01/05/05 — Aid to Asia: A hard question about ‘government’ giving

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Aid to Asia: A hard question about ‘government’ giving

Now that the U.S. government has raised its pledge to $350 million for the tsunami victims in southern Asia, let’s go ahead and face the hard question: Should the government give anything at all?

The question is a hard one because of the pathetic condition of the people suffering from the effects of the huge tidal waves that struck on Dec. 26. About 150,000 were killed, and millions of survivors were left hungry and at risk of being ravaged by disease. Some have suffered a double blow because of monsoon-like rains that have flooded their areas since the tsunamis roared ashore.

Mercy is a paramount virtue, and anyone who did not want to help these people would be cold-hearted indeed. Accordingly, many Americans and U.S. corporations have joined relief efforts in a monumental way.

These include drug manufacturers who will donate huge supplies of medicines. They also include millions of Americans who are contributing to efforts by the American Red Cross to collect money for food and other necessities for the victims.

Soon after the tsunamis hit, a United Nations official criticized the U.S. government for failing to pledge more than a paltry, by his standards, amount. At the time, President Bush had set aside $15 million, but that was before the full extent of the U.S. spending had been decided. The total has risen steadily since then to the $350 million mark.

But that doesn’t count the private contributions. The $350 million is only what is called — erroneously — the government’s part. In truth, the government has no part, because it has no money. The only money in government hands is money that has been extorted from us, the taxpayers. It is taken from us with the understanding that it will be used to finance the essential operations of our government. It should not be given away.

Bush appears to put on the cloak of magnanimity every time he raises the pledge by a few million. But he is not being generous at all, because the money he is giving away does not belong to him.

He is by no means the first president to commit such deception. Since World War II, our government has given untold billions of our dollars to various countries, including some which do not wish us well. In the Clinton administration, for example, foreign-aid money went to North Korea. Under Bush, it has gone to the late Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian regime.

But even giving to friendly nations is wrong. It is bad enough that our government takes money from us and gives it to our neighbors. It certainly should not be sending it out of the country.

As for the tsunami victims, we should try wholeheartedly to relieve their suffering. It is the Biblical and the humane thing to do. We should do it because it is our choice, not because we are forced to.

Published in Editorials on January 5, 2005 9:17 AM