Published November 1971 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd The Future of Foreign Aid When President Truman instituted the Marshall Plan at the end of World War II to help re-build war-torn Europe, that policy was not only humanitarian but necessary for our security. The assistance we gave those countries and our participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have been largely instrumental in keeping the peace in Europe for the past twenty- five years. Since these beginnings, however, the scope of our foreign aid has gone beyond all bounds of reason and fiscal propriety. As a nation, we should not abandon our interest in, or our responsibilities towards, the world community of which we are so important a part. But we must always bear in mind that our primary responsibility is to our own country, our own people and to those generations who will come after us. Generosity and human kindness are part of the American tradition, but prodigal spending for the uplift of others to the detriment of our own people just doesn't make good sense. There are some very significant figures, for example, that give a clear picture of the immense burdens we have placed on ourselves since 1946 when it all began. Our total net disbursements to foreign nations-127 of them- in the past quarter century are close to $140 billion. The government had to borrow much of this money thereby escalating our national debt--and the net interest payments which the American taxpayer must bear on this borrowing have reached the staggering figure of $74 billion. This is on money we have borrowed to give away! The grand total cost of foreign aid to the American taxpayer between 1946 and fiscal year 1971, therefore, including interest charges, is the astronomical sum of $213 billion. As nearly as can be estimated, only 36 million people out of a world population of 31/, billion, have not been recipients of our largesse at one time or another through these years. Whether we have gained the respect and gratitude of the nations we have helped is questionable, but of much greater importance is the fact that the economic conditions in our country today make it imperative that we take a long, hard look at the whole foreign aid picture and decide quickly and dispassionately if our future is being jeopardized by our generosity.