By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – These are troubling times abroad. But these are also troubling times on the home front.

Craig from Fall River Declared his Curiosity, asking:

“Why is it that our government continues to give billions of our tax dollars to dictators and not to the millions of Americans who are struggling?”

Bob from Leominster added,

“I never hear any of our leaders talk about cutting foreign aid. Most of it goes to countries that hate us.”

Wilson’s Diner in Waltham is about 5,400 miles from Tahrir Square in Cairo, but diners watched the unrest there closely. Many wondered what was going on when they heard that our government supported a dictator like Hosne Mubarak to the tune of about $2 billion a year.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports.

Lee Gilliam, a local landscaper, believes “We need to take care of our aid back here at home. We have people sleeping on the streets.”

Laura Cryts of Derry, NH also thinks we spend too much money on foreign interests. When asked to guess what percentage of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid, she estimated 20%.

Her guess is right in line with the sentiments of the rest of the country. A recent poll found Americans think we spend 25% of the budget on foreign aid.

Economist Bob Murphy of Boston College said the actual number is less than 1%.

“The foreign aid outlay that the Obama administration has put forth in its 2012 budget is $33 billion,” explained Murphy. “$33 billion isn’t chump change, but by the same token it’s not a lot in the grand scheme of what the government spends.”

Because things are so tight this year, the foreign aid budget is under fire. Some Tea Party republicans say it literally should be eliminated.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that’s shortsighted. “The American people are rightly and justifiably concerned about our national debt, about our economy, and about unemployment, but I think Americans understand the need for responsible investments in our security.”

Professor Murphy agrees foreign aid is essential. “There are clearly benefits in terms of national security, ensuring that we have good relationships with governments around the world, that we are building civil societies and . . . preventing chaos . . . down the road.”

It’s a theory that sparked a debate in a diner. One man thinks 1% of the budget on foreign aid is a good idea because it can spread good will.

Laura Cryts thinks otherwise, saying “It’s wonderful to help out other countries that need our help because we are certainly a wonderful country, but I think we need to have more focus on Americans.”

How does the United States compare to other developed countries? As a percentage of their economies, both France and Great Britain spend about twice the rate of the United States.

Comments (12)
  1. Dr says:

    cut off aid to all other counties NOW, it is far more than 33 billion thats all they are telling us it more than likely 10 fold more
    leave it like this, they have something we need, we will buy it, they need something we have then they buy it from us
    trade problem solved !!
    they can help themselves, no one helps us !!!
    FIX our problems before we are 3rd world country
    wake up Washington, the people are awake and fed up with the fed

  2. Cynic says:

    You can’t buy friends,But the Government keeps trying. There is also the element of control If your aren’t giving anything you can’t threaten to take anything away.
    We do the same in our own country. How many times have you heard of the Federal Government threatening to withhold Federal Funds for one program or the other if the States fail do do what the Federal Government wants done. Most recipients of aid just take it and chuckle up their sleeves.
    Try to give the Average Chinese person Welfare and see how far you get. Their attitude is ‘Keep your Money…You Are Not Going To Own Me.”

  3. taxedout says:

    No problem helping out countries that are Friendly and support us, but we spend Way to much on countries that hate us and would like to see us all dead!!! Just like the U.N that does nothing here but suck up are money and support every country that hates us. Move the operation to the Falkland Islands where the reps from the other countries can Enjoy the free parking that We pay for,and diplomatic immunity for killing and not paying bills we get stuck with!!!

  4. Chuck says:

    Washington is out of touch from the rest of us. Why would they listen to our concerns. We elect them to office and once they take their oath, they receive a dam good paycheck wether they fix the problems or not and also receive the best benefits that our money can buy. Special interests must be forced out of Washington or nothing will ever change. The only thing we can do now is buy american made products, this way we can take care of our own ourselves.

  5. ENUF says:

    We are the United Chumps of America.

  6. DStein says:

    First off, the $33 billion they claim isn’t the whole story. We provide all sorts of other aid to countries through secret CIA funds and military support around the globe. I’m confident the REAL number is in the hundreds of billions.

    How many times do we find ourselves on the wrong side of history propping up dictators with a history of human rights violations and outright genocide? Saddam Hussein comes to mind. Mubarak is the most recent example. Is buying “friends” really working?

    Time to take a step back and get our own financial house in order before continuing to send billions upon billions out of the country. If we can’t address our own needs, we will never be able to get back to a position where we can help other developing countries….because we’ll be bankrupt and gone.

  7. emom says:

    I am tired of shipping our money over seas, I mean we have plenty of UNEMPLOYED people, children that are starving, folks loosing their homes, and thousands of homeless of all ages and races. WHERE IS THE AID FOR THEM> No we pay druggies to get help, pay criminals to repeat crimes, and allow politicians to spend with out cause, YEAH but we seem to have all sorts of cash just hanging around to ship over seas to countries that their government hides funds to appear they are truely poorer than what their government really is. These countries would never help the USA ever, Cause they feel unobligated to think about helping us, BUT they call and there we are. with our hands out pouring cash into their lives. I would love to see this country help it self for a change. we need it more so and NOW!

  8. ENUF says:

    Why can’t we just be like the scandanavian countries and dedicate our resources to our own people first, and anyhing left over consider for others.

  9. vin says:

    Hilary Clinton’s response does not make sense, “Security”, what security, why does she not just elaborate. For sure it is more than 33-Billion with other projects that D Stein mentioned.

    None of the government leaders or the news media mention foreign aid costs and i don’t kow why that is. This country has become a joke. All the wasted money in Iraq and these other senseless wars could be put to use rebuilding our infrastructure and put many Americans to work. No matter who you vote for, Republican or Democrat, nothing changes, it is business as usual. This country needs a revolution to get back on track.

  10. DStein says:

    Americans better start standing up to be counted on these issues. Our government is too large and out of control. Time to reign things in. Foreign aid is as good a place to start as any.

  11. Yvonne says:

    If we cut out Just these 5 out of thousands of ways to trim the budget

    Funding to other countries
    Farm Aid for farmers NOT to grow crops
    Aid to Businesses who want to expand overseas
    Corp. Tax Breaks
    Gov. Pork inserted just last year for pet projects

    This would come in mighty handy at times like these.
    Imagine what we could have by cutting more than just these 5.

  12. Bill says:

    I totally agree take care of home first. Even our government doesn’t know were all the money goes. I also read a month ago that we give Isreal six billion a year. I hope it’s not for the expansion.

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