American people continue to show ignorance on foreign aid

Once again the American people show how woefully ignorant they are about world events.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released its 2013 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health. This year, Kaiser added a look at a “bang for the buck” perception. In other words, does the money the U.S. spend overseas make sense.

To find out if foreign affairs/aid spending makes sense, Kaiser had to learn what people thought the U.S. spent overseas.

And, once again, the message is that the American people have no idea what is being spent.

I have commented about this for some time.

In 2010 a survey by a survey by Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland showed the American people think the US spends 25 percent on foreign affairs.

Actual amount was 1%.

And now, the Kaiser survey shows that the American people have become dumber about this issue.

Consistent with previous Kaiser polls, the 2013 survey finds that the vast majority of the public ove

restimates the size of the federal budget that is spent on foreign aid, with just four percent correctly saying that foreign aid makes up one percent or less of the federal budget. A majority give answers above 10 percent, and on average, Americans answer that 28 percent of the budget is spent on foreign aid.

The survey showed that six in 10 said the U.S. spent too much on foreign aid and 13 percent said we spent too little.

But all is not lost. It appears that some people can be educated and change their views once presented with the facts and context.

When survey respondents are told that only about one percent of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid, the share saying the U.S. spends too little more than doubles (from 13 percent to 28 percent), while the share saying we spend too much drops in half (from 61 percent to 30 percent).

I have pretty much given up on the U.S. foreign affairs agencies trying to explain what they do and why. Way too many — not all but too many — spend so much time talking among themselves and other government agencies that they don’t know how to talk to the American public.

So that leaves journalists to play the watchdog role and explain how U.S. government money is spent overseas, how it affects Main Street USA and the context of that spending.

And OOPS, the journalists are also failing in that job.

So many news organizations have misread the desire of their readers/listeners/viewers for better local news coverage as a desire for only local news.

It is not hard to provide local news with an international connection and to put it in context.

For example, the economically hard-hit state of Michigan exported more than $51 billion to the world. Most of the items were manufactured goods. These are items produced by high-paying jobs.

One would think that there would be more discussion of how good jobs are saved and created in local area through trade would be a good idea for a series of stories.

Likewise, overseas development programs often depend on U.S. products. In this case, small companies — with 100 or fewer workers — often make the goods that get shipped overseas.

And included in that 1% of the federal budget are men and women who work to protect the rights and intellectual property rights of U.S. companies operating overseas.

So for less than a penny on the dollar, small businesses benefit from development programs; good jobs are created from international trade and U.S. companies can operate around the globe helping build a stronger global economy.

Oh, yes, that small amount also pays for all the diplomats who work tireless to resolve issues before those issues fester into a shooting war.

A penny on the dollar brings jobs and security without having to shed blood.

Sounds like a good deal to me.

Too bad it is not getting reported in a way that the American people can understand.

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