November.  Now I realize that, on the GOP side, “most capable” should be “most nearly capable,” and still means “incapable.”  And “sober” means nothing at all.  Perhaps worse, he’s still the best of the GOP lot this year.  Even worse, he has a chance to win.

Can we blame Romney?  Yes, we can blame people who reject science and don’t think of consequences past election day.  Yesterday Greg Laden offered a long post on what we should have learned from the “Storm of 1938” and the remnants of Hurricane Irene that slammed the Northeast in 2011, “What you need to know about Frankenstorm Hurricane Sandy”:

Here’s the thing. Imagine that a storm like Sandy came along in either of two years; 70 years ago or 35 years ago. Sandy is much larger and contains much more energy than the ’38 storm, or for that matter, of any known storm of the North Atlantic (we’ll get to that below). If Sandy hit the region in the 1930s, it would have been without warning, and it would have been prior to the reconstruction of seawalls and the development of flood mitigation measures inland that have happened in recent decades. Sandy, in ’38, would kill tens of thousands and destroy thousands of structures. That would be an average Sandy, a Sandy not being as bad as the most dire predictions we are considering today as the storm begins to take a grip on the eastern seaboard.

A Sandy of 35 years ago would have been predicted. The ability to see hurricanes coming was in place, but not as well developed as it is today. We would have seen Sandy coming, but her massiveness and extent, and her exact trajectory, would probably have been unknown. But at least there would be warning. Many of the seawalls and flood mitigation systems would have been in place, but the overbuilding on barrier islands and other vulnerable coastal regions would have been at or near a peak. With evacuations, Sandy would not kill 10s of thousands… probably only hundreds. But the number of buildings destroyed would be unthinkable. Most of those buildings are now gone or shored up. A Sandy in 1975 would have left some very interesting coastal archaeology for me to have observed during my trips to the shore in the 1980s. Very interesting indeed.

Mr. Laden always offers a good view of science, and his history is good here, too.

We can learn from the past.  FEMA is charged with learning from past disasters.  It’s a function of federal government we would be foolish to forego.  “Austere” shouldn’t mean “stupid.”

What do you think?  Is it immoral for the federal government to provide disaster assistance?


We stopped dreaming: Tyson reprise on science policy and spending

October 18, 2012

A more melodic take on Neil de Grasse Tyson‘s “we stopped dreaming” statement:

“We went to the Moon, and we discovered Earth.”

Description from the YouTube site, by Evan Schuur:

The intention of this project is to stress the importance of advancing the space frontier and is focused on igniting scientific curiosity in the general public.

Sign the petition!: http://www.penny4nasa.org/petition
Follow @Penny4NASA1 and like on Facebook!

Episode 1:
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. All copyrighted materials contained herein belong to their respective copyright holders, I do not claim ownership over any of these materials. In no way do I benefit either financially or otherwise from this video.

MUSIC: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/samskeyti-acoustic/id452812943?i=452813003

The Space Foundation http://www.spacefoundation.org/
NASA TV http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html
HDNET http://www.hd.net/
SpaceX http://www.spacex.com/
When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/nasa/nasa.html
Disneynature: Earth http://disney.go.com/disneynature/earth/
Planet Earth http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/planet-earth/
HOME Project http://www.youtube.com/user/homeproject
User WolfEchoes http://www.youtube.com/user/WolfEchoes?ob=0
European Southern Observatory http://www.eso.org

Is NASA a handout, or an investment?  What do you think?

If a politician tells you that he or she thinks we cannot afford NASA, doesn’t it strike you that the person does not really understand what the United States is all about?  Doesn’t it make you wonder how they ever got to Congress, or why they should stay there?


Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Wikipedia photo)

What about National Parks as an issue in the 2012 elections?

October 16, 2012

National Parks really are a tiny part of the federal budget.  Consequently, they get overlooked, and that could be bad.

How are your Congress and Senate candidates standing on these issues?

Romney’s “energy plan” calls for opening up the National Parks for oil and gas exploration and drilling, even the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania  Bet that’s not mentioned by anyone in the debate tonight.

Which one is your favorite unit of the National Park System?  What’s your favorite family story from visiting the parks?  How are you going to vote in November?

Graphic from the National Parks Conservation Association:

Parks in Jeopardy, 2012, NPCA

From the National Parks Conservation Association


Legacy of deficits: Seen any good updates on these charts?

March 8, 2011

Going into discussions about the Republican-proposed America in Retreat Budget Act, I wonder about updates on facts and visuals.

Back in 2009, we had these informative charts, below — are there good updates on them, now?

How Trillion Dollar Deficits Were Created:

Graphic from the New York Times, June 10, 2006 accompanying an article by David Leonhardt

George W. Bush’s Legacy in a Pie Chart:

Sources of our Federal Deficits, 2009 - Matthew Yglesias, ThinkProgress

Sources of our Federal Deficits, 2009 – Matthew Yglesias, ThinkProgress

Got updates?

War on science – what else would you call it?

February 4, 2011

From Michael Tobis at Only In It For the Gold, an essential blog for Texans:

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Rand Paul proposes half a trillion in cuts to the US government, including:

  • National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is cut by $857 million.
  • NIH is cut by $5.8 billion.
  • DOE is completely defunded, with some nuclear-related tasks shifted to DOD.
  • NASA is cut by $4,500,000,000 (25%)
  • NSF is cut by $4,723,000,000. (62%)

Science? What science?

Cutting the federal budget is difficult.  Yes, we have a crisis in spending.  We also have many crises in education and in research, and many crises in our economy that are, each of them, rooted in a need for new research.

Is Rand Paul a complete fool?  Is he in league with Chinese Exceptionalists?  Are his ears made of tin?  Or is he a warrior against American knowledge and the American future?

This is a debate which needs facts, and people who can evaluate facts and arguments, and people with a vision for a future America — a good vision for a future America.

One gets the feeling that Rand Paul would have gone after the funding for Ben Franklin’s experiments — not because it would help the federal deficits, since Franklin funded his own work — but because he just doesn’t like science. ‘Why should we let Dr. Franklin take lightning from the gods?’ Rand might ask.  ‘Dr. Franklin should stay out of theology.’

And so the modern-day, real Rand Paul, blunders on, waging a War on Science.

Charts conservatives hope you won’t see, that Tea Party members won’t read

January 30, 2011

Food for thought:

Increases in the national debt, by president since 1976

Increases in the national debt, by president since 1976 - I'm not sure the source; is it right?

Click the thumbnail for a larger version:

Increases in national debt to 2008

Increases in national debt to 2008

Gross national debt, by president:

Increases in gross national debt, by president

Increases in gross national debt, by president; z-facts via About.com

All this, and they want to lecture “liberals” on how government should be run?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Marion Young.

Science funding: Kicking our future away

April 9, 2008


We get Charlie Rose’s program late here — generally after midnight. I’m up to my ears with charitable organization duties (“Just Say No!”), work where I came in midstream, family health issues, and other typical aggravations of trying live a well-examined life.

I caught most of an hour discussion on science in America, featuring Sir Paul Nurse, president of Rockefeller University and Nobel laureate, Bruce Alberts, editor of Science, Shirley Ann Jackson, president of  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Harold Varmus, Nobel winner and president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Lisa Randall, the Harvard nuclear physicist (string theory).

It was a great policy discussion. It had great humor, and great wisdom. And at the end, Rose thanked Nurse and others for helping him put on a 13-part seminar on science policy.

Thirteen parts? And I caught just the last few minutes of #13?

There is the Charlie Rose archives! Here’s the show I caught, “The Imperative of Science.” Great discussion. Scary — Lisa Randall notes that the action in physics has moved to CERN, in Europe, and the search for the Higgs Boson. Varmus and Nurse talk about restrictions in funding that bite at our ability to keep the world lead in education and science. Educators, especially in science, should watch.

Are we kicking away our ability to lead in technology, health care, and other vital economic areas? One cannot help but wonder in listening to these people discuss the difficulty of getting support for critical research during the Bush administration. They each stressed the hope that the next president will be one literate in science.

Pfizer underwrote the series. The entire series is available for viewing at a site Pfizer set up(Signs of change:  Notice that physics is represented by two women; there are signs of hope in American science.)

Go see, from Pfizer’s website on the series:

The Charlie Rose Science Series

  • Episode 1: The Brain — Exploring the human brain from psychoanalysis to cutting edge research.
  • Episode 2: The Human Genome — Exploring the contributions that have been made to science through the discovering and mapping of human DNA.
  • Episode 3: Longevity — An in-depth discussion of longevity and aging from the latest research on calorie restriction, anti-aging drugs, genetic manipulation to the social and economic implications of an increase in human life span. (Longevity News Release)
  • Episode 4: Cancer — A discussion of the latest advances in cancer, from the genetics to cancer prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and management of care. (Cancer News Release)
  • Episode 5: Stem Cells — A roundtable discussion on the latest advances in embryonic and adult stem cell research, their implications, and potential to change the way medicine is practiced.
  • Episode 6: Obesity — An informative dialogue on the growing obesity epidemic, its impact on overall health and the latest research to help understand, treat and prevent obesity. (Obesity News Release)
  • Episode 7: HIV/AIDS — A panel of leading experts addresses current treatment and prevention strategies, and new medical breakthroughs being used in the fight against HIV/AIDS. (HIV/AIDS News Release)
  • Episode 8: Pandemics — An exploration of factors that could create a global pandemic and how the science and public health leaders are addressing the crisis. (Pandemics News Release)
  • Episode 9: Heart Disease — A panel of experts explores the biology and genetics of cardiovascular disease, prevention and treatment, the development of medical, surgical and interventional therapies and steps individuals can take toward a heart-healthy lifestyle. (Heart Disease News Release)
  • Episode 10: Global Health — A roundtable discussion on initiatives aimed at fighting infectious diseases, protecting women and children, and strengthening global public health systems. (Global Health News Release)
  • Episode 11: Human Sexuality — A panel of experts explores major trends in human sexual behavior, sexual desire and satisfaction, and sexual dysfunction issues. (Human Sexuality News Release)

I wish all news programs covered science so well, and made their material so readily available.

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