If there’s a single issue on which the average American decidedly wants less government, it's foreign aid. Polls show that even more Americans want to cut foreign aid than taxpayer funding for “the arts.”
Understandably, then, foreign aid is a not-uncommon libertarian talking point. Defenders of foreign aid, however, have a prepared response: the American public grossly overestimates foreign aid numbers. While the average American supposes that the federal government spends about a quarter of its budget on overseas assistance, the official number is closer to 1%.
Libertarians rebut by pointing out that this 1% adds millions each day to an already plummeting debt, but we don’t need to stop there. Instead, we should go on the offensive by questioning the narrow way that government statistics define foreign aid.
Suppose foreign aid were defined in accordance with common sense: money sent overseas that does nothing to benefit the taxpayers who are required to provide it. On this view, the median American is essentially correct; the U.S. spends more money policing any number of foreign borders than its own. We can reasonably say most of the $729 billion we spent on “defense” in 2012 actually constituted “foreign aid."
This video and unofficial transcript were provided by Sen. Paul's office. Follow YAL's live coverage of this historic filibuster on Facebook and Twitter.
I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court. That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in bowling green, Kentucky, is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country. I don’t rise to oppose John Brennan’s nomination simply for the person. I rise today for the principle. The principle is one that as Americans we have fought long and hard for and to give up on that principle, to give up on the bill of rights, to give up on the Fifth Amendment protection that says that no person shall be held without due process, that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted. This is a precious American tradition and something we should not give up on easily. They say Lewis Carroll is fiction. Alice never fell down a rabbit hole and the White Queen’s caustic judgments are not really a threat to your security. Or has America the beautiful become Alice’s wonderland? ‘No, no, said the queen. Sentence first; verdict afterwards. Stuff and nonsense, Alice said widely – loudly. The idea of having the sentence first? ‘Hold your tongue, said the queen, turning purple. I won’t, said Alice. Release the drones, said the Queen, as she shouted at the top of her voice.
Lewis Carroll is fiction, right? When I asked the President, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, “no.” The President’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that.
The President says, I haven’t killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, and I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might. Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a President to say he might kill Americans? But he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit. Now, some would say he would never do this. Many people give the President the – you know, they give him consideration, they say he’s a good man. I’m not arguing he’s not. What I’m arguing is that the law is there and set in place for the day when angels don’t rule government. Madison said that the restraint on government was because government will not always be run by angels. This has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican. Were this a Republican President, I’d be here saying exactly the same thing. No one person, no one politician should be allowed to judge the guilt, to charge an individual, to judge the guilt of an individual and to execute an individual. It goes against everything that we fundamentally believe in our country.
This isn’t even new to our country. There’s 800 years of English law that we found our tradition upon. We founded it upon the Magna Carta from 1215. We founded it upon Morgan from Glamorgan and 725 A.D. We founded upon the Greeks and Romans who had juries. It is not enough to charge someone to say that they are guilty.
Now, some might come to this floor and they might say, “Well, what if we’re being attacked on 9/11? What if there are planes flying at the Twin Towers?” Obviously, we repel them. We repel any attack on our country.
Obama’s presidency has been a busy one for American interventionism.
His administration has overseen a costly troop surge in Afghanistan, a disastrous police action in Libya, and an unprecedented campaign of drone warfare across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. With the largest military budget since World War II, the president has kept US forces stationed in over 150 countries around the world. This includes a contingent of 28,000 troops protecting the Korean border – 6,000 more than the number of agents employed by the entire border patrol of the United States.
With our national debt climbing beyond $16.5 trillion, one might expect our government to scale back its litany of overseas entanglements and look inward. In fact, according to a January 2011 Gallup poll, more Americans favor cutting foreign aid than any other area of spending. Our government, however, seems to think that America is still not policing the world enough.
In his January 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama announced that “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.” Although it’s been just over a year since U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq, our policymakers apparently have short memories. We may now be closer than ever before to the fulfillment of the president’s Iran threat.
YAL is excited to debut our brand new foreign policy palmcards. Starting next week, these will be available to YAL chapters for FREE in their Generation of War kits (part of our March activism project).
And soon, you'll be able to purchase this palmcard by the hundred in the YAL store!
For now, here's a special preview of this exciting new resource (click on each image for a larger size):
A new Reason-Rupe poll has some interesting and telling findings—namely that a vast majority of Americans don't think that increased federal spending since the 1990s has improved their quality of life. Here are the details:
Adjusted for inflation, federal spending per capita has increased approximately 39 percent since 1992, yet a new Reason-Rupe poll finds 79 percent of Americans believe the government’s spending increases have reduced the quality of life or made no impact on the quality of life in the country during that time. Forty percent say the increases in federal spending over the last 20 years reduced the quality of life in the country and 39 percent say the increases had no impact on the quality of life. Just 17 percent feel federal spending increases improved the quality of life in America.
Better yet, 49% think cutting spending would help the economy, and 61% are in favor of cutting military spending back to 2001 rates!
Guaranteeing the security of Israel sure may earn some quick political points with the GOP, but it also completely abandons the principles of non-interventionism. There is also something terribly perverse about assuring defense for Israel while giving them carte blanche to build settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Surely we have not already forgotten the concept of blowback.
Just as a refresher, unyielding American support of Israel was one of the main grievances that Osama bin Laden used to justify his 9/11 attack. This uncomfortably close relationship continues today, and still ignites hatred among Muslims throughout the world. Rand Paul was elected to change foreign policy in D.C., among other things. He was not elected to maintain America's most serious foreign policy blunder in recent memory.
Applications for FEE’s newly revamped Summer Seminars are now open! In order to better accommodate your busy schedules and light wallets, FEE has shortened the seminars to 3 days, located in 6 locations across the country.
College and High School FEE Seminars cover 10 topic areas including the popular Austrian Economics seminar (now named “Rebels with a Cause”) and our advanced seminar: Communicating Liberty.
I’m researching some of the costs of America’s wars since 2001 for a new YAL project today. Most of this I’ve read about before—it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with most of the data. But all put together, it’s pretty heart-breaking. Here’s a sampling:
$6 trillion+: The final costs of Iraq and Afghanistan
$16 trillion: The national debt
$720 million: The price of one day at war in Iraq
$300 million: One day of war in Afghanistan
$132 billion and growing: Annual Dep’t of Veterans Affairs budget
$50 billion: What we were told Iraq would cost
1.7 billion of our emails read daily
Suppression of free speech
TSA security theater
Assassination of Americans
1 million+ excess deaths in Iraq
7.8 million+ refugees in Iraq
6,518 American soldiers dead in Iraq and Afgh.
16,495 total U.S. military deaths 2001-2010
48,430 Americans wounded in Iraq and Afgh.
1,655 military amputations from battle
300,000 veterans have PTSD
50 civilians killed for every one terrorist
The constant posture of attack our foreign policy takes today simply doesn’t work, and its price is high in dollars, freedom, and lives. If we want a safer and saner America, it’s time to end the wars.
One day, while passing a group of professors at school, I heard the most ridiculous defense of preemptive war from one of them. Mind you, this argument came after he criticized the United States for waging a war of aggression against Iraq. Anyways, he essentially stated that, “If you find out that someone has it out for you in a bar the best thing for you to do is punch them in the face the first chance you get so they don’t see it coming.” Of course, this would still count as an act of aggression and you would still be charged with assault, but this is beside the main point.
First, you can’t really compare today’s wars to a silly bar fight. Battles aren't fought in a vacuum, and modern weaponry makes it impossible for civilians to remain comparatively unaffected by slaughter. Modern warfare involves bombs being dropped on wedding parties, village centers, and strings of city blocks—all of which inevitably kills countless innocent civilians. Meanwhile, the economic consequences of war are felt by everyone as redistribution of resources to the military and economic sanctions reduce everyone's standard of living. Those who survive the explosive and economic destruction will often seek retribution, leading to an unintended cycle of violence. So, if we must compare war to a bar brawl, a more realistic analogy is necessary.