The case against $2,000 relief checks

Argument 5: Relief money has been diverted to foreign aid.

President Trump called on Congress to cut foreign aid to unpopular regimes in order to increase the relief checks. Indeed, popular memes on Twitter and Facebook erroneously assert that this latest relief bill diverted hundreds of billions of dollars to foreign aid. Reality check: The foreign aid was in the regular $1.4 trillion discretionary spending bill that funds the federal government for the following year, and that separate bill was merely stapled to the latest pandemic-relief bill at the last minute so that Congress could vote on them together. And because foreign aid is part of the annual appropriations budget (subject to its own budget laws and targets), any reduction in foreign aid would almost certainly be reallocated to other regular appropriations, rather than diverted into a separate pandemic emergency bill.

More specifically, total foreign aid is $40 billion annually — just 1 percent of the federal budget — and much of that goes for initiatives such as saving 20 million lives from AIDS in Africa and elsewhere (a program that costs Americans $20 per person), as well as maintaining peace in parts of the world where war and terrorism would be much more expensive for U.S. taxpayers. Critics have seized on the $4 billion in foreign aid for particularly unpopular regimes (most of which President Trump had approved the previous three years, and even proposed in this year’s budget). Setting aside the merits of those programs, they pale in comparison to $3.5 trillion in total pandemic assistance this year, and diverting those funds to relief checks would come to $12 per person — making a mockery of the claim that they could fund $2,000 checks.