Internationalizing the welfare state would allow U.S. government spending to transform the lives of millions across the globe. It’s likely that a dollar spent in the poorest parts of the world would go farther than a dollar spent in the United States. While there certainly is poverty in the United States, many of the American poor have far greater material wealth than the poor of other nations. The average individual food-stamp recipient receives $134 a month in SNAP benefits; the annual per capita income in Somalia is $535, according to the World Bank. About $5,700 a year is spent per Medicaid enrollee — this is more than the annual per capita income of the 50 poorest countries in the world.
And it seems that the welfare state has plenty of dollars that could be redirected to foreign aid. According to the Office of Management and Budget, in the 2017 fiscal year, the federal government spent $944 billion on Social Security, $597 billion on Medicare, and $503 billion on various “income security” programs (such as housing and food assistance). It spent only $24 billion on “international development and humanitarian assistance.” A mere 10 percent reduction in Social Security, Medicare, and income-security programs could add roughly $200 billion to the foreign-aid budget — an increase of more than 800 percent. Even a 1 percent cut to those programs could double the foreign-aid budget. Moreover, many of those cuts could be structured so that they would have minimal effects on the most vulnerable Americans. For instance, progressive lawmakers could call for a 10 percent cut to Social Security by instituting a means-testing provision. That would ensure that poor seniors would not have a cut to their Social Security payments.