• Inside Development

At GOP Debate, Presidential Candidates Vow to Cut Foreign Aid

By Rolf Rosenkranz19 October 2011

From top to bottom, left to right: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. Photo by: DonkeyHotey / CC BY-SA

Little has been known about the Republican presidential candidates’ position on foreign assistance. But at an Oct. 18 GOP primary debate, several presidential hopefuls broke their silence.

At the debate, hosted by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, an audience member asked: “The American people are suffering in our country right now. Why do we continue to send foreign aid to other countries when we need all the help we can get for ourselves?”

As a reminder, here’s what we knew already:

>> GOP Presidential Contenders and Their Views on US Foreign Aid

And here’s what the GOP candidates responded, according to the CNN transcript:

Absolutely. I think it’s time for this country to have a very real debate about foreign aid. Clearly there are places… As a matter of fact, I think it’s time for us to have a very serious discussion about defunding the United Nations. … Why are we funding that organization?

- Texas Gov. Rick Perry:

Foreign aid has several elements. One of those elements is defense, is to make sure that we are able to have the defense resources we want in certain places of the world. That probably ought to fall under the Department of Defense budget rather than a foreign aid budget.

Part of it is humanitarian aid around the world. 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. …

And finally there’s a portion of our foreign aid that allows us to carry out our activities in the world such as what’s happening in Pakistan where we’re taking - we’re supplying our troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan.

But let me tell you: We’re spending more on foreign aid than we ought to be spending. And Congressman Paul asked, is there a place we can cut the budget? Let me tell you where we cut the budget. Discretionary accounts you bring back to 2008 level. We … cut federal employment by at least 10 percent through attrition. And finally, we say to federal employees: You’re not going to make more money than the people in the private sector who are paying for you. We link their compensation.

- Mitt Romney



On foreign aid, that should be the easiest thing to cut. It’s not authorized in the Constitution that we can take money from you and give it to particular countries around the world. To me, foreign aid is taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries. And it becomes weapons of war. … I would cut all foreign aid [not just aid to Israel]. I would treat everybody equally and fairly. And I don’t think aid to Israel actually helps them. I think it teaches them to be dependent. We’re on a bankruptcy course.

And - and look at what’s the result of all that foreign aid we gave to Egypt? I mean, their - their dictator that we pumped up, we spent all these billions of dollars, and now there’s a more hostile regime in Egypt. And that’s what’s happening all around Israel. That foreign aid makes Israel dependent on us. It softens them for their own economy. And they should have their sovereignty back. They should be able to deal with their neighbors at their own will.

- Texas Rep. Ron Paul

We should not be cutting foreign aid to Israel. Israel is our greatest ally. The biggest problem … with this administration in foreign policy is that President Obama is the first president since Israel declared her sovereignty [who has] put daylight between the United States and Israel. That heavily contributed to the current hostilities that we see in the Middle East region.

Cutting back on foreign aid is one thing. Being reimbursed by nations that we have liberated is another. We should look to Iraq and Libya to reimburse us for part of what we have done to liberate these nations. …

My approach is an extension of the Reagan approach: Peace through strength, which is peace through strength and clarity. If we clarify who our friends are, clarify who our enemies are, and stop giving money to our enemies, then we ought to continue to give money to our friends, like Israel.

- Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman

Also sharing the stage Tuesday night were Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, who did not comment on foreign assistance.

Read more on U.S. aid reform online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

Rolf rosenkranz 400x400
Rolf Rosenkranz

Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.


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