Social Question

DominicX's avatar

"We gave aid to another country?! What about OUR problems?!"?

Asked by DominicX (28762points) January 15th, 2014

I hear this complaint all the time, from all kinds of people. But I’m never entirely sure what people mean by it. So now’s your chance to explain it, if you’ve ever said it.

To what extent should we give aid to another country’s people? Is it alright in small doses; do these kinds of statements only come out when we’ve given too much?

To what degree would “our problems” need to be fixed before we can start giving aid to other countries? Is it realistic to expect things to be fully “fixed” here? If not, is giving aid to other countries ever justified?

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34 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’ve heard it range anywhere from “when there are no hungry or homeless children in America” to “it’s our job to help anyone in need, as a superpower”.

zenvelo's avatar

We’re all in this together. Might as well help when we can. That’s what Jesus would tell you.

ragingloli's avatar

These are the same people who complain if any money is spent on helping poor people.
It is quite funny, actually.
Unemployed people? Parasites, do not give them any money.
Universal Healthcare? Socialism.
Combating the gun crime epidemic with reasonable gun regulation? Treason
Minimum Wage? Communism.

They say they should “solve problems at home”, while at the same time, they condemn any actual effort to actually do so.

tom_g's avatar

It’s a great question. In my experience, there are a few different perspectives I have seen….

Like @zenvelo mentions, there is the perspective that there is no “us” and “them”. Therefore, the most needy require our help first. If we take this perspective, there is the question of how to best spend our resources. There are many different approaches here:
– People like Bill Gates finds that vaccinations in other countries provide a way to alleviate suffering in the most effective way.
– There are others who feel that acting locally is just as good a start as any.
– There are those who feel that even the poor in the U.S. is “rich” compared to others across the planet who desperately need our help.

Of course, there are those people who do take an “us” and “them” approach. And they might do this out of frustration or concern that the problem is just too big to solve, so we should simply help those closest to us first, and maybe help others once we have completely solved “our” problems.

The problem in my opinion seems to be that we shouldn’t have to figure out who to help over another. We are not in a resources shortage. We have enough food and money in this country so that people in the U.S. should not be going cold and hungry. We have enough money that we could eliminate poverty in this country and also aid those in other countries.

JimTurner's avatar

If we want to remain a great nation we can’t turn our backs on the Third World.

“America is the only place in the world where people drive to the unemployment office”

“It is in giving we receive. “It is in helping we are helped”

While doing volunteer work and sharing the gratitude on people’s faces the volunteer’s heart grows so much he walks away not knowing whom is really helping whom.

zenvelo's avatar

One more important point: those who would have us be isolationist do not realize that having a healthy world wide population makes our nation stronger by having better trade and better invention and better focus on fixing our own problems by not having to worry about conflict,

Seek's avatar

See @ragingloli‘s answer.

tups's avatar

I don’t understand the logic. Yes, the world is divided into countries, but we only have one Earth, we are all human, and it’s mere coincidence in what borders we were born. Call me stupid, but I think the Earth is the Earth and we should see it as one.

Kropotkin's avatar

I’d be less cynical if US foreign aid didn’t go to so many atrocious dictatorships, and if none of the aid was intended to simply buy US military hardware with the very same dollars that the US grants to these countries.

It seems to me that US foreign aid serves a number of possible purposes:

It’s an economic stimulus for the US, primarily for the military sector.

It keeps regimes ideologically aligned or “friendly” with the US. This could involve adopting US friendly economic policies, or joining in the so-called “war on terror” or the “war on drugs”.

It allows whatever authoritarian regime that receives the aid to suppress (with the military hardware), and possibly bribe (with the “economic aid”) its own population into submission and compliance.

Judi's avatar

This whole topic is above most of our pay grades. We want to be able to put the nuance of for foreign and domestic policy in a ten second sound byte and it just doesn’t fit. Some of our aid is a result of delicate negotiations that have kept us from the brink of war. Seasoned politicians like Joe Biden and John Kerry, even Dick Cheney have spent a career understanding these delicate relationships and as an ordinary citizen, instead of spending the time they have to understand it I make a decision about who best represents my overall philosophical objective best and advocate and vote for them. I don’t agree with Cheney because I feel he’s motivated by oil and money and I don’t trust him.
On the other hand, Kerry and Biden appear align better with MY values.
International relationships are delegate things and one thing for sure is that I would much rather have those relationships in the hands of seasoned political professionals than tea party rookies.
It’s easy to say, “why are we giving money to Egypt when we have problems here at home?”
It’s a lot harder to explain the house of card that would come tumbling down in the Middle East if we did that and how it would effect us here. You couldn’t fit that in a ten second sound byte.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I have said it, and my reasoning is because I do see the world as divided into countries, into “them” and “us.” I see American school kids doing fundraisers to help kids in other countries, when there are kids in their own town that are in just as much need. I see doctors and dentists who volunteer to go to other countries to volunteer services, yet this country is full of kids who also have never seen a doctor or dentist. I guess I just believe that we should take care of our own first.

tom_g's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt: “I guess I just believe that we should take care of our own first.”

But do you believe that we should take care of our own?

In what ways? Single-payer universal healthcare? Extremely-progressive taxation? Guaranteed housing? Livable wage?

Dutchess_III's avatar

From what I’ve seen, we seem to do a good job taking care of our own. Those who slip through the cracks would still slip through the cracks even if we poured even more money into social systems. My thoughts only.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I feel the same way you do, as do many others.

We had a Q on here once about this and it came down to each of us being socially responsible. But is it socially responsible to help kids with cleft palates in Africa if there are children in America that can’t afford to get it fixed correctly?

I know of one child in particular that has had a few surgeries and was left as ‘good enough’ by Medicaid, and it’s not good enough. You can do mission trips to some areas here and food trucks, new clothes, all kinds of stuff and one of the only ones in my area just don’t seem to even get half of them in.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’d like to hear more details on the child you spoke of, @KNOWITALL. My daughter is poor, but she has a roof over her head in a pretty nice section 8 apartment complex, clothes for the kids and plenty to eat. They have better health insurance than I have. It’s sometimes a struggle for her to pay her utilities and to buy essential non-food items, but oh well. Being poor isn’t easy….except in America it kind of is.
What else is there to do for her?

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@tom_g What? I mean that if we are going to donate time, services and money to a charity, we should keep it right here in America.

Just like @KNOWITALL , I know people right here who really need some of that stuff that American charities are handing out to people in other countries. It irks me to see the commercials for charities, showing kids living in abstract poverty in faraway countries when I could show them some right here. If you want to see some kids in desperate need of dental work, come to the school where I work.

The thing that upsets me the most is trying to find a free clinic for these kids. There is nothing “free” to them here. Even the dental schools want some pretty substantial fees for their services. And this is why I don’t applaud doctors and dentists who go to Africa to offer free services. If it could be had here, then I wouldn’t be so upset.

tom_g's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt: ”@tom_g What? I mean that if we are going to donate time, services and money to a charity, we should keep it right here in America.”

@ragingloli mentioned it above: “They say they should “solve problems at home”, while at the same time, they condemn any actual effort to actually do so.”

You have identified areas of need in the U.S., and find that helping others who do not live in the U.S. seems to detract from efforts to help here. So, I am asking if you do actually feel that we should be making efforts to address poverty here in the U.S.? If so, in what ways do you feel this should be approached? And what do you think is causing the poverty here in the U.S. that so desperately needs to be addressed before considering aid to non-U.S. people?

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I would like to see doctors and dentists donating their time and services to those in need here. I would like to see school children raising money for the needy here, I would like to see clothes, food and toiletries handed out to the slums here.

I don’t really see anybody researching the reason for poverty in the foreign countries that we help. I am talking about the “bandaid” kind of help that we give in other countries. We need bandaid help here.

And, yes, then we should go for a more permanent fix. I don’t know the answer, or I would run for office. But I do know that wages have gone down since 2008, and prices have gone up. People aren’t making it anymore, and the expectation that everyone should have a college degree is not feasible. If we are all business executives and rocket scientists, the country isn’t going to run very well. Who will pave the roads, do construction, manufacture medical supplies, deliver packages. In the ‘50’s, an unskilled person could make enough to get by, modestly. By the time I had my kids in the ‘80’s, it took two incomes to do that. Now even two incomes doesn’t cut it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

How do you know doctors and dentists don’t donate time here?

Blackberry's avatar

International aid is only 1–2% of our GDP. It’s a really insignificant amount to help pay for the consequences of our hegemony. My opinion is that we should use money we save from scaling down the military to reallocate to social services and international aid.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@Dutchess_III Because I have spend countless hours on the phone, calling around, trying to find someone. I work at a school. We have students in desperate need. Also, many are in desperate need of glasses. It’s sad.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Dutchess_III The little girl I’m talking about is absolutely beautiful, a rose born into a family of thorns, alcoholics. Her brother is also developmentally disabled. She’s had a few surgeries over her 14 years and none of them completely fixed her deformed palate/ mouth area and she still ‘talks funny.’ And she’s at the age where kids make fun, she already has the family situation where they live in the sticks, sometimes in a camper on gma’s property with no running water. Clothes not good enough, food not good enough, mother batsh&t crazy and drunk, and then her beloved father drinks himself to death.

My mom works at a non-profit here in town and has tried to get charities and other non-profits interested but they are very restricted once they get government money. The local food bank can’t just bring a food truck to the office or the neighborhoods, I’ve asked. Instead the overweight employees take food home, fact.

As far as medical or doctors volunterring, I have to tell you that Springfield MO is a medical & college town, and I have NEVER seen an open call for doctors, ever. We did have one dental truck that people lined up for that I believe was open for a whole Saturday.

You guys get that I know a LOT of poor people. People that try and try and get knocked down over and over again. My mom busted her butt to get a Medicaid rep in to her non-profit to help these people figure out what medicaid will pay for because of all the misinformation, especially about dental. A lot of offices won’t even accept it because (I believe) it’s a really slow pay.

Honestly, I’m glad people help others in other countries, I think it’s wonderful, but I would like to see more Americans doing local work and helping the bridge people and the homeless, and the working poor who can’t afford to use the insurance they have because of the high deductibles (I’ll include myself in that category.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Do you think we can make a difference @KNOWITALL? Don’t you think that those, like the little girl you mentioned above, will slip through the cracks anyway, no matter what services are offered?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Basically when someone says that this nation should help itself before giving aid that aid to other nations, they mean the government should stop sending money off shore and spend it in ways they will benefit. To heck if there are poorer people, they want aid with their PG&E, their cable bill, their car note, etc. It is sour grapes because seemingly unworthy people are getting this aid and they believe they should get a cut because they are more worthy.

Rarebear's avatar

@Dutchess_III I know several doctors who volunteer at local free clinics.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Dutchess_III I do think we can make a difference. I think people will continue to slip through the cracks as long as the government and all of us ignore them and their hunger and their lice, etc…

@Hypocrisy_Central I don’t feel that way at all, I feel that Americans sometimes find other Americans in poor situations unworthy.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Thing is, the little girl you’re referring to, and her family, are eligible for free food, housing and medical. But neither of her parents have it together enough to focus on what it takes to get all of that stuff for free. They might have to keep an appointment….but get drunk instead and miss it. Might need to fill out forms…but lose them in the trash of their home. I think the only save that child has is to be removed from the home, and we just aren’t going to do it, obviously, or it would have been done by now. I just don’t know what else this country can offer them that can make a difference. Institutionalize the parents and take the kids?

I just think they’d fall through the cracks no matter WHAT other programs are available.

johnpowell's avatar

@Dutchess_III :: Qualify and able to get are so different.

DWW25921's avatar

Personally, I think we should cut off the faucet altogether. Issuing loans is ok but the free money needs to stop.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Able to get” is the problem, @johnpowell, I agree. I’m not sure how throwing money at that problem will help. Any ideas?

@DWW25921 You’ve never known hardship.

DWW25921's avatar

@Dutchess_III That’s a ridiculous thing to say. The US needs to focus on the US and that means I don’t know hardship? Well allrightythan…

gorillapaws's avatar

Whenever someone brings up this argument I tell them a little story about a guy named Truman who received a letter requesting foreign aid. It was ignored, and so Ho Chi Minh sent a letter to the USSR asking for aid. That letter was answered and we got the Vietnam war as a result. Sometimes a little foreign aid can save countless lives and billions of dollars.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@DWW25921 Sorry….I thought you meant discontinue all aid to poor folks everywhere, including the US.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@all The little girl I’m speaking about, Jessica, ran away from home, for the second time I believe.

Her father was drinking and swimming in a local lake and never came up, and after that she lost her will, he was basically the only good thing in her life.

She is now in our local juvenile facility receiving behavior treatment of some kind. My mom is trying to get on the visitor list currently.

I urge all of you never to give up on helping people whether it’s locally or globally.

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