Putting Things in Context: How Much Does the U.S. Spend on Foreign Aid?

Part of what historians try to do is put things in context. So today, as the Trump Administration releases a budget proposal with large cuts to foreign aid, it’s worth pointing out that the gap between what Americans think the federal government spends on foreign aid and what it actually spends is enormous:

Figure 5: Public Overestimates Share of Budget Going to Foreign Aid

Around 1% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, and much of that is actually military spending. These numbers don’t tell us whether foreign aid is effective. But they do show that there is no vast pot of money just waiting to be unleashed for an “America first” policy. Xenophobia is not conducive to sound budgeting.

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