Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Yahoo! News - Bush Criticizes U.N. 'Stingy' Comment

Yahoo! News - Bush Criticizes U.N. 'Stingy' Comment

Perhaps Bush was right. Perhaps Jan Egeland spoke out of turn--if he wasn't, as he said, quoted out of context and consequently misinterpreted--and wealthy, industrialized nations like the US were giving generously to the disaster relief in the Indian Ocean region.

But what is the record of charitable giving by the US? And how does it compare with other countries who, perhaps, cannot really afford to give as much as we can?

First, the good news. In gross US dollars, the United States gives far and away the most money in charitable aid of several kinds to many less developed countries--over six-and-a-quarter billion dollars in 2002. Next was Japan, with US$3.7 billion, France with US$3.25 billion, and the UK and Germany nearly tied with about US$2.9 billion each (By the way, down the list a bit giving US$128 million is Ireland--keep that in mind for a moment).

Now the bad news. If you look at the gross dollar amounts adjusted for all types of giving as a per capita proportion of each nation's gross domestic product, the figures appear somewhat different. Now we can see that the US is spending just .07% of its per capita gross domestic product on charitable aid. That's seven-tenths of one percent!!! Japan actually spends more--per capita--on charitable aid, at .09%, Ireland at .12%, Germany at .15%, the UK at .19%, and France at a whopping .23%. Denmark and Sweden, by the way, give at a rate of about one-half-of-one-percent (.50%) of their gross domestic products.

The amount of money in actual dollars that the United States spends on development/charitable aid comes out to be about $39 per American--now, that's not millions or billions, that's $39 per head. Denmark and Norway each spend over $300 per citizen, the Netherlands and Sweden nearly $200. The UK spends $78, France $72 and Germany $59.

While we are spending that thirty-nine bucks a head on aid, we are also spending one thousand four hundred thirty seven dollars ($1437) per person on the military--largely on weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems for the same.

It's all a matter of proportion. And it's all a matter of priorities. So are we stingy? You decide. Meanwhile, I include this recent editorial from the NY Times. It has something to do with priorities. Amd it has something to do with "values."

Editorial: America, the Indifferent
New York Times
December 23, 2004

It was with great fanfare that the United States and 188 other countries signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration, a manifesto to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger and disease among the one billion people in theworld who subsist on barely anything. The project set a deadline of 2015 toachieve its goals. Chief among them was the goal for developed countries, like America, Britain and France, to work toward giving 0.7 percent of their national incomes for development aid for poor countries.

Almost a third of the way into the program, the latest available figures show that the percentage of United States income going to poor countries remains near rock bottom: 0.14 percent. Britain is at 0.34 percent, andFrance at 0.41 percent. (Norway and Sweden, to no one's surprise, arealready exceeding the goal, at 0.92 percent and 0.79 percent.)

And we learned this week that in the last two months, the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping hungry nations become self-sufficient, and it has told charities like Save the Children and Catholic Relief Services that it won't honor earlier promises. Instead, administration officials said that most of the country's emergency food aid would go to places where there were immediate crises.

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