Government aid should go to its citizens first

The earthquake in Haiti was devastating, and people generously rushed to the poor country’s aid. There are hundreds of thousands of people homeless, hungry and needing medical attention there. They were there before the earthquake too, but no one seemed concerned about them then. Why were we so quick to help Haiti after the earthquake? Because a group of celebrities answered phones for a few hours asking us to give money?

When it comes to giving aid, America loves to jump on the band wagon, then take the reins and be the headstrong leader of the wagon, showing the world that we’re the country that helps people, usually by throwing money at the problem.

That’s not charity. That’s competitiveness. Can we afford to always be number one?

It’s been over a month since the earthquake now, and the U.S. is still down there giving emergency assistance.

But there are hundreds of thousands of people homeless, hungry, and needing medical attention right here in the U.S. I don’t see the government pouring troops, reporters and celebrities into its own communities. Volunteers who do help locally usually face a shortage of resources.

I’m not saying that Haiti doesn’t need aid. Please, if you can give, give. It’s your personal choice how you want to spend your money, time and resources.

There are plenty of worthy causes that need charity, both locally and internationally. But a government’s money, time and resources should first go to its own people, then abroad.

Most of the time, foreign aid has nothing to do with wanting to help the average citizen “over there,” wherever there is at the time. It is much more political and self-interested than that.

We’ll give good ole greenbacks to a poor country, hoping it’s enough to buy food and medicine, build roads and bridges, and hire teachers and doctors.

But really, it’s a political move, either to make that country like us or to empower it against a country we’re not too fond of.

Remember when we gave the Taliban all that money and all those weapons? It was never to kindly help them, but to weaken the Soviets. And now the Taliban has the resources to fight us for years on end.

Because foreign aid is a political tool more than a charity, quite a bit of that money does not go to schools and medicine like it’s intended. It will go to pet projects of that government, or worse, corrupt leaders just pocket the money.

“It is heart-breaking that global society has evolved a highly efficient way to get entertainment to rich adults and children, while it can’t get twelve-cent medicine to dying poor children,” said William Easterly, an economics professor on development and aid issues on the U.S. and Foreign Aid Assistance’s web site.

Maybe that’s because we’re going about it all wrong. Should we help countries in need? Yes. Should we ignore the need in our own country for political means? No.

In efforts to help Haiti, America has proved it has money and resources to care for people in need. But why must that willingness to help only come when a foreign country is struck by natural disaster?

Where is that willingness to help when Americans are struggling to survive every day? If this is still the land of plenty, why do we allow our fellow citizens to go without as we export our troops, our clean water, our doctors, and our money to another country?

America can be a leader without being the country that always rushes to the popular disaster to give aid.

Let’s set a good example by helping our own suffering citizens first. Then there will be more people able to donate both materials and time to the ongoing problems around the world.

If you would like to donate items to Haiti, a collection box for water, food and supplies is located on the first floor of the RUC next to the Service Learning Center office.