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Times Cites U.N. Report Blasting U.S. as Cheap

     U.N. Report Cites U.S. and Japan as the Least Generous Donors, read the headline in the September 8 New York Times. The article went on to criticize U.S. foreign aid in advance of next weeks United Nations summit, continuing a media push for the U.S. to commit billions of dollars in additional foreign aid.

     The Times piece, written by Celia W. Dugger, cited the United Nations annual Human Development Report and explained that While crediting the United States with being the world's largest donor, the report points out that among the world's richest countries, America is second to last in aid as a portion of its national income, with Italy bringing up the rear.

     Duggers story quoted only one U.S. spokesman who disputed the idea that the United States is stingy. Had Dugger gone deeper, reality might have presented itself. The report the article cited also strongly promoted a socialist agenda of more equitable income distribution and took potshots at both capitalism and free market economics.

     The report ties in to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which attempt to mandate that each industrialized nation give 0.7 percent of Gross National Product to foreign aid. In the case of the United States, that would be 0.7 percent of roughly $12.4 trillion or nearly $87 billion each year. According to a Dec. 28, 2004, CNN.com article, The United States' overall foreign aid commitment is around 0.2 percent of its gross national product.

     But theres a problem with that comparison. Aid money pledged by the U.S. government must come only from the government which means its a share of the federal budget, not American GNP. GNP is a measurement of productivity and income in the public and private sectors combined. To promise that money, the government most likely would have to raise taxes.

     Thus, the number that the United Nations uses to compare countries is heavily skewed toward nations where the governments budget is a much larger percentage of GNP. It specifically ignores the way most Americans choose to give through charitable contributions. A June 2005 report from the Hudson Institute revealed that private U.S. donors gave at least $62 billion to developing countries in 2003. That was three-and-a-half times the total of Official Development Assistance the U.S. government handed out that year.

     The Times story glossed over some notable aspects of the UN report including:
    Numerous mentions that the worlds governments have pledged to meet the Millennium Development Goals, despite U.S. statements that disagree with this claim. The study quoted left-wing supporters of big government socialism from Nelson Mandela to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Roosevelt quote stated: The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. The report made several references to socialist shifts in distribution of income, including one example of a cost of $300 billion for lifting 1 billion people living on less than $1 a day above the extreme poverty line threshold. The study did acknowledge that the United States, the worlds largest aid donor, has increased aid by $8 billion since 2000 and is now the worlds largest donor to Sub-Saharan Africa. In the section titled Counter-aguments countered, the U.N. report cited free market theorist F.A. Hayeks position that free markets determine the appropriate allocation of wealth and assets before attempting to undermine that position. Claiming that such government spending is affordable, the report argued for $7 billion needed to provide clean water as less than Americans spend on elective corrective surgery.