The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Our Government is Less Intelligent than The Tea Party

One of the stories being splashed all over the progressive media at the moment concerns a Tea Party Congressman called Tom Emmer. Basically, Congressman Emmer went on a tour of African aid recipient countries and came back staunchly defending the benefits of providing foreign aid.

Leaving aside the fact that he had to travel thousands of miles to learn one of the most elementary principles of foreign policy, this is probably, on balance, a good thing. Traditionally, if that word can be used to describe the habits of a tiny reactionary clique in political and intellectual infancy, the Tea Party has been in favour of drastically reducing or eliminating aid to foreign countries. In Emmer’s own words:

“I have made the statement in the past that a dollar that we are spending for instance in Africa, in Kenya, is a dollar that we could probably be using at home to build a road or a bridge.” 

What Emmer realised in the course of his visits, however, was that foreign aid is advantageous primarily to the country that is giving it. Sure, there’s the benefits to poor people and all the lovey-dovey, touchy-feely stuff, but if this was all there was in it there is a fair chance that not a single country in the world would do it. Foreign aid contributes to the stability of one’s neighbours, opens doors for trade and exports into the target countries, creates an additional layer of diplomatic engagement and enhances the giver’s international reputation. There are solid strategic reasons for the dissemination of aid as well. Aid programs can help to facilitate military co-partnership, shore up alliances and guarantees and smooth the way for the maintenance and development of inter-operability, not to mention potentially enhancing the overall stability of the target nations. Or, as Emmer puts it:

“A dollar spent on [foreign aid] is a dollar that we won’t have to spend on additional bombs and bullets and God forbid boots on the ground in the future.”

In terms of Australia’s foreign aid, we generally give to countries that straddle our trade routes, or that we are hoping to export goods and plant to, exploit for resources, or any or all of the above. All of this makes solid strategic, economic and geopolitical sense and these are, possibly regrettably, the principle reasons for providing aid. It is also astonishingly cheap at less than 1.4% of the federal budget and less than 0.5% of gross national income.

Cut now to the Australian government, who have announced whopping cuts in aid to African nations (70%) and to our immediate Northern neighbours (in the region of 30%). The reasons they cite are a little bit vague and confused, but this is understandable as such a discussion requires sentences consisting of more than three words. As far as I can make out, however, once we cut away the repeated use of the words ‘defecit’ and ‘recurrent’, the current government simply cannot make out why we need to send this money over. They point out incredulously that many of the countries that receive aid also give it (and this from a party that believes in trickle down economics), ignoring the fact that some of these countries have been given aid partly on the understanding that they will distribute it through their regions.

What this seems to point to is an inability to understand either the function or benefits of foreign aid. This is disappointing, certainly, but what makes it ludicrous is the fact that our government is incapable of understanding an idea that a Tea Party Congressman has managed to wrap his head around.

Category: Asinine, Politics


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