Cost Cutting and the Israel Ricebowl

posted at 3:21 pm on February 4, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

When Rand Paul made his highly controversial proposal to flatly end foreign aid spending across the board he raised a lot of eyebrows. But his plan might not have caused nearly as much of a ruckus had the media not immediately changed the conversation from one of fiscal probity to a hot button topic by asking, “Even to Israel?” For the record, Senator Paul obviously didn’t start out to launch an attack on all the Jews of world, but that’s the cliff which the conversation leaped off when he admitted that Israel would be included in that list.

On Friday, Rabbi Steve Gutow took to the pages of Politico seeking to lead Paul to the woodshed.

U.S. foreign aid is not a line to be cut — as though it were excessive spending on paper clips. This money is as much a part of our national security toolbox as our Foreign Service corps or military relationships — both of which would be sacrificed at the altar of cuts-for-cuts-sake as well, should Paul (R-Ky.) have his way.

So far, so good, at least in terms of general theory. Nearly every dime spent by the government will find supporters somewhere, and few honest analysts would argue that there is zero value gained from investing in foreign relationships, assuming we can afford it. But the Rabbi goes on from there to essentially ignore every other country on the lengthy list of those feeding at the US trough and focuses exclusively on the importance of funding Israel.

Israel receives just $3 billion in military aid — a paltry 5 percent of the foreign aid budget, which is, itself, only 1 percent of our overall spending. To think such a cut will move our economy forward is like suggesting that ordering a diet soda with your double bacon cheeseburger will help you lose weight.

That makes for a great sound bite, but it’s the paragraph which really deserves a closer look on two fronts. First, if you’re going to talk about any cuts to foreign aid at all it’s pretty difficult not to cast your eyes on Israel and Egypt. Looking at the rather eclectic list of countries cashing our checks, these are the only two which traditionally receive amounts in the billions rather than the hundreds of millions. Making cuts in foreign aid without touching those two would be akin to trying to meaningfully reduce the federal government’s budget without touching entitlement programs. (And who on Earth would ever consider that?)

And what of the other countries on the list? Would Rabbi Gutow be willing to lop off support for Jordan? (Roughly 1/2 billion, presumably for, well… not attacking Israel.) Shall we clip payments to Columbia? (Another 1/2 billion – I assume for not producing cocaine, which has clearly been a huge success.) Ethiopia? Kenya? Pakistan? Who should face the ax?

But it’s the second part of Gutow’s quote which requires the most attention, specifically the “diet soda and double bacon cheeseburger” line. He is correct. Just ordering the diet soda won’t make any difference. But if you make it a single burger instead of two, use only one slice of cheese, remove half of the bacon strips and put it on a smaller bun, suddenly you’re ingesting a lot less calories.

The point is, completely eliminating all foreign aid is probably a non-starter in Washington. But rushing to defend your own ricebowl while ignoring the rest isn’t going to solve anything. If we are going to make cuts to foreign aid (along with the myriad other areas where we must reduce spending) then everyone is going to have to share the burden and feel some of the pinch or there is no sense starting the process. And that would have to include Israel and Egypt.

The Rabbi seems to be presenting us with a false choice. Aid to Israel – and many of these other countries – doesn’t have to be entirely eliminated if we trim a proportional bit from each. It’s the same as the rest of the federal bureaucracy. Taking a nice bite out of each one may not seem like much, but if you take that chunk out of all of them, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

For a different perspective, though, Doug Mataconis tells us that the gravy train is over and it’s time to cut off welfare for the rest of the world.


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For a different perspective, though, Doug Mataconis tells us that the gravy train is over and it’s time to cut off welfare for the rest of the world.

Start with the UN.. and get their butts off our soil!

upinak on February 4, 2011 at 3:25 PM

You know what’s brain-hurty? Britain still sends financial aid to India. India has a space program, for cripe’s sake, while Britain is busily driving a stake through the heart of its own military in order to cut costs.

Sometimes, the status quo limps along long after it has ceased to make sense.

S. Weasel on February 4, 2011 at 3:27 PM

On Friday, Rabbi Steve Gutow took to the pages of Politico seeking to lead Paul to the woodshed.

I don’t agree with Rand Paul on foreign aid(and I haven’t read the Gutow piece), but stay away from the “Rand Paul: End ‘welfare’ to Israel” story on Politico…

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/48848.html

Jennifer Eptein is a beotch and one of the most unfairly biased reporters out there… especially anything on Jewish issues.

She is the one who wrote the disgusting “Some say ‘blood libel’ signaled base” story on Palin…

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47558.html

ninjapirate on February 4, 2011 at 3:28 PM

To think such a cut will move our economy forward is like suggesting that ordering a diet soda with your double bacon cheeseburger will help you lose

Meh, you have to start somewhere.

The federal government is currently eating a supersize Big Mac meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and 11-zies.

Switching one of those meals from a supersized coke to a “sustainable” water may not solve the problem, but it gets us closer.

Or to put it another way, if you can’t pay your $500,000 mortgage, you can’t justify buying a new $25k car because hey, you couldn’t pay the mortgage anyway.

18-1 on February 4, 2011 at 3:29 PM

S. Weasel on February 4, 2011 at 3:27 PM

reparations? Perhaps?

upinak on February 4, 2011 at 3:29 PM

Who ordered the rice?

Emperor Norton on February 4, 2011 at 3:30 PM

How much sense does it make for us to borrow money from China so that we can give it to other countries?

Raisedbywolves on February 4, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Oh, and one more point.

Paul’s proposal is being called radical when it is far too timid.

If we proceed with a $500B cut, we’ve only lopped off a third of the deficit – which is still twice the highest we’ve ever had under a Republican congress…

18-1 on February 4, 2011 at 3:30 PM

It’s not really clear. US financing to the Egyptian military will likely pay dividends for the US and Israel if that is incentive for whatever government is eventually formed there to adhere to the Camp David Accords.

The irony is that aid to Egypt probably does more for Israeli security than money supporting the IDF.

It is a complex topic and there are many good things about US Aid but keep in mind that US financial aid is nearly always tied and not free for the beneficiary to use. Those funds are nearly always required to be used in purchasing US goods and services.

lexhamfox on February 4, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Every section of spending should be preceded by the question:

Is this important enough that it’s worth ruining our economic future?

Clark1 on February 4, 2011 at 3:31 PM

The Rabbi isn’t too bright. I used to eat a cheeseburger and a diet coke for dinner if it was within my allotted calories ( Rotation Diet).

And it WORKED like a charm.

If I had a regular coke and fries I would have been gaining weight.

DavidM on February 4, 2011 at 3:33 PM

Sometimes, the status quo limps along long after it has ceased to make sense.

S. Weasel on February 4, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Heck, the U.S. might still be sending coal, for heating some of the German U.S. bases,…because the law might still be on the books.

Schadenfreude on February 4, 2011 at 3:35 PM

I would never read Politico if it weren’t for HA…

d1carter on February 4, 2011 at 3:35 PM

d1carter on February 4, 2011 at 3:35 PM

Ditto. Same as with the MSLSD clips.

OmahaConservative on February 4, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Who is Jazz Shaw, Matt Lewis, and Jimmie Bise?

silvernana on February 4, 2011 at 3:43 PM

if we simply stopped engaging in trade with foreigners and kept our American citizens at home in our country, we could abolish the armed forces as well as stop foreign aid.

then we could work on cutting back and trimming away a few of the less-productive states until we got to a more manageable number.

audiculous on February 4, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Predictable annual aid payments to Israel may in fact subsidize Israeli spending in areas other than defense. I suspect Israel pays for the defense it feels is essential whether with homegrown dollars or aid dollars. If they use aid dollars for defense, they can spend homegrown dollars elsewhere. The fact is Israel will get the military assistance it needs in one form or another from the US when the time comes that they need it; but it need not be in an annual subsidy that can get taken for granted or in effect siphon off to programs other than defense.

KW64 on February 4, 2011 at 3:48 PM

End all foreign aid except to Israel.

Done.

Rebar on February 4, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Sorry about the off topic:

I just caught a few words of the press conference with 0bama and the Canadian Prime Minister…. Did 0bama just surrender to Canada?

Did we merge? Something about no more border enforcement, but we will be safe from terrorists.

LegendHasIt on February 4, 2011 at 3:52 PM

What if this story was about aid to Taiwan…?

… Oh, wait!

/

Seven Percent Solution on February 4, 2011 at 3:54 PM

Take the $300 million we give to Planned Murderhood and use that to take a bite out of our Israeli aid.

Bishop on February 4, 2011 at 3:57 PM

This is why spending will never go down. It’s always “cutting this will only save $3B. But it’s vital to the country.”.

Amazing that $3B is now considered chump change. I remember back in the olden days, like the 90s when $1B was considered a lot of money.

angryed on February 4, 2011 at 3:58 PM

Earmarks, foreign aid, congressional budgets… this is all window dressing.

We’re playing the edges and wasting a lot of time.

mankai on February 4, 2011 at 3:59 PM

Another incredibly stupid article by “Jazz Shaw”.

(There, I said it.)

Rand Paul is not even close to the actual solution:

Slash the overall budget to former recipients by 50%, cut off foreign aid to any country except Israel, and give all of the 50% to Israel.

Problems solved.

Niko on February 4, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Paul the Jr or Paul the Sr, same BS.

We lambast the Dems for hiding their agenda in the shadows, then give Rand a pass that ‘oh what he really meant was’…horsepotatos.

The isolationism of the U.S. is the Libertarian holy grail and you might want to dress Rand up like a duck, but he is still a chicken.

Limerick on February 4, 2011 at 4:04 PM

Doesn’t Israel pretty much spend that $3B buying US made weapons? So it’s not really foreign aid as it’s a subsidy to Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

angryed on February 4, 2011 at 4:06 PM

I’m in the pro aid-to-Israel camp, and here’s why:

1) military aid largely involves loans with the condition that the loans are spent on American military products. This helps the American economy, and keeps the American military R&D companies to continue to create new products. I.e. this is mutually beneficial.

2) non-military aid ends up helping with Israeli non-public=-sector R&D that American non-public-sector companies often purchase after great products have been developed, and then make a shitload of money by mass producing and mass selling it to the American and world markets (google the long list of Israeli invention to which this has happened…)

3) Israel’s military health enables Israel to spy better on Middle Eastern enemies of the US. This meets American security interests. Search on google the list of American government/security officials praising the Israeli Mossad and military intelligence capabilities.

4) American weapons that the IDF buys via American financing (see #1) are tested “on the ground” as opposed to in controlled tests. This allows American weapons manufacturers to calibrate their products to benefit the US military.

There are other moral reasons to continue the flow of this aid, but I wanted to point out the very large and consistently demonstrated payoffs to America of providing said aid.

AlexB on February 4, 2011 at 4:13 PM

Jazz, as you mention, every single budget item is going to have somebody that comes out and defends it. So why are you calling this one Rabbi a hypocrite? Doesn’t that stink of the kind of double standard we regularly hear from the anti-semitic Left?

Besides, we could consider aid to Israel as a conservative interest, like spending on national defense. We could compare it to aid to Egypt and Jordan, which is essentially a bribe that works against our interests… something liberals probably support.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with cutting aid to Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, etc, and simultaneously increasing it to Israel.

joe_doufu on February 4, 2011 at 4:18 PM

I’d also like to point out that there is a sizable group in Israel that wants to stop receiving American aid (if I remember correctly, Netanyahu was also leaning towards at least reducing the amount before he became PM).

The reason is that with less $ there will be less American interference in Israeli affairs. Israelis feel strongly that the American government has too much control over Israeli decisions, and want it to stop. If the US pays less, it has less influence.

And finally, given the economy of the last few years, if you look at all the financial transactions between the US and Israel, I think it is Israel who has been “sending aid” to the US by buying American treasury bonds in large quantities, far exceeding the direct aid and loans it’s been receiving from the US.

I wish I could find you the article from 2009 where this is outlined in detail.

Overall, America gets the best “bang for the buck” out of its Israeli relationship. All people talk about is the component of “sending billions to Israel”, which is what Rand Paul has done, and this blog entry too. But nobody looks at the whole picture that involves the benefits to the States as well.

AlexB on February 4, 2011 at 4:20 PM

So the Groan Room is ruling the roost now?

The Not Ready For Prime Time Players need to do some serious woodshedding before putting their stuff out for everyone to see.

Aid to Israel is hardly the biggest expenditure in foreign aid. And it’s far from a budget-buster. Heck, there are so many domestic programs that could be shut down with absolutely no adverse effects — except, maybe to union goons and Congress’s/Osama Obama’s criminal pals — that the annual stipend to Israel (which remains this country’s only trustworthy ME ally, especially when Egypt is apparently about to default to the Muzzies) really is chump change.

MrScribbler on February 4, 2011 at 4:22 PM

So, when the dollar hyper-inflates to a value of zero, how much will reciepients of foreign aid be able to buy????

esblowfeld on February 4, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Foreign aid ceased to make sense when we started running deficits. Borrowing money from the Chinese to give to anyone else is just stupid. Let them borrow money from the Chinese.

cthulhu on February 4, 2011 at 4:46 PM

Why are we paying for the militaries of both Israel AND Egypt?

There is no possible rational way to explain this.

logis on February 4, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Why are we paying for the militaries of both Israel AND Egypt?

There is no possible rational way to explain this.

logis

there allied with us against the Iranians and their clients.

audiculous on February 4, 2011 at 4:52 PM

Someone on Cavuto, I believe it was Gen. Robert Scales (?) was making an interesting point today, suggesting that our aid to Egypt, mostly to their military, may be responsible (partly?) for their performance thus far in this crisis. The Egyptian military thus far does seem to be behaving responsibly, distinct from MB, Mubarak’s supporters, and the anti-Mubarak protesters. That could change of course.

He did note that the aid responsible for this is training and exchange-related, not hardware. The citizens’ high regard for the Egyptian military also has a cultural aspect.

slickwillie2001 on February 4, 2011 at 5:07 PM

The Egyptian military thus far does seem to be behaving responsibly, distinct from MB, Mubarak’s supporters, and the anti-Mubarak protesters.
slickwillie2001 on February 4, 2011 at 5:07 PM

It is downright eerie how closesly everything about Egypt’s current situtation mirror’s Iran’s Islamic Rev0lution.

logis on February 4, 2011 at 5:12 PM

Rand Paul and some of the posters here are extremely short-sighted. The vast benefits we derive for the state of Israel, even apart from the moral obligation to support our stuanch allies, in areas as diverse as security, medicine, computers,really everything, make aid to Israel the best deal in town.

If we have fallen behind in science, technology and innovation (and we have), the Israelis have more than picked up the slack. It is in both our interests that they survive and thrive. We get a great return on our investment on a number of levels.

steve007 on February 4, 2011 at 5:14 PM

Israel receives just $3 billion in military aid — a paltry 5 percent of the foreign aid budget, which is, itself, only 1 percent of our overall spending. To think such a cut will move our economy forward is like suggesting that blah blah blah blah

You can make the same argument about every single one of the hundreds of thousands of line items in our budget, with the sole exceptions of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The Dems and RINOs have been right about one thing all along; there is very little “useless” spending. Nearly all of the US budget isn’t useful to someone, and those someones will defend the utility of their portion, and have a good argument when they do so.

The problem is, we have spent 14 trillion more on good causes than we have to spend. In that sense, the worthiness of funding Israel is irrelevant, much like the worthiness of so much other spending. Americans have to come to grips with the fact that we can’t cut “wasteful spending,” we have to cut spending, and if we don’t, our creditors will do it for us.

HitNRun on February 4, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Wow, it was really hard to read the beginning of the article with Kate Hudson blocking it.

Amendment X on February 4, 2011 at 5:18 PM

Yep….every single one of us who believe that foreign aid ain’t all bad are frakking mealy mouth RINOs. The Paulites and their toll booths are all the rage.

Limerick on February 4, 2011 at 5:20 PM

Why are we paying for the militaries of both Israel AND Egypt?

There is no possible rational way to explain this.

logis on February 4, 2011 at 4:50 PM

US foreign aid to Egypt is a result of the Camp David Accords and Egypt switching sides in the Cold War from the Soviet camp to the American camp. It was never re-evaluated after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The table of foreign aid linked by Jazz Shaw has numerous mistakes. Among other things, it says that Egypt is not a developing country, that Jordan receives US aid “to leave Israel alone”, and severely undercounts US aid to the Palestinians, which it calls a “token response, to “balance” Israel aid”. The Obama administration, of course, has greatly increased US aid to the Palestinians, who receive more in foreign aid (from all sources) than they produce themselves. If the United States had greatly decreased, or outright ended, its payments to Egypt and Jordan, and had cooperated with Israel in ending the vast flow of money supporting a population hostile to Israel, then it would be easy to reduce the amount of aid going to Israel without harming our ally.

DKCZ on February 4, 2011 at 5:26 PM

your double bacon cheeseburger

Come on, Rabbi, can’t you came up with a kosher example: meat with dairy and pork? Or are you just talking down to us goyim?

Laurence on February 4, 2011 at 5:34 PM

We also have a training program with the goal of making ‘palestinians’ into soldiers that would be the equal of the US military. Brilliant!

slickwillie2001 on February 4, 2011 at 5:48 PM

We also have a training program with the goal of making ‘palestinians’ into soldiers that would be the equal of the US military. Brilliant!

slickwillie2001

yeah, slick. makes absolutely no sense for us to have our guys train guys that we expect to be running the police/military in a place where we want our influence to remain strong.

audiculous on February 4, 2011 at 6:17 PM

Sure is a good thing that none of our military helped train and equip the Egyptian military and an even better thing that we don’t invite a couple hundred of their officers over here every year.

audiculous on February 4, 2011 at 6:26 PM

As he has said, BORROWING MONEY FROM CHINA TO GIVE TO ANOTHER COUNTRY MAKES NO SENSE!

We must stop spending money we don’t have. Stop now. Stop it.

Dandapani on February 4, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Cut off the aid

then stomp the first MFer that wants to dance

all this aid is blackmail now for peace

we can create peace real fast and lots of parking

mice that roar, eff them all

Sonosam on February 4, 2011 at 6:34 PM

we can create peace real fast and lots of parking mice that roar, eff them all —Sonosam

a fast piece off a parked loud mouce isn’t appealing to everyone

audiculous on February 4, 2011 at 6:40 PM

We also have a training program with the goal of making ‘palestinians’ into soldiers that would be the equal of the US military. Brilliant!

slickwillie2001 on February 4, 2011 at 5:48 PM

yeah, slick. makes absolutely no sense for us to have our guys train guys that we expect to be running the police/military in a place where we want our influence to remain strong.

audiculous on February 4, 2011 at 6:17 PM

Training we are giving them has nothing to do with internal security:

“He said he had it ‘on good authority’ that Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton of the U.S. Army, ‘now retained by the Obama administration to train and arm Palestinian paramilitary forces,’ recently made the ‘absolutely unimaginable’ statement that ‘Israel had better make peace with the Palestinians or within two years the forces that I have been training will be ready to kill Israelis.’”

I’ve seen him quoted in many different sources. Lieutenant General Dayton is one sick SOB.

slickwillie2001 on February 4, 2011 at 6:55 PM

slick, that sounds like the kind of joke that soldiers might make. they do tend to find humor where other folks do not just as they’re asked to do things and see things that others are spared.

However what you’ve got there is someone quoting an anonymous someone else repeating what the anonymous person says Dayton said.

Dayton might have said something like the pseudo-quotation, but without some context, it’s a little hard to determine what the guy was trying to get across beyond bragging a bit about how well he trains people.

audiculous on February 4, 2011 at 7:03 PM

Interesting analogy the Rabbi made about adding diet soda with the Cheeseburger.

A non-diet soda= 150 calories

Cheeseburger= 600-700.

That is still significant.

V-rod on February 4, 2011 at 8:36 PM

If you normally eat a bacon double cheese burger and a regular soda and maintain your weight, then yes, cutting out the soda will help reduce your weight, or at least slow any increase.

I don’t think it is a good idea to cut off aid to Israel, but we really can’t afford to be so generous anymore, and frankly Israel isn’t a poor country….and considering the huge natural gas discovery they just made, they should be gaining in wealth quite a bit pretty soon.

flyfishingdad on February 4, 2011 at 9:12 PM

Think of foreign aid like you think about welfare. Is receiving welfare over a long period of time a good thing for anyone – those whose wealth is confiscated by force and those who are seduced into dependency on government?

I don’t think so. Most of us have been able to see the harmful effects of welfare on both the recipient and those of us who are coerced into this supposed act of compassion.

It, too, is wholly unconstitutional and counterproductive. Nowhere in our founding documents will you find any provision for forcible redistribution of wealth – and that’s exactly what domestic welfare and international welfare, aka foreign aid, are all about.

Is Israel stronger today because of all the billions of dollars U.S. taxpayers have pumped into the coffers of its misguided politicians? No.

Is Israel better off today because of all the billions of dollars U.S. taxpayers have pumped into the coffers of its enemies? No.

Is America better off because of all the billions of dollars U.S. taxpayers have pumped into the coffers of misguided politicians around the world – including madmen like Kim Jong-il? No.

It’s time to end the foreign-aid fiasco.

It’s tie to end the charade that suggests we can buy peace and freedom for our allies and from our enemies.

It’s time to end the pandering to special interests groups that foreign aid ultimately represents.

It’s time to end the restrictions on the defense of freedom foreign aid often represents – because no money is ever given away to anyone with no strings attached.

nazo311 on February 5, 2011 at 12:20 AM

It, too, is wholly unconstitutional and counterproductive. Nowhere in our founding documents will you find any provision for forcible redistribution of wealth – and that’s exactly what domestic welfare and international welfare, aka foreign aid, are all about.

I guess that whole thing about Congress in Art I was added after the last time you read it.

audiculous on February 5, 2011 at 12:33 AM

The average American would be surprise or even shocked if they had any idea about how much of our military might was developed and tested in conjunction with the Israelis. Weapon systems large and small have been co-developed, deployed and tested in a very hostile environment. You could even make the case that the cold war with the Soviet Union was won right after the 1982 Bakaa Valley turkey shoot where the Israelis destroyed at least 87 Soviet made aircraft flown by Syria, as well as countless surface to air sites. All with minimal losses to the Israelis. It was at this point that the Soviets knew how defenseless they truly were, hopeless behind in technology and a very firm hand here on the reins by the way of Ronald Reagan.

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj89/win89/hurley.html

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 5:19 AM

You could even make the case that the cold war with the Soviet Union was won right after the 1982 Bakaa Valley turkey shoot where the Israelis destroyed at least 87 Soviet made aircraft flown by Syria, as well as countless surface to air sites. All with minimal losses to the Israelis.
Highplains

from that, you could make a case that the Israelis are enormously in our debt.

audiculous on February 5, 2011 at 5:54 PM