USAID foreign aid. Photo: flickr/USAID_IMAGES

Photo: flickr/USAID_IMAGES

As the proverb goes, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

As Congress spends this week reviewing ways in which to downsize the federal budget, Heritage Foundation expert James Roberts suggests they keep this proverb in mind and consider cuts to traditional foreign aid programs.

Traditional development assistance does not work, at least not if the goal is to foster sustainable development in poor countries. These efforts, such as those administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, dole out billions of dollars each year despite evidence that these policies virtually ensure that economic growth will be minimal or unsustainable.

In a new report outlining alternatives to traditional foreign aid programs, Roberts says that perhaps the only exception to America’s poor track record in foreign development is the Millennium Challenge Corporation. This program requires countries to demonstrate first and foremost a commitment to good governance, sound economic policies, and the well-being of their citizens.

Read more of Roberts’ report and tell us: How do you think America should help developing countries? What is America’s role?

Comments (39)

Phil Featheringill - March 1, 2011

America should cut off all foreign aid to any country that has opposed our positions in any area, any country that calls for the destruction of Israel & opposes us in the UN.

BGen Peter F. Steele USMC Ret - March 1, 2011

International Foreign aid is costly and it goes to dictators and foreign thugs. We should not cut off aid to Israel as this is the birthplace of Jesus the Son of God. USAID, WTO, World Bank, International Management Fund [Bretton Woods 1944], and the UN should be eliminated. The Federal Reserve should be eliminated as well and the currency put back on the Gold Standard. The left wing of the Democrat Party did this to our people. We can save trillions if we do this.

Virginia Clark - March 1, 2011

America should be much more selective as to who we help for what ever reason. We have sent billions of dollars to countries with leaders that think nothing of vilifying our country, but they certainly take our money. Many of those countries would be bankrupt (as we may be headed) without funds from America. We need to reward our friends, penalize our enemies!

David Pett - March 1, 2011

Greetings ~ Now and then throughout our historic relations with other nations there has been this suggestion: Convey our culture and character to foreign nations, not our goods. This of course would only work if we could identify our character, and if we still functioned as one nation under God. We have lost our character, so all we have left is our wheat and technology and physical things. So others want our things. As for our culture, it is too diverse to be identifiable. Who are we? We once had a national personality, and that personality, that moral fiber, was founded on moral law as clearly seen in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. We still have the shell ~ technology and physical things ~ but have lost heart and soul.
David Pett Author of Can These Bones Live

John Morgan - March 1, 2011

Negotiate REAL free trade agreements!

Martin Jones - March 1, 2011

Send the countries hard goods, hoes, rakes, shovels and seeds. Let them feed their selves. the recent revelation in the mideast concerning Egypt, 140 billion to the dictator, is a good example of why we should not send money. In the past when we sent money to South America and made the rulers millionaires. Then they would be overthrown and we would create a new millonaire with tax payer money.

bohdan guran - March 1, 2011

We should stop all foreign aid except for dire humanitarian needs. This aid should be distributed directly to the people and not to the governments.

Raymond C. Cooper - March 1, 2011

All aid of any kind, especially to countrys like Egypt, Gaza, etc. Should be stopped. All funds should be stopped to all countrys. We can help developing countrys by training them to help themselves. We could build factories and train them how to run the factories but don’t send money and expect them to help themselves. We can supply equipment to do the building with but don’t send money expecting them to know what and how to do the jobs. We can train them to use the equip. I can only say so much here but I have a lot that would apply to countrys all around the world. Raymond C. Cooper “Retired”

Donnie - March 1, 2011

We need to stop giving money to all developing countries.
Why not send Floor, suger, water.corn meal, and other staples.
They need food instead of the the top people skimming the money from the aid we send them.

Grover Trytten - March 1, 2011

I have long been suspicious of foreign aid and am interested in having it reduced to recovery aid after natural disasters. Further foreign aid is better administered by U.S. private lending companies, and philanthropical organizations without tax base support.

David Enge - March 1, 2011

We should focus a significantly reduced amount on countries that are willing to apply capitalist solutions to their problems. Teach them finance, farming techniques and encourage the profit motive. Get them to invest what meager resources they might have on themselves first before given anything.

Beverly - March 1, 2011

There are millions of ways we can save money. First and foremost get that phony out of the white house. 2nd start saying no, say it and mean it. No to foreign aid, no to free food, housing, medical, schooling and all else to illegals and with luck they will go back to where they came from. If they don’t – force them to. Cut back to the wages Congress is giving themselves. No more do any of the politicians in DC get to keep their present wages if they retire. They will have to get another job just like the rest of the country and pay taxes. That might give them a little incentive to not raise the taxes on us now. No more paying for refurbishing Mosques out of our country. We work in America, we buy in America, keep Americans only in America.

Thomas C - March 1, 2011

Foreign Aid should not go to any country that opposes us or works against us. I think that it should actually be limited to Israel, UK, and Australia. Beyond that it should be limited to disaster relief equal to what the rest of the world chips in. The UN, IMF, World Bank, etc should be eliminated. Without our funding they would practically be nonexistent anyway. As a side note….. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, The Fed, and Goldman Sachs should all be eliminated since they are the key entities that helped get us and the world into the bind we are in. If our politicians would stop trying to buy friends and favors and get back to restoring our reputation we would be better off.

Patricia Moore - March 1, 2011

America should cut off ALL foreign aid to all countries that hate us & want us dead. We should always continue the aid to Israel! We should get out of the U.N. & kick the U.N. out of the country. I am sick of all the leaders of other countries coming into our Great Country & calling for our destructionin in the U.N. & the destruction of Israel.

andy logar - March 1, 2011

Provide training – and education through exchange student programs – seed money at the lowest enterprenerial levels and selectively open our incredible markets to developing countries – limit direct aid – it goes to the wrong people and wrong places and is a waste of money.

Joyce Ray - March 1, 2011

America needs to concentrate on fixing America so it can help other nations. Heal thyself America! We can re-evaluate our environmental laws and start by allowing manufacturing, oil, gas and all our other factors that made us strong in the first place. Why is okay to let the rest of the world hurt the environment (if that is what is supposedly happening) and taking our wealth, jobs, and production while we are dying in those areas? Our labor laws need fixing as we no longer are as productive in our education. More $’s spent in education the more we lose. Let’s go back to the basics in grades through 8th grade, then incorporate the technology learning. What they learn in grade school about computers won’t help as by the time they are in highschool, it’s out-of-date too soon. They can learn in the last 3/4 years of school. Sorry, I could really go on a lot but I think you already know what to do!!! Thanks for letting me have a say.

Wayne Greb - March 1, 2011

Entitlements, including foreign aid have been out of control for years. Our votes last November were intended as a message to Congress that continuing the policies of the past must stop now. What part of the message don’t they get!

SV Larson - March 1, 2011

No more financial aid to countries which hate us and Israel. Offer instead technical support as seems appropriate and likely to have a good outcome. Continue to be first responders to major disasters but withdraw from the area when the local services become available. Why are we a major supporter of the UN, with major anti-American sympathies?

David E. Wilde - March 1, 2011

The best way to help the people of “developing nations” is to cut out the middle man – who is usually a dictator, king, emperor, warlord, mullah, or other totalitarian type – and distribute money directly, discretely, and individually – through private and humanitarian organizations – to the entrepreneurs of that nation. Provide livestock to ranchers, shepherds, or other animal raisers, and give them education in husbandry to grow their herds and flocks. Provide seed, farming implements and education for farmers. Provide small business loans and education for those that would start retail establishments and other family businesses. Enlighten those capable with the wonders of modern civil engineering, such as well-digging, irrigation systems, roads, clean water production, and sanitation. The amounts of money would be significantly smaller working within the economies of each region and with individual recipients. The most difficult hurdle is providing security and stability in the towns and villages for the successful businesses and families. Once they become income makers, they will be huge targets for the takers to come and steal away their success.This is why there is such poverty and misery in these places in the first place. But just maybe seeds of freedom and liberty will be sown in the hearts of the people, when they see the benefits of work and opportunity, freedom and responsibility, that they can pass on to their families, friends, and neighbors.

Douglas Conrad - March 2, 2011

I don’t think we should help at all with taxpayer money. If you want to help send your own money. There is no net increase in the economy here or if it goes there. Now if you don’t take the money from me I either spend it, save or invest it. But the person who would have got the aid whether here or abroad has to produce something to eat and survive. Whatever that person produces either here or abroad grows this or that econmy by what he or she produces.

Brenton Battles - March 2, 2011

I have been a long-time contributor to a most effective international aid organization that directly benefits entrepreneurial efforts without having to deal even indirectly through governments. It is emphatically based upon the principle of teaching a man (or woman) to fish. USAID is one of their pubic sector partners, and I believe funneling US government assistance through effective private organizations such as this one would be far preferable to government-to-government aid. The Gates and Google foundations are multi-million dollar contributors which give this organization even greater credibility.


Jack Britton - March 2, 2011

Our Foreign Aid Program Is A Mirrored Image Of The Entitlement Programs That We Have Created In Our Own Country.Generation After Generation Of Being Dependent
For Hand Outs Has Created A Society Of People Clueless Of Any Self Respect.Help Those That Help Themselves.WE HAVE DONE THIS.
Scripture Says That If You Don’t Work,You Don’t Eat.
Resign From The UN.Stop Buying Friendship

William Metcalfe - March 2, 2011

America should aid other countries by forming a consortium of the wealthiest fifty countries who would create an equally shared (dollar for dollar) fund for said aid.

David Christensen - March 2, 2011

I’m in agreement with Gen Steele that our aid should be eliminated with the exception to our aid to Israel. In addition, we should be closing and pulling assets home from our military bases in Europe with a possible exception of the bases in the UK. We no longer have a need to subsidize the economies of Germany, Italy, Balkans and Japan with the bases we have open in those locations. I believe that we should remove any and all transportable equipment and materials to be returned home for use and/or surplus sale here.

Americans are the most charitable people in the world today. We supply billions of dollars to foreign missions that directly benefit and affect people.

Roy Johnston - March 2, 2011

America should cut all foreign aid….period. Other countries need to learn how to fend for themselves. Farmers are actually put out of business by the USA flooding their market with food. As long as we keep giving other countries free stuff, they will never do it for themselves. It is like feeding a stray animal. Once you do, you can’t get rid of it. The stray stops hunting food for itself.

L. Pizinger - March 2, 2011

I, very strongly, agree with Phil Featheringill and BG Pete Steele!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jay - March 2, 2011

If Japan, S.Korea, Israel, or Western Europe were attacked, who would be expected to defend them? We would. We need to shift the burden of home defense back to these countries; we can no longer afford the expense.
Have we gotten any “foreign aid” FROM any country? Maybe oil in exchange for freedon, eh, Kuwait and Iraq?
Take the USAID budget and build border fencing. What would the result be if every country emigrated 10% of their citizens here?

Dale Pierce - March 2, 2011

re: “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

“Give away your fishing equipment and you’ll starve.”

Taking time to sharpen the saw is one of the habits of highly effective people. We’re way over due. The teeth have worn from our saw.

A. Bruce Lancaster - March 2, 2011

Be less concerned with the sensitivities of the rulers of countries and provide aid through locals, rather than central government, when the central government is known to be too corrupt and will skim off much of the aid. If they don’t like this, withdraw offer of aid and make sure the citizens learn why. I recolgnize this could be difficult and has its own set of problems, but some “out of the box” thinking will find a creative way to resolve those issues.

Jim Nylen - March 2, 2011

Here are my ideas for cutting spending and our debt.

Cut foreign aid off COMPLETELY to all foreign countries. It has never done us any good in the long run.

Quit being the world’s policemen. Quit fighting other countries wars for them. Quit invading other countries and use our military only for defense. Bring our troops home and use some of the money to have the best military ready to protect our shores.

Get out of NATO. NATO is our enemy.

Put equal tariffs on products from foreign countries that put tariffs on us. Fair and equal trade is fine.

Drill our own oil and gas. We have plenty and if we don’t drill off our shores other countries will that aren’t so careful as the USA. Competition will bring world energy prices down. Become energy independent.

Quit subsidizing ethanol and wind power. These alternative energy sources need to stand on there own or go out of business. If they can’t manufacture ethanol at a competitive price and energy per unit to gas they shouldn’t be in business.

Get rid of unneeded government bureaucracies like the department of Education and Energy. The federal government should not be involved in education. This is a state issue. Privatize education so it is competitive and we will get the best value and best education.

Pass term limits for all government offices. Get rid of life long politicians that become rich on our tax dollars, serving our country ( NOT).

Bruce M Piepho - March 2, 2011

Where in the constitution did the states authorize U.S. Federal aid to developnig countries?

Lynn - March 2, 2011

I have often wondered how we can keep pouring money into other countries while we are unable to meet our own obligations at home, especially countries who clearly despise us! Why do we fund nations who declare openly their disdain for us? Besides, I agree with Mr. Roberts…our foreign aid should actually prove beneficial, should help the people who are truly in need as opposed to helping to fund corrupt leaders and regimes who siphon-off the funds/supplies. Americans are always quick to step forward in times of tragedy, and this is fine. But perhaps our government is spending hard-earned tax dollors in a way that is not truly beneficial to anyone. Is this foreign aid technically a Constitutional responsibility of our government?

jw - March 2, 2011

someone who is broke, has little business borrowing money to give to someone else. No aid to our enemies or anyone who talks or harbors those who talk against the USA. I query if you take our nations indebtness and assign it to each person, where does that put our wealth compared to other countries. Aid should almost never involve cash and should only involve american made products.

John A. Quayle - March 2, 2011

I can see nothing in the Constitution that permits our leadership to annually give our tax money out to anyone overseas. This is *NOT* a “Christian” way of doing things – it’s simply stupid. Most countries we give aid to never use it for the intended purpose. It usually winds up in some dictator’s pocket and worse – they badmouth us to their followers.

Johnsie - March 3, 2011

It really is difficult to get well-informed individuals for this topic, nevertheless, you sound like you know what you are talking about! Thank you

David Evans, President of Food for the Hungry - March 4, 2011

I disagree with Roberts’ assertion that development assistance does not work. We in Food for the Hungry know from our USAID grant program evaluations that many of our programs have achieved incredible impact on poor and vulnerable people around the world. A recent evaluation of a USAID-funded Child Survival program in Mozambique revealed that 6,600 children’s lives had been saved and tens of thousands more had been positively impacted, all at a total program cost of only $2.50 per beneficiary per year. We have good data to show that many cost-effective programs using US foreign aid are being implemented around the world by thousands of organizations like ours. We want to get the message out to the American public that not all foreign aid should be tarred with the same brush.

A further point of disagreement with the article is the impact that cutting foreign aid would have on the budget deficit. When asked in a recent poll in the US about how much of the federal budget goes toward foreign assistance, Americans said 25%. When asked how much they felt should go to foreign assistance, they said 10%. So that is the perception of the American public. The reality is that only 1% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, and of that amount, more than half is military assistance to Egypt, Israel and Pakistan. So less than one half of one percent of the federal budget goes toward non-military foreign aid. Even if the USG cut that amount to zero, it would still have no material effect on the current budget deficit. I for one believe that the deficit can only be effectively reduced by targeting the big ticket items: social security, medicare and defense. Those three make up 70% of the budget.

darrell hayden - March 7, 2011

we should help our own people first we have never been respected for what we do.I believe foreign aid usually winds up being stolen by sweet heart deals, which our own bureaucrats participate in.

Marlys Nunez - March 10, 2011

Charitable/emergency/humanitarian aid to foreign countries or areas of the United States should take place privately, period. Individuals are capable of learning where there are needs and giving to those needs as they are moved and able.

Nealan Moreland - March 29, 2011

1. Change the method that Congress approves foreign aid. Instead of one up/down vote for the total amount for all countries, vote the dollar amount for each individual country.
2. Better plan is to immediately stop all foreign aid to all countries. If they need our assistance we will buy their oil; lease property for military bases; buy their raw materials, etc; even invest in helping them get start up businesses going. We are not giving our money away, and the countries are becoming self- sufficient. Giving billions to foreign governments has only benefited those in power – not those that needed the aid. This plan would eliminate most of the corruption because the foreign government/dictators/ ruling class would not get the money directly. It would go to the people/businesses.

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