Friday, December 31, 2004

A Generous People, A Stingy Administration

That's how it looks to me right now. The American people are doing the right thing in giving money to the relief of the disasters caused by the tsunamis. The U.S. Red Cross alone received 25 million dollars in pledges during the first three days, and other organizations are also receiving many donations. But the U.S. administration does look stingy:

Powell, reacting to the critique by some Democratic lawmakers and humanitarian officials, insisted the $35 million pledged by the United States in emergency aid was "just a beginning" and that more would be offered once the full scope of the damage was assessed.
President Bush's offers to help coordinate relief efforts and to dispatch U.S. warships to the region have not satisfied critics, who believe the administration missed a chance to improve America's image abroad with a quick and robust response to the crisis.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., led the criticism of the White House by noting that the $35 million in emergency aid was equivalent to what the United States spends in seven hours on military operations in Iraq.
"I thought we gave the wrong impression to the rest of the world when it came out for the first couple days that we were willing to spend $35 million to help the people who had been devastated by the tsunami," Leahy told CNN Thursday. "That is about half what the country of Spain is spending."

It doesn't help things to tell that the $35 million doesn't cover everything, such as planes or warships coming to help with the relief efforts. The same would be true of other countries' contributions. No, the U.S. government does look stingy, though the American people do not.

Just compare the American official figures to what other countries are pledging:

Foreign critics have pointed out that the U.S. aid pledge is less than those of several European nations. Britain has pledged $95 million in aid, Sweden has committed $75.5 million, Spain is offering $68 million, and France plans to spend $57 million.
Other nations pledging aid include Japan ($40 million), the Netherlands ($36 million), Canada ($32.8 million), Germany ($27 million), Australia ($27 million), Portugal ($11 million), Saudi Arabia ($10 million) and Qatar ($10 million).
French newspaper Le Figaro commented in an editorial that the United States' initial pledge of $15 million in aid was "completely ridiculous given the magnitude of the catastrophe," adding that the sum was equivalent to half the price of a new F-16 fighter jet or "half the daily sales of dog and cat food in the United States."

We shouldn't even be talking about this. We should be talking about how to give much more than anyone else is giving, simply because we have much more.