President Biden has proposed spending over $105 billion to support Ukraine against Russia, Israel against Hamas, the American border against southern invasion, and for humanitarian aid. This request has kicked off a long overdue debate about when, where, why and for how long U.S. aid should flow.
Considering the particulars, the President has asked for another $61.4 billion for Ukraine. This is on top of the already $113 billion sent to Ukraine in one form or another, leading many to wonder, “when is it enough?”
Of course, the answer depends on the intent. De facto U.S. policy has been to support Ukraine until Ukraine cries “uncle” or the Russian invaders are evicted. As neither has occurred, unless the U.S. intends to abandon Ukraine, more support will be needed, so the only possible answer is, “don’t know, but not yet.”
Biden has asked for $14.3 billion for Israel. Support for Israel is wide and deep excluding the pro-terrorist fringe in the Democratic Party and, of course, across most of the nation’s colleges and universities. While Israel is not a big country, it is a prosperous one. Why, exactly, is getting involved the knee-jerk American response?
He also asks for $7.4 billion for security to support Taiwan which may or may not be needed, but is certainly no emergency. And Biden asks for over $9 billion in humanitarian aid, including assistance to Gaza which ultimately translates to aid to Hamas.
An additional $14 billion requested for border security is welcome, but after his permissive invasion policy Biden is a little late to the party whatever he intends with the money. In any event, this money was only included in exchange for Republican support for Ukraine aid.
House Speaker Johnson has called for emergency spending to be offset, upsetting the status quo ante big time. It’s so much easier to pass emergency spending and just increase the deficit.
Just to emphasize the point, a few days after proposing this national security emergency spending, Biden proposed $56 billion in domestic emergency spending which appeared to contain not one dollar of spending relating to an emergency.
Speaker Johnson is working hard to refocus his Republican colleagues on fiscal responsibility, and in doing so he really has the establishment’s knickers in a knot. Republican Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Susan Collins asks, “where does it [paying for emergency spending] end?”
A balanced budget some day? One can dream.
Thus some of the details, but consider the bigger picture. The United States faces three pre-eminent adversaries – Russia, Iran, and the big kahuna, China. Ukraine is fighting for its life, but that in itself doesn’t justify sending U.S. tax dollar.
Ukraine is fighting Russia, bleeding it dry so that win or lose, Russia won’t be attacking anyone else for a long time. Moreover, abandoning Ukraine after so many hard promises of open-ended support would do grave damage to America’s reputation around the world, especially so soon after the Afghanistan disaster.
Weakening a dangerous adversary and maintaining American credibility as an ally justifies additional aid.
Israel is fighting for the safety and security of its people, but again, that alone doesn’t justify sending U.S. tax dollars. But in fighting Hamas, Israel is also striking a mighty blow against Iran specifically and all centers of radical Islam more generally. If Israel needs help in snuffing out Hamas, it is clearly in the U.S.’s national security interest to give it.
Taking a further step back, the debate the U.S. needs is about when it should not stick its nose, and dollars, into a crisis. Just about any time an emergency develops anywhere in the world, the American government rushes in with aid, cash, weapons, whatever. When should it not?
The United States is still the most powerful country in the world and its people have a caring heart. But it is no longer the lone colossus astride the globe, border secure, finances in order, a healthy democracy able to carry all the world’s troubles on its back.
Yes to Ukraine and Israel support, assuming the amounts are well-justified, but just once I’d like to see Congress and an administration decline to get involved in a foreign matter not clearly tied to national security. Maybe if the resulting emergency spending had to be offset with spending cuts elsewhere, resistance would be sufficient.
There’s an idea, Speaker Johnson.
JD Foster is the former chief economist at the Office of Management and Budget and former chief economist and senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He now resides in relative freedom in the hills of Idaho.
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