By Dick Morris on March 30, 2011

Published on on March 29, 2011

As the CR talks between the House Republicans and the administration and Senate Democrats near their deadline, the House negotiators should put America’s foreign aid budget on the table.

With the Democrats reportedly willing to cut about half of the $61 billion the GOP has sought, much of the balance could come from a moratorium in paying out the $50 billion of foreign economic and military aid the United States dispenses every year. Rather than engage in a numerical debate, the Republicans should make the fight about whether to cut the foreign aid budget. Who will defend foreign aid when we have a $1.6 trillion deficit?

American foreign aid appropriations have escalated from about $20 billion in 2000 to $50 billion today. Almost every single nation on earth gets our foreign aid. The major recipients of the $35 billion in economic aid we dispense are: Afghanistan, $2.6 billion; Israel, $3 billion; Iraq, $766 million; and Egypt, $1.6 billion. But beyond these aid packages, we give Africa $7 billion in economic aid each year. We donate $2 billion to the Western Hemisphere (only about $400 million of it to Haiti). We give Asia, apart from Afghanistan, $2 billion. And we give Europe almost $1 billion.

Foreign aid has never been politically popular in the United States, and now is the time to put it on the table in the budget talks. If the Democrats want to shut down the government so that we can give more money in foreign aid, let them do it!

While it is true that much of the foreign aid we dispense goes to a few countries, almost everybody gets something. Aside from the major recipients (Israel, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq), many other nations get more than $100 million each year. A partial list appears at the end of this column.

When Americans understand the extent to which we, as the nation running the largest budget deficit in the world, are subsidizing almost every other nation on the planet, their patience will be exhausted.

Even if we hold apart from the proposed moratorium on foreign aid those nations currently in the midst of key foreign conflicts in which there is an American interest — Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Israel — there is still a pool of upward of $30 billion from which to cut. With half the fiscal year remaining, a prorated cut of $15 billion would fill most of the gap between the House and Senate proposals for reduction of spending.

But the larger point is that House Republicans must put more than mere numbers in play in the debate with the administration and Senate Democrats. As pressing as the need to cut government spending and our budget deficit is, few will storm the barricades over the difference between $30 billion and $60 billion in budget cuts. But if the issue is whether to fund foreign aid to every nation on Earth, it becomes one that all can grasp, and the debate one in which all will participate — and not in a way to the Democrats’ liking.

And, if the negotiations do not succeed and a government shutdown looms, just shut down the foreign aid budget. The House should pass the rest of the CR. Let the rest of the government operate as usual; just foreign aid will no longer be dispensed. Democrats cannot and will not trigger a general shutdown to protect the foreign aid budget, believe me.

Aid to nations

Ivory Coast — $138M

Democratic Republic of the

Congo — $213M

Ethiopia — $584M

Ghana — $175M

Kenya — $714M

Liberia — $219M

Malawi — $179M

Mali — $169M

Mozambique — $415M

Namibia — $103M

Nigeria — $648M

Rwanda — $241M

Senegal — $137M

South Africa — $586M

Sudan — $440M

Tanzania — $550M

Uganda — $480M

Zambia — $409M

Indonesia — $228M

Philippines — $133M

Vietnam — $123M

Ukraine — $124M

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