July 2008 – Over the years when I have been critical of our current president, my lovely and talented wife Alison has basically defended him. She reminds me of the daily pressures on the leader of the free world. She believes he is a good person trying to do the very best he can to defend and protect our country. When photos and video footage were shown of his recent visit to Africa, she commented that he looked happier than he has looked in a long time. The Africans seemed truly appreciative of his attention to their plight. Sure, these are just images – not necessarily an accurate barometer of someone’s true disposition – but they can be telling. President Bush has been praised, even by some liberals, for the money he has included in his budgets over the years for aid to Africa, including billions toward AIDS treatment and prevention, a disease that has ravaged the continent. According to an article in the December 31, 2006, Washington Post:
President Bush’s legacy is sure to be defined by his wielding of U.S. military power in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there is another, much softer and less-noticed effort by his administration in foreign affairs: a dramatic increase in U.S. aid to Africa. The president has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to the world’s most impoverished continent since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010 – to nearly $9 billion. The moves have surprised – and pleased – longtime supporters of assistance for Africa, who note that because Bush has received little support from African-American voters, he has little obvious political incentive for his interest. … Bush has increased direct development and humanitarian aid to Africa to more than $4 billion a year from $1.4 billion in 2001, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And four African nations – Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Uganda – rank among the world’s top 10 recipients in aid from the United States.
This from a president accused of not caring for black people because of what happened in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“He should be known for increasing – doubling – development assistance and tripling it to Africa after a period in which U.S. development assistance was essentially flat for decades,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently told The Associated Press. “He should be known for the largest single investment in AIDS and malaria, the biggest health investment of any government program ever.”
On the larger issue of foreign aid by the U.S. government, I am conflicted. We have so many needs in our own country it just makes you wonder if we should use the billions of dollars doled out internationally and apply that money to our own country. I understand that argument. But then, helping non-Americans, especially in ways that improve their health, way of life and standard of living – whether it be Africa or Central America – has been a long-standing tradition of ours through the government and through charities. Some say we don’t owe Africa anything. But helping them with no expectation of getting anything in return says a lot about America and Americans. That caring spirit, without question, springs from our Christian heritage.
Wealth drives generosity. The reason we are able to give so much monetary assistance around the world is that we are a very wealthy nation. And the reason we are a very wealthy nation is that we are a free country encouraging people to start businesses that make a lot of money. When these ventures make a profit, they create jobs, which increase the taxes the government can collect to sustain the needs of our own country and, when we can, help others like those in Africa. This is why it bothers me when liberal politicians start talking in class-warfare terms.
A politician may win voters by stirring up animosity against wealthy Americans, but it is only going to hurt everyone if we move to more socialism and more taxing of the rich.
Did you know that the top 20% of Americans pay 80% of the taxes in our country? I’m afraid if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is elected and they have a liberal congressional majority, taxes on the wealthiest 20% will increase, which will in turn kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
I am proud of the fact that America is the most generous country in the world. The only way to keep America generous is to keep America wealthy. So, this political season, beware of the class-warfare rhetoric.