Foreign Aid for America’s Poor–Why Not?

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The election of Donald Trump is increasingly raising complicated issues surrounding the global reach of the president’s personal business empire—especially those wary of his profiteering off his political position. If the president and his family can enrich themselves from foreign connections, has the door opened on a wider discussion of ordinary Americans accepting direct foreign aid from foreign governments? More specifically, is it time for Americans to seriously think about accepting foreign humanitarian aid to address American’s growing poverty?

A cursory review of the President’s proposed budget clearly reveals that his cuts would deprive millions of already poor Americans of certain basics, such as food and shelter. Eliminating Meals on Wheels will result in millions of older Americans becoming food insecure. In Baltimore alone, right now there are 20,000 on the list waiting for HUD housing. Millions of Americans who need housing assistance will be left to sleep on the streets if the president has his way. Trump’s first real jobs numbers (the first numbers were those from the Obama administration) shows that employers are not adding jobs. Add to this, what many believe with be a drastic reduction of the federal workforce and the prospects for an exponential increase in number of Americans living in extreme poverty is likely to increase. Trump’s plans to curtail the “Deep State” reach of the federal government will have a potentially catastrophic economic affect on the lives of millions of already struggling Americans.

What we know from history is that the American economy cycles through periods of economic boom and stagnation. Many people refer to The Great Depression of 1929 as the benchmark for comparing extreme economic conditions. However, history aside, many Americans are now facing destitution on a similar par. The thousands of people living on the streets all across America, begging for food and a place to sleep, are a prime example. I wish the President would visit Los Angeles’ Skid Row and promise “something big” or “great again” to these hordes of individuals going without food and shelter—living off handouts and the generosity of others. All across America communities are seeking ways to feed the poor and shelter the homeless as community drive donations dry up because of uncertainty about Washington. My question is this: Why shouldn’t Americans be allowed to receive direct humanitarian aid from foreign governments given the serious economic problems facing so many Americans—and the increasingly likelihood that it is going to get much worse?

I have searched and I cannot find any law that would prevent individual Americans or a group of Americans from accepting humanitarian aid from a foreign government. One law prevents various listed federal employees and officials from accepting “foreign gifts and decorations.” Another law prevents a congressman from seeking help from a foreign government, especially, from any government with which the United States has a dispute. However, I cannot find any law that forbids an ordinary American citizen from making a direct appeal to a foreign government for humanitarian help.

There is an assumption that foreign aid always flows from the United States to “poor” countries in the form of a budget item called “International Development and Humanitarian Assistance.” Should Americans now take a long hard look at ourselves as a part of the “poor” global community in need of humanitarian aid? Given what is now unfolding in Washington on the issue of wealth and influence by foreign governments why should poor, ordinary Americans not be allowed to seek or accept direct foreign aid? Let me put it this way, what is wrong with China, India, France, or any other foreign government taking a humanitarian interest in the hordes of people living in dire poverty in America? What would be wrong with China, for example giving humanitarian aid to the hundreds of people living on skid row in Los Angeles? What issues or concerns would prevent a foreign country, let’s say thriving Singapore, from making the United States a recipient of its foreign aid program to address American poverty?

Maybe the Trump administration will cause Americans to assess and abandon its misguided notions of “western” economic superiority toward the rest of the world especially since the dire poverty facing so many other countries is now us. Maybe it’s time for Americans to stop looking at America’s poor through a “relative” lens that suggests that our poverty is not as bad as that of other countries simply because America’s poor children are not rummaging through dump sites in search of food. When the top 2 percent of individuals have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, isn’t it time for a new attitude toward eliminating America’s poverty? When America’s rich can profit from private dealings with foreign governments, isn’t it time for Americans to see themselves as not above accepting direct humanitarian aid from foreign governments?

Copyright 2017 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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