Foreign Relations

Should the U.S. decrease its foreign aid spending?

With Congress approving a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, a question looms on whether the U.S. should decrease its foreign aid spending to take care of its domestic problems

Rise of the Issue

Foreign aid has been used by the United States as part of its foreign policy since WWII, and has since been used to rebuild infrastructure and prop up flagging economies around the world. Foreign aid can come in different shapes, as goods, money, and services, and can be divided into two categories: economic and military assistance. Economic assistance basically refers to any development and humanitarian aid, while military assistance covers anything from financing counterterrorism, anti-narcotic, military and peacekeeping operations abroad. 

But while some argue that U.S. foreign aid can help millions over the world at a minimal cost to the American taxpayer, others believe that this money should rather be spent domestically.

Issue Timeline


President Truman and George Marshal Create and Enact the Marshall Plan

The plan provided financial and technical assistance to European countries in order to rebuild infrastructure destroyed during WWII. Its success helped Western Europe recover its economic and industrial capability.


Foreign Aid is Sent to Asian Countries to Deter Communism

President Truman and President Eisenhower used foreign aid to try and keep regional allies from falling under communist ideology.


President Kennedy (JFK) Establishes The United States Agency for International Aid (USAID)

As part of JFK’s Alliance for Progress program, USAID sent foreign aid to Latin American countries to relieve poverty and inequality in the region and prevent the spread of Communism in the Western hemisphere.


Foreign Aid Is Used as Incentive During The War on Drugs

As part of the war on drugs, President Ronald Regan only offered foreign aid to the Latin American countries that took observable action in combating the drug trade.


Foreign Aid Sent to Combat Epidemics and the War on Terror

Foreign aid was sent to African countries to equip them to deal with life-threatening diseases, as well as to Afghanistan and Iraq to help them to fight terrorism.


$40 Billion Aid Package Approved for Ukraine

Congress passed a bill that allows for $40 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine. The money is meant to help Ukraine fight off Russian troops by providing them with U.S. and western stockpiles of weapons, ammunition, and other necessary equipment.

Micro Issues


Budget Spending

Those in favor of reducing spending on foreign aid argue that the U.S. could use the extra money to help American citizens in need, while those against say that spending on foreign aid only amounts to approximately 1% of the federal budget.


Foreign Spending as an Investment

While some see foreign aid spending as money spent only as a way to help foreign countries in need, others argue that many foreign aid operations actually prevent dramatic situations from spilling over on the U.S.


Strategic Foreign Policy

Both sides disagree on whether sending foreign aid actually helps the U.S expand its soft power and strengthen its diplomatic ties abroad or whether the risk of it backfiring and hurting the U.S.’ global image is too great.

Pro Arguments


Foreign aid creates dependency and increases debt.

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) that become overly reliant on foreign aid will not be able to develop their own economy independently from the donor, and thus run the risk of simply increasing their debt without any tangible returns.


Foreign assistance feeds corruption and doesn’t reach its intended recipients.

Countries that become dependent on foreign aid often suffer from high governmental and institutional corruption. The foreign aid the LDC receives could end up lining the pockets of politicians and corporations instead of raising people out of poverty.


Money spent on foreign countries could be more impactful at home.

The federal government has spent more money on foreign aid than most state governments have spent on similar development programs at home. As such, many people have questioned if such spending is wise when it has little benefit for most Americans.


Humanitarian aid doesn’t necessarily help those most in need.

Foreign aid is used as a tool of foreign policy and can therefore be selective in the sense that many countries in need of foreign aid often do not receive any, as LDCs who are strategically significant are favored over them.


U.S. interference could have other destabilizing effects.

Besides corruption, poorly managed foreign aid sometimes results in the destruction of small farmers or businesses who are important to the local economy within an LDC.

Con Arguments


Humanitarian assistance helps relieve global poverty and inequality.

Foreign aid helps boost growth and opportunity within LDCs, as it provides the poor with more benefits and opportunities to work while also financing increased social spending.


U.S. intervention can be mutually beneficial.

Providing foreign aid fosters the development of positive relations between the doner and the state receiving the donation, allowing for closer ties between the countries in the form of increased trade, diplomatic and military cooperation, etc.


Foreign aid can help control the spread of diseases.

Foreign aid allows LDCs to acquire and develop their own medical facilities necessary to combat infectious diseases like AIDS, Ebola, or other sporadic epidemics that may occur. It also allows LDCs to work toward preventing such epidemics in the future.


Development aid can optimize and modernize agriculture.

Foreign aid is beneficial as it allows farmers to purchase expensive equipment (fertilizers, tractors, etc.) that makes farming in LDCs more efficient. This goes a long way toward preventing food shortages and famines in the region.


Military assistance and peacekeeping operations help keep countries independent.

By providing foreign aid, LDCs can avoid becoming beholden to other subversive states. This will have long term benefits, as helping them maintain their independence could turn them into steadfast allies.