Jay Evensen: Think the U.S. should cut foreign aid? Think again

Julio Cortez, Associated Press

Bill Gates, left, and his wife, Melinda Gates, listen to former President Barack Obama speaks during the Goalkeepers Conference, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York.

How much of the U.S. federal budget do you think goes toward foreign aid? One third? A half?

Perhaps more importantly, do you think the money is well spent?

The real answer to the first question is about 1 percent. However, opinion polls tend to show Americans think the percentage is much higher, and in any case they think it’s too much.

A Rasmussen Reports poll in March found that 57 percent of likely voters thinks the nation is too generous.

The answer to the second question may not be what you expect, either.

The story that never seems to penetrate the nation’s collective knowledge is that the world now has disease and preventable childhood deaths on the run in Third World countries. The United Nations and many other organizations are making this happen, but the United States is a primary force behind the good news.

The other story is a little harder to quantify, but it makes logical sense. Nations that get a handle on the epidemic of dying babies are less likely to succumb to radical ideologies that threaten peace in the rest of the world. Poor health, poverty and despair provide fertile ground for violent alternatives.

I’ve told this story many times in this column. Two years ago, I met Namala Mkopi, head of pediatric hematology at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He told me how, prior to 2013, his hospital was filled with dying children, three or four to a bed with many more scattered on the floor on mattresses.

That was before vaccines, funded by the United States and other nations, were made readily available. After that, his pediatric ward was empty, he said. No more dying children.

This issue has become important again for a couple of reasons. First, the Trump administration is proposing to cut the State Department’s budget by 30 percent, which would also cut funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development and much of what the nation invests in global health programs.

Second, because the Gates…

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