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The United States of Stinginess?

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, January 11, 2005

It’s great to be back from break, but being the townie I am I don’t know if it is even appropriate to use the phrase “back from break.” At any rate, I’ll admit it will be great to get back to a regular schedule. During break, my definition of regular schedule steadily deteriorated into getting up at noon with varied rotations of playing Xbox, Playstation 2 and PC games. Oh well, with Rolfs closed and the six degree temperatures many of you missed in South Bend during break, there was not much else pressing on the agenda.

Although I’ll admit my own personal laziness, I’d like to answer yet another departure from reality in the thinking of the United Nations. Amid the continued shockwaves of the Oil for Food debacle, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland had the gall to call the response of the United States and the developed world “stingy.” This issue reveals the true nature of a rampant anti-Americanism within the international community that takes no regard of facts. With a few simple Google searches, I was able to find enough information to verify my initial feeling that this statement was thoroughly false.

A Jan. 6 press release by The Heritage Foundation’s Brett D. Schaefer was one of two excellent resources I found to counter this accusation. It is based on a ratio of aid versus Gross National Income that places the United States at dead last with a ratio of .15 percent. However, as Schaefer’s argument points out, the problem with this formula is fivefold. First, U.S. Aid remains the world’s single largest donor in dollars at $16.2 billion a year; with a second-place Japan well behind at $8.9 billion. Second, substantial donations by U.S. private charities are ignored. These donations totaled $33.6 billion in the year 2000 alone.

The local Catholic diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend is a great example of this phenomenon just mentioned. On Jan. 9, Archbishop John D’Arcy implemented an effort to send all collection money above and beyond the operating costs of each parish directly to the Catholic bishops in Thailand and Indonesia to aid in the relief effort. In one isolated example Sunday, I saw almost everyone within the parish reach for their respective wallets or purses to pitch in a few extra dollars in acts of generosity that will continue to be overlooked by those who are blinded by anti-Americanism.

Third on Schaefer’s list of rebuttals is the fact that the U.S. continues to contribute 70 percent of food aid for humanitarian operations. Its role in humanitarian efforts provided $2.5 billion in disaster relief in the year 2003 alone, coming close to the combined total of the rest of world aid of $3.5 billion. Fourth, the very United Nations organizations critical of U.S. aid depend on their generosity to remain in operation. Specifically, the U.S. is responsible for 22 percent of the U.N. overall budget and 56 percent of the World Food Program’s budget. Finally, the prospect is not considered that all aid is not equal within the developing world. Many recipients of development aid within Sub-Saharan Africa are actually becoming poorer. This helps build a case for the United States method of aid, which advocates fundamental economic and political reforms as a condition of aid.

A Jan. 3 Insight magazine article by Roland Flamini opened up a second front of criticism against those so quick to call the United States stingy. Where is the response of the Muslim world to a disaster that largely affected the world’s most populous Muslim country? Consulting a Jan. 9 release from the Associated Press, still only Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates made the list of the top 21 nations in aid contributions. Kuwait gave $100 million, while the UAE gave $20 million. Saudi Arabia was expected to eventually pledge $36 million and Bahrain (one of the most wealthy countries in the world) was expected to pledge $2 million. Those entrenched with anti-American mindsets are reluctant to level similar blame at these nations.

Contrasting these numbers with those of Australia, Germany, Japan and the United States it is hardly appropriate to call their generous aid and logistical support stingy. Looking over the numbers and seeing the response of the United States and other generous benefactors have been much needed bright spots in a still troubled and anarchic world. I was touched to see former President Bill Clinton speaking out advocating charity with President George Bush, Sr. on CNN. He cut through the politics of the issue by urging the average American reluctant to believe they could make a difference to “pitch in the five or ten dollars they may be able to spare as opposed to doing nothing.” In the end, it is only that sort of positive dialogue and grassroots generosity that will really make a difference in this tragic situation.

Tom Rippinger is a senior political science major. He supports President Bush and is the co-President of the Notre Dame College Republicans. He can be contacted at trippin1@nd.edu.

The views of this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.