Is America Stingy?
By Lyric Wallwork Winik
Published: July 2, 2006
When it comes to foreign aid, the U.S. government ranks near the bottom: Based on percentage of gross national income given to impoverished countries, we’re No. 21 out of 22 among donor nations-barely ahead of Italy. (After World War II, the U.S. gave 15% of its budget; today, it’s less than 1%.) Meanwhile, the world often sees the military as our main form of global outreach.If anyone has data to indicate that private - public partnerships for dollar foreign aid (versus loans and cash equivalent projects) are less prone to theft and waste than federal aid, Pundita would dearly love to see the reports.
“People are calling America stingy,” says foreign-aid expert Carol Adelman, who created the Index of Global Philanthropy for the Hudson Institute. “But Americans give abroad the way they do at home: through private institutions.”
Adelman’s new index calculates that Americans -- from the superwealthy to those with modest means -- donate more than 3 1⁄2 times what Washington gives. Private gifts topped $71 billion in 2004 (the latest figure available), including $442 million for global health from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Created by the software mogul and his wife, the foundation has given $6 billion to date to help eradicate diseases worldwide. On a smaller but equally effective scale, community foundations like one in San Diego give “microloans” and grants to help entrepreneurs start small businesses in Mexico, China and elsewhere.
Many Americans find ways to give other than cash. The CEO of Overstock.com created Worldstock to help poor and disabled artisans sell their crafts worldwide. Architecture for Humanity creates shelters after wars or disasters. A Methodist Church near Baltimore built a home for AIDS orphans in Namibia.
Does all this private giving let Washington off the hook? No. And Carol Adelman says the government could learn a lot from the private programs, which -- to get money and volunteers -- have to prove that their projects work.
“Public - private partnerships between government and charities would more effectively use every dollar of [federall] aid,” she adds.
I'd like to see American professional fundraisers turn their awesome skills to raising donations from the wealthy in countries that chronically need massive infusions of aid. And publish the refusals on the Internet.