The General Assembly has been debating what are called U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which attempt to mandate that each industrialized nation give 0.7 percent of its Gross National Product to foreign aid. The media have used the event to misrepresent U.S. foreign aid and to highlight celebrities like actress Angelia Jolie, an outspoken supporter of increased taxpayer-funded aid.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” interviewed Jolie September 13, along with with Dr. Jeffrey Sachs of the U.N. Millennium Project. Sachs is author of “The End of Poverty,” in which he indicted the United States for supposedly lagging behind other countries in aid for the poor. The two have produced a documentary about a trip to Kenya that is being shown on MTV on September 14.
The duo received a friendly welcome from Robin Roberts, who downplayed the cost of their goals and continued the claim that activists are “trying to raise awareness about poverty.” A previous Free Market Project analysis showed that, in fact, activists are trying to raise billions of dollars and hiding the fact being their campaign to “raise awareness.”
According to Roberts, “Sachs and Jolie feel the solutions must be simple and practical.” Of course, ending world poverty is anything but “simple and practical” and far from inexpensive.
Jolie provided a pro-spending position. Roberts asked her if aid to hurricane victims would make it “more difficult to get people to care about Africa.” Jolie responded with a typical complaint that the United States is not doing enough. “Hopefully, it will make people question what’s going on with, with our government. What we’re taking care of, what we’re not taking care of in our own country and around the world.”
Roberts could have mentioned that the United States gives billions in foreign aid through government and charities. The number that the United Nations uses to compare countries is heavily skewed toward nations where the government’s budget is a much larger percentage of Gross National Product. It specifically ignores the way most Americans choose to give – through charitable contributions. A June 2005 report from the Hudson Institute revealed that private U.S. donors gave at least $62 billion to developing countries in 2003. That was three-and-a-half times the total of Official Development Assistance the U.S. government handed out that year.
Jolie’s sentiment was echoed at CBS. On September 14, CBS’s Bill Plante put his spin on the event during a story on “The Early Show.” According to Plante, “White House officials say the president will talk about combating poverty and disease in the world's poorest nations. That's an area in which the U.S. is criticized by many for offering very low contributions, second lowest of any wealthy country.”
This is the same approach repeated in the September 14 New York Times. Celia W. Dugger wrote that “The United States, the world’s largest donor in terms of value, is next to last among richer nations in giving as a share of national income.” Dugger’s piece also ignored American charitable contributions.