John Norris: 5 Misconceptions About US Overseas Aid

A member of the U.S. army loada a pallet of humanitarian aid onto an aircraft. Photo by: Brendan Stephens / U.S. Army Africa / CC BY

As foreign aid funding continues to be targeted under proposed U.S. government spending cuts, John Norris, executive director of the sustainable security program at the Center for American Progress, cites some misconceptions about U.S. overseas development programs.

One, Republicans oppose foreign aid. - Former U.S. presidents Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, all Republicans, have supported foreign aid initiatives such as promoting food security and combating HIV/AIDS, according to Norris.

Two, foreign aid programs account for a huge chunk of the U.S. federal budget. - U.S. overseas programs only take up around 1 percent of the federal budget, Norris says. 

Three, the U.S. gives foreign assistance to help win hearts and minds overseas. - Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Ken Adelman has argued that there is no evidence that foreign aid programs have made the U.S. the “most popular or most influential country” in the world.

>> US Foreign Aid Not Winning Hearts and Minds, Expert Says

Challenging this notion, Norris explains in a Washington Post article: “[F]oreign aid is not designed to make countries like us. The United States wants stable democratic partners that are reliable allies in the long run. Aid builds these relationships, even when the countries we help don’t support us in the short run.”

Four, foreign governments squander U.S. aid. - Some U.S. policies contribute to wastage of aid funding, Norris argues, citing U.S. food aid policies that “swayed by an agribusiness lobby that stresses buying American, not buying cheaply.” 

Five, poor countries are doomed for poverty. - Citing data from the U.S. International Trade Commission, Norris says South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, which all used to receive U.S. aid, are now some of the largest importers of American goods and services.

Read more about U.S. development aid.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.