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Romney: Let's Cut Humanitarian Foreign Aid and Get China to Step Up

1:29 PM, Oct 19, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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During last night's GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas, moderator Anderson Cooper asked former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney if foreign aid should be eliminated. Romney indicated that he supported foreign aid for defense but not humanitarian purposes.

Mitt Romney

"I happen to think it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid," Romney said. "We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people that are...." he said, trailing off. 

Like the other candidates questioned about foreign aid (Perry, Bachmann, Paul), Romney did not point out that foreign aid makes up just 1 percent of the federal budget. A solid majority of Americans support cutting foreign aid (but not other programs) and believe that foreign aid makes up a significant portion of the U.S. budget. "[O]n average, Americans estimate that foreign aid takes up 10 percent of the federal budget, and one in five think it represents about 30 percent of the money the government spends," according to a CNN poll from April 2011. The GOP candidates and CNN's Anderson Cooper did nothing to dispel this false notion last night.

What's worse, in Romney's case, is his idea that it's desirable to see China fill a void left by America abroad. It's one thing to dispute the very premise of humanitarian aid, as Ron Paul does. "To me, foreign aid is taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries," the libertarian congressman said. But Romney seems to accept the premise that humanitarian aid is good. If that's the case, why would he want a rival nation like China to expand its sphere of influence in order for the United States to save a pittance? How does that serve the American interest?

It doesn't, as Florida senator Marco Rubio argued during a major foreign policy speech in September. "Foreign aid is also an important part of America’s foreign policy leadership. While we certainly must be careful about spending money on foreign aid, the reality is that it is not the reason we have a growing debt problem," Rubio said. 

The rising GOP star continued:

If it is done right, and when done in partnership with the private sector and faith-based community, foreign aid spreads America’s influence around the world in a positive way. Let me give you an example: the Bush Administration’s program to provide HIV medicine to Africa has not only saved lives, it has increased America’s influence across the continent. These are allies in the future that can be our partners, not just in our political struggles on the world stage, but in economic trade. And a world where people are prosperous and free to grow their economies and pursue their own dreams is a better world for all of us.

When asked via email if Gov. Romney supports cutting all humanitarian aid, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul replied that the former governor supports programs that are "effective" and "enhance the security and prosperity of the United States and our allies":

Governor Romney supports targeting our scarce assistance resources in a strategic manner.  The goal of assistance programs must be to enhance the security and prosperity of the United States and our allies, and the programs must be effective. This means focusing our assistance -- particularly in the turbulent Middle East -- on those programs that best support an international system based on free markets, representative government, and human rights.  And assistance programs must push back against forces that seek to destabilize that system.  It is that international system that has secured our interests and ideals for the past half century and lifted our friends around the world.  If programs are not effective in advancing our strategic goals, then they should be eliminated.

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