Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

#StopTheMyth That the U.S. Sends All Its Money Overseas


Watch Bill Nye, the Science Guy, dispel more poverty myths in this short Gates Foundation video.

By Robin Stephenson

Three facts:

  • The United States does not send "all" of its money overseas.
  • We invest a small amount of our budget in international poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) programs.
  • That investment does not increase poverty in America. 

Programs categorized as poverty-focused development assistance, or PFDA, help alleviate hunger and poverty abroad, and also support trade, national security, and job creation here in the United States.

In the fiscal year 2014 budget spending bill, overall PFDA got a modest boost over last year's funding levels, although some programs saw reductions. The increase is good news, but PFDA remains mired in misunderstanding, where the general public is concerned. PFDA myths must be debunked in order to support continued investments in global hunger and poverty reduction.

One PFDA myth I've previously written about was recently addressed by Joe Cerrell of the Gates Foundation on Devex, in the piece, "It's our responsibility to #stopthemyth on foreign aid." Cerrell, like most anti-hunger advocates, has defended PFDA investment in response to the false belief that we send all our money overseas while America's poor go without. It's simply not true.

Cerrell thinks the myth's persistence is due to public misunderstanding of the size of overseas investment and what it provides. In a recent survey, a large number of Americans said they believe 28 percent of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid, which is a gross inflation of the actual number. PFDA comprises less than one percent of the federal budget, and has a tremendous impact. 

With benchmarks such as the Millennium Development Goals and program design that includes country participation and partnership, more progress was made against hunger and poverty in the 2000s than during any other decade in history. With smart investments, we will continue to see a global exodus from hunger — unless we pit domestic and international investments against one another and reduce PFDA funding.

"Quite simply," Cerrell writes on Devex, "if 1 percent of the budget was redirected back to domestic issues in a donor country, it would only be a drop in the bucket — but invested in the developing world, it is helping to spur historic progress and prosperity."

In our churches and communities, faithful advocates must remove the shroud of misunderstanding surrounding PFDA. A study commissioned by Bread for the World in 2013 makes it clear that ending world hunger is something Americans care about. In fact, 37 percent of Americans think the U.S. government is doing too little to end hunger in developing countries around the world. Only one in five of those polled believe we are doing too much.

“Americans want to help their brothers and sisters end hunger, and become self-sufficient," said Rev. David Beckmann at the time of the study's release. "Congress should embody and reflect this compassionate spirit as it deliberates on our federal budget.”

As we move forward in addressing 2015 funding levels for PFDA, we must focus on development assistance programs in particular. Through faithful advocacy, we can ensure these programs are robustly supported, thereby ensuring thousands of people throughout the world have the opportunity to enjoy a more prosperous future.

Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and senior organizer, Western hub.

 

 

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