December 31, 2004

tsunami on my mind

Like most citizens of the world, I find myself in this festive time of the year genuinely grief-stricken over the tragedy that has befell so many people who found themselves in the path of the Christmas Tsunami. That America must help in a tragedy of this magnitude is self-evident. I would like to add my call to those many others who have humbly plead for your contribution for the benefit of survivors.

Amazingly, however, there has been some argument over the nature and degree of assistance we should provide for tsunami relief and that argument has spawned in the messageboards an important debate on what are our obligations as global citizens. Ever the critic of modern American society, this Curmudgeon unsurprisingly weighed in to advocate the moral obligation for the extraordinarily wealthy to help the extraordinarily poor, and to lament the woeful American contributions of the past. To make a very long story short, using rough numbers I calculated that by dedicating modest resources-one percent of our GDP-to global poverty, we would be able to spend approximately $1,000 per reachable hungry person in the World.

One thousand dollars is a lot of assistance for people on the brink of death from starvation.

Sadly, most Americans assume we are doing far more than what we are. If asked how much assistance we are giving, I’m guessing most Americans would pick a figure well in excess of the one-tenth of one percent we actually give. And that one-tenth of one percent includes a lot of aid that properly would not be considered “aid” by most people.

What prompts my surplus written rage today is not this woeful state of affairs: I’ve been fulminating over that for quite some time. What stirred me up this time was a New York Post commentary by John Podhoretz entitled It's About The Tragedy - Not More Bush-Bashing. Podhoretz therein chides those who have been critical of this Administration’s response and America’s historical lack of generosity for not having a proper respect for the dead. A proper respect for the dead, in Mr. Poderhoretz’s opinion, would have been to wait at least a week before “making use of the tsunami to complain about U.S. government spending on ‘development aid’”.

The American people’s gallingly short attention span does not give us that luxury.

Podhoretz, being a newspaper man, should know as well as anyone about the American people’s eagerness to always move on to a new and more exciting topic. As I write, the tsunami stories are already slipping in the headlines. Increasing body counts are becoming just more old stale news much like the reporting of American and Iraqi deaths in occupied Iraq. Tragic calamities such as this are about the only time you can get the attention of We the People.

The window of opportunity is exceedingly short: the NFL play-offs loom large.

That American “generosity” sits at about one-tenth of our GDP should have been a big story long before now. Those of us who have tried to raise the point in the past have generally been laughed off the stage and more often then not called ugly names. Forgive us then for trafficking in the misery of so many people: we have just gotten a little desperate to be heard.



Blogger Andrew Dunlap said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You need to get a better schedule on your posts. there is a lot to talk. Under the Bush administration, we have suffered the greatest civilian tragedy on our our soil and we have witnessed one of the greatest natural disasters in our lifetime. Both times Bush was out of the whitehouse. Both occurred on a full moon. hmm.. any conspiracy buffs out there? Both times Bush was slow to respond and had no plan whatsoever. The real tragedy is that this tragedy could have been ameriolated to some extent. may of the people had a least 4-5 hours if a warning system had been in place. Sadly there was none. The biggest problem with the people that suffered is that they were poor and lived in 3rd world nations, Sri Lanka for sure. Thailand, India and Indonesia are developed nations but they had no warning either. If the vacationers had 30 minutes warning they could have vamanosed inland and thousands of lives could have been saved. Thailand and India have the basic infrastructure to recover to some extent. Indonesia is an oil nation but because of social inequality politics and religion, they suffered the most and will need help rebuilding. In addition to foreign aid, we need to have better relations with the pacific rim and indian ocaen nations. Our current administration has done little to increase america's influence. It's policies are short sighted and erratic. I'm sure that when the state dept told Bush that thousands of americans were sunning on beaches in the region, he had a sudden surge of christian compassion and finally spoke publicly. I could go on but the time has come for us to spread our global influence to the under developed nations of the world. It is only right and in our best interest to do so. I see the open door for our nation to help these nations which always opens the door for the Gospel. It's amazing how God works. Not it's turn for our response.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Cajun Huguenot said...

I have to disagree with your post this time around and with some of what is commented above. I do believe we Americans, blessed as we are by God, should give generously to help those in need. This is especially true in times like this. This is the responsibility of the American people, and is not a time for just another dip into the tax coffers.

America is made up of one of the most generous and giving peoples in human history. And we are a giving a great amount to private charities. The Federal Government has the logistical capabilities to support these charitable efforts and they are being used.

Sending money from our government to the governments hit by this disaster would do little to aid those so devastated by this tragedy. Only a small amount would trickle to those in need, but most of the money would only line the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats and politicians in of those nations.

When this is over we will find that Americans will have given billions to aid those in need. This will be done by private, mostly Christian, charities and not by the Federal government.

I am very critical of our federal government, but I don’t believe the blogged criticism above is a valid. Government welfare has devastated the American poor. It has been a prime instrument in the destruction of the poor family in this land. Do we really want to become the welfare provider for the world.

When someone can show me that big GOVERNMENT welfare has actually worked here in the U.S., where we have poured billions of tax dollars into government welfare programs,, I may consider doing the same for the world. But as I see it, if we actually do as you suggest we will do only harm and make lots of third world tyrants and their politicos far more wealthy. In the end, such funding, will do little or nothing for the worlds poor.

I think there are much better ways that we can help the poor. We can give to private Christian charities and support the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Christ,
PS. Read "The Tragedy of American Compassion" by Marvin Olasky. It is a good read on this subject.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Let's recap the post-tsunami actions of the current officeholder of the Presidency of the United States:

1) For several days, the POTUS did or said nothing. In an age where America has lost much of its standing as the world's most compassionate nation, our exalted, compassionate leader chose to remain mute on a matter of world import. Perhaps the crack team of speech writers and puppeteers -- who script this man's every word and action -- were on Christmas break? George was left sitting idly by as the spectator he truly is, leaving a deafening silence in the absence of condolence or comment from these shores. Meanwhile, he chopped wood at his ranch in Crawford, TX. "Wanna buy some wood?"

2) Subsequently, the President presided over an initial proposal of $15 million in aid for the nations affected, roughly one half of the money to be spent on his coronation, er, inauguration, in three weeks time.

3) Soon, this amount was bumped to $35 million, but only after the French taunted France's support was "unsurpassed" by any nation. A comment that happened to be true at the time it was uttered, uttered by a country who we tough Americans like to kick around verbally. Hey, at least $35 million is more than the inauguration budget of $30 million, if you don't count the additional receipts of roughly $5 million from the bleacher seat tickets being sold to wealthy RNC contributors so they can have a front-row seat to the spectacle on Pennsylvania Ave. These public sidewalks on Pennsylvania Avenue have always been accessible to the public during prior inaugurations (even during the Vietnam era). Alas, the Bush administration has collaborated with its political appointees at the National Park Service to withhold (from those who do not support the administration's views) permits to peacefully assemble and lawfully protest on that very stretch of real estate. Even LBJ and Nixon were less afraid of allowing dissenting views to be spoken, than this small man and his cowardly cohorts are.

4) After announcements of high-dollar aid being offered by good old greedy corporate America (Exxon-Mobil is donating $5 million alone), and after being roundly criticized in the press for being stingy, and further after pollsters confirmed for the President who does not believe in polls that the general perception among at least 51% of Americans was that to give more aid was the right thing to do, the administration proposed increasing this amount tenfold, to $350 million. Of course, it's Secretary of State Colin Powell who's out there delivering the newly devised message, and this American can't help but wonder, "Should I believe a word this sell-out says? Has he been intentionally misled on this issue as well?" To top it off, it's the Predient's brother Jeb who will make the first trip to Sri Lanka, not the President. George must have had to use up his "use-it-or-lose-it" vacation bank, and after all, it makes sense for Jeb to get his feet wet in international waters if the dynasty is to continue in four years...

And, to put this whole tsunami thing in perspective, consider that the number of deaths caused by AIDS in 2004 was right at 3 million people (WHO estimate). To equal the devastation wrought by this horrible disease, the world would have to endure a tsunami of similar proportions roughly ONCE EVERY TWO AND ONE HALF WEEKS, EVERY TWO AND ONE HALF WEEKS, FROM HERE ON OUT.

This President's response has been to FRIGGIN' REDUCE AMERICAN AID to combatting this disease, because by law, the U.S. can't contribute more than 1/3 of the total aid offered worldwide, and other nations' aid contributions have slipped. I submit that if congress can rewrite the law so that Tom Delay can avoid potential censure, congress can rewrite the law to permit the same dollars be contributed to fighting AIDS worldwide this year as last.

Another interesting comparison is that the $350 million being contributed is but a drop in the bucket compared to Iraq war expenditures of up to $200 Billion (with a "B" for you Americans, 200 thousand million for you Brits). Think about it, folks. Your President is bankrupting your economy and squandering the American worldwide political capital gained over the last 200 years. Heck, it's even only 5% of the no-compete Iraq reconstruction contract awards given to Haliburton, VP Cheney's former company.

In summary, what a sham this President is. What a mockery he makes of the ideas on which America was founded. Poor and uneducated or upper-middle-class and church-going, Americans will eventually need to pray for forgiveness for electing this man.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous here, and I'd like to add that my earlier remarks about the speech writers missing in action while George chopped wood in Crawford are not simply idle speculation; my remarks merely reiterate the accounts of Mr. Bush's actions given by White House spokespersons themselves.

The local DFW CBS affiliate's web site published one such account on Dec 28, 2004 9:23 am, under the headline of "Bush monitors earthquake damage from ranch"

The following lines are an excerpt from that article:

"Bush also spent time clearing brush at his ranch and thinking about what he'll say in his inaugural speech and upcoming State of the Union address. 'Now is a time for him to, sort of, think about how he wants to
address the American people,' [White House spokesman Trent] Duffy said, adding that there were no speechwriters at the ranch."

Apparently, Mr. Bush was unwilling to appear before the cameras without first carefully orchestrating his legendary "wanna have a beer with" congeniality.

In fairness, the article does mention that "Bush sent letters of condolence to Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Maldives and Malaysia". My guess is that these countries received generic form letters of condolence that had been authored long ago, maybe during the Reagan years.

Certainly, any letters of condolence to these countries, ostensibly authored or sent personally by the President, could not have made mention of the specific tragedy by name: a tsunami. Had George been presented with form letters that allowed for a "fill-in-the-blanks" approach to statemanship, the grieving countries would undoubtedly now be reading of the heartfelt condolences of the U.S. on the news of their recent "Title Wave".

9:35 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Wow, somehow I missed this new blog. I have been elsewhere venting in similar fashion. I will repost some of those rants, but first,

Cajun, I have to say I disagreed with almost everything you said. I have recently seen the US aid expresed in a percent of our GDP. You statement that we are a generous nations (which I may have been inclinded to believe before) doesn't stand up to scrutiny. If you still want to take that stance, you will need to justify in terms of our wealth and our capabilities... at least with me. If you want to take a shot at it here on this blog, I would appreciate it. I don't like feeling the way I do about my country right now... not at all. I suspect you won't like my reposts below.

Cajun said: "When someone can show me that big GOVERNMENT welfare has actually worked here in the U.S."

Social Security. What more do you need to know? It's one of the most significant accomplishments of this nation, protecting millions of our parents, giving them the option to age and die with dignity. I bet you are one of these guys who actually believes social security is going bust.

Tony, a most excellent blog. You had this right before this trajedy, and your previous post even rings more true.

Andrew, as ususal, you cut right to the "heart" of the matter.

Annonymous. What can I say, you had me at Annonymous. What an excellent post. To give you some idea where I am coming from, you aren't near mad enough and the current president and administration. :)

My rants from elsewhere:

"JOHN PODHORETZ is an absolute idiot. I have seen him several times on C-Span, most of it promoting his pro-Bush book. A complete and utter moron. Regarding "it's not a time to criticize Bush". There is no such thing as "not a time to criticize Shrub". We will suffer from Jr's reign for generations. I'm pretty sure suffering generations nixes the non-president criticism thing. Criticism should be 24 x 7, until he's gone. He also completely misses the point when he says it's not a time to talk about US foreign aid, and criticize it if deserved. It is exactly the right time to discuss it (as well as other stingy nations), otherwise nothing changes and we stuff the signs of greed and stingyness back in it's box. At the end of the day, our nation looking itself in the mirror during such a disaster could represent an opportunity. The disaster happened, we only honor those lost if we discuss our levels of foreign aid in the face of it. We should know the right thing to do without regards to other's comments. This time, other's comments regarding stingy levels of foreign aid were well deserved (for sure historically).... period. One thing "it's" certainly not about is worrying about anybody's feelings other than those trying to survive the horror.

This moron talks about political and ideological exploitation while his man Bush 43 pulls brother Jeb right into the middle of it. I guess the thinking goes "Jeb, and his recent Florida disaster is the only logical choice out of our 280 million to represent the US on this matter". The blatant sickening levels this administration will sink to for political gain is just plain scarey. They must put their family dyansty political fingers in the air, and say "biblical disaster + that's our base + brother Jeb 2008 = Family dynasty continues". You know, these guys use to at least try and hide it. They have figure out they don't have to anymore. That should scare everyone.

Sure... JOHN PODHORETZ has it. Hopefully something in pill form can cure it."

2nd rant:

"..... Confusing isn't it. It's just about as hard to determine where villifying turns into name calling as it is to determine where taxes become property stealing. Also, just as confusing as determining when the government quits becoming "us working together through representative form to define our rules and our social justice" and turns into "the evil government entity ruining our lives". FoxNews has the American pulpit out and are in full swing preaching why Americans are once again God's gift to the world because they know the best way to give charity... they know how to avoid their evil bureaucracy/goverment. I guess that means we are great but our government sucks... strange occurence if you think about it. I see the wisdom, I guess.... like when many of us gave money to the American Red Cross post 911, when the Red Cross collected money under the banner of 911, and then broke it to us that "oh, Red Cross money can be spent at the discretion of the Red Cross, regardless of how it was collected".

Humans sure are awsome at rationalization:

Our nation's poor are the best off in the world, therefore we are a just society.

Our nation gives more in total $ than any other nation, therefore we are a generous nation.

I really like this one: Since we are the wealthiest nation in the world, we don't have to give as much as a percentage of GDP. It's our due, I guess, for being so fortunate. I guess that is the global version of US conservative trickle down compassion.

Folks, you really wonder "why they hate us".... really? Such arrogance, and we don't even see it. Quit being mad at me for just one second, and really think about our nation giving such a small percentage of the GDP (in aggregate, private and public) to those who have so little. Try and rationalize a $50 million NFL salary, and .13% GDP foreign aid. Maybe you can, but then you at least have to acknowledge what that must look like to poor nations. I don't like poor nations hating us, deserved or not. National pride and religion can blind a public to so many things. I am convinced the US will be subjected to major humility lessons over the next several decades. At least some of them will be deserved, IMO. A moral nation puts the important stuff in writing (i.e. the constitution), and does not debase the notion of individual rights to 100% autonomy in a society. A nation with "volunteer only" social justice is an oxymoron."

I watched Colin Powell (I think basically a good man) try and defend the "American are generous, but mainly in a private way" conservative bs. I almost felt sorry for him. I certainly felt embarrassed for the US. How could one president and one administration get this many things wrong? It hard enough to understand how our public elected Bush again, but why did we have have such incompetence at this time (911, terrorism, etc.). Just bad timing I guess, although if you keep picking between the lessor of two evils for long enough, it will eventually bite you in the ass.

This is time where conservative social justice ideology is presented under a spotlight in it's naked form. There is no hiding it's inadequacies. No amount of "personal volunteer frickin generous American bs" can hide the fact that the richest nation commits 1 tenth of 1 percent to foreign aid. Hey global world, it's really about us.... didn't you know. I can't remember if I reposted this above or not, so I will say it again. A moral nation puts it's social justice commitments in writing, in it's constitution. I'm proud we are a nation of individual liberties, but I am ashamed if we don't commit to this type of global need before we start doling out the entitlements... and that commitment is federal commitment and federal dollars. Just how much national image devastation is one president capable of... 4 more years... you have got to be FRICKIN kidding me. What were you morons that elected this guy thinking?

I'm embarrassed that conservative america keeps being put on display to the rest of the world. I suspect the only thing that will finally put conservative ideology in the museum will be globalization. That is, if we can avoid the war between Falwell, Robertson, Dobson ... and Bin Laden.

I will keep the part of conservatism which is suppose to guard against the nation going in debt (these guys don't even do that right). You can take the rest of it and .... well you know what you can do with it. Goverment ain't perfect ... so what. Grow up and make it work better. It's funny how government needs to be minimized because it doesn't work good enough, the UN needs to shunned, because of human crime. Well, why isn't everyone claiming the Catholic church should be ended... what's worse then molesting kids. If an institution can get past that, any institution can be redeemed.

Other than that, I have no opinion.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Ed Abbey said...

By sending aid to these people are we merely encouraging them to rebuild again along the ocean shores? A tsunami will happen again guaranteed and are we going to be expected to bail them out another time? Based on the constant destruction of the coasts of Florida by hurricanes and the constant contribution of millions of dollars of our tax money, I would say the answer is yes. I'm rooting for mother nature to step up her schedule with what I call these 'moronic' disasters to keep our gene pool clean of morons who continue to build in tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, flood and volvano zones. If it happens more often, maybe someday they will learn.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Glad to see someone is still willing to dissent! Nothing is better than a good hearty disagreement. I confess that I do not understand the notion that someone might not feel like they belong or who are somehow uncomfortable with posting because of their disagreement.

Anyway, I’m not suggesting complex government programs at all. I share your skepticism of government and ours in particular. The failures of the US Welfare system are one of the many reasons I became a card carrying Libertarian for a little while. And if you want a critique of our welfare system, it is hard to beat the classic Regulating the Poor wherein a couple of Marxists totally destroyed many welfare myths.

This leads me to two observations on policy matters.

First, I have learned to separate in my mind the discussion of what I would like government to do from the discussion of how it should be done. For me, this is an essential pre-requisite to meaningful discussion because I am convinced that our current government is pretty much a hopeless case in most areas of endeavors. If I started my conversations with whether I thought our government could succeed in a specific policy implementation, then the discussion would pretty much end there. This is why I spend so much time on the big issues of the corruption of our government institutions, the continuing failure to apply the rule of law and the evil of our “two party system”.

That said, there is at least one thing our government does seem to do well and that is providing emergency assistance when there is a need. This is my second observation: spending resources on alleviating the suffering of the starving is not in any way analogous to welfare. I am suggesting no creation of a legal entitlement, only a the recognition of a moral one. I am advocating rice and vaccinations for those who will otherwise die.

Ideally, I agree with the notion of private humanitarian assistance. I agree that on a dollar per dollar basis, private assistance is more effective than anything our government will run. But the truth is that private assistance isn’t getting it done. While I share your concern about waste, I will not let that fear confine me to inaction.

Your point is fairly taken where you said, “if we actually do as you suggest we will do only harm and make lots of third world tyrants and their politicos far more wealthy. In the end, such funding, will do little or nothing for the worlds poor.” I would agree with you if one is speaking of just writing checks with the “pay to the order of” left blank. I don’t think I’ve ever written this in this forum, but I only support direct assistance in most cases. And this is why I prefaced my rough calculations with the assumption that only half of the world’s poor is “reachable”. Frankly, I pulled the “half” thing out of the air-I have no way of knowing what that number is. But I do understand that political situations often render aid impossible or pointless. We would certainly need to be mindful of such realities.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"I'm rooting for mother nature to step up her schedule with what I call these 'moronic' disasters to keep our gene pool clean of morons who continue to build in tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, flood and volvano zones."

Nothing like a moron rooting against other morons.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Note that Ed’s blogger profile says, “If I have failed to offend anyone. I apologize.” Obviously, Ed is trying to be amusing.

But for the record, equating the primitive and poor people of the areas hit by the tsunami with those lucky people who live in Florida is pretty offensive. The attempt at humor did not work for me.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Ed Abbey said...

Actually I was not attempting to be humorous and was dead serious. Why do we continue to help those who continue to live in areas prone to disasters? I know it is different from the government/private donation discussion but I feel the question has merit. It takes a real gut check to turn your cheek against those people but tsunamis have been around since the beginning of time. Are we now going to send millions of dollars to every country affected by a tsunami from here on out until we no longer are a superpower? Where does it end?

10:01 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Oh, humor. Like try this: "The true circle of life is morons rooting against other morons". Funny, right?

Ed does remind me of a joke:

"A guest had been visiting an individual at a very nice house. The house was sitting on 5 acres, and the guest noticed a very old, ugly beat up mobile home sitting off way in the corner of the 5 acres. Finally, the guest couldn't take it anymore and askes the homeowner ... what's up with the mobile home. The reply: This is Oklahoma, that's a decoy." :)

10:04 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


OK. I’ll bite.

When you said you were “dead serious”, that was humor, right?

Anyway, I suppose that natural disasters have always happened. I am a bit puzzled at where you think you can live and be totally free of these kinds of risks. Even here in North Texas we have the potential for devastating drought and killer heat waves. Granted, modern technology has done much minimize these risks, but still, if you are a poor person, there is nowhere totally safe from natural disasters. And if you are a poor person, you generally don’t have a choice about where you get to live in the first place.

But it strikes me that some of the worst disasters have been man made. And some of these have been pretty predictable as well. I just don’t think it changes the suffering of the people involved much.

If America were struggling just to get by, there would be an argument that we should take care of the home front first. But frankly, this has nothing to do even with what is smart policy. If hypothetically I accept your premise that this will just keep going on if we don’t just let them learn there lesson and drown in the shallow end of the gene pool, it still doesn’t affect the moral calculus of the situation. There are extremely poor people that are dying. We sit here on the biggest accumulation of wealth the world has ever known or imagined. Rendering assistance won’t even make a blip in the Dow Jones much less damage us in anyway.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Ed, the scientist have been discussing this all week. The earthquake and resulting Tsanami occured at one of the least likely spots on the globe. A Tsanami off the coast of Alaska was much more likely. In short, you have no point. Nothing sickens me more than human rationalization to avoid doing the obvious right thing... and I feel the same way whether that rationalization stems from some "minimum government ideology" or some "coservative cover one thinks they get from thier religion". And Tony nailed it... if you are calling feeding the surviving devestated humans charity, there is very little to continue a dialogue over. I think the entire "private donation is preferred" mantra is bs. In the end, it appears that the on the ground mechanisms for such disasters is a combination of NGO efforts that tend to be plugged into areas year round, and the use of our military. Public funding can and should go to the same NGO's who are the only one's capable of pulling this off. So, the private funding is better argument has two major holes. 1) it means only the good hearted help, others in our society get a pass. Sorry, that's immoral on the face of it. 2) All of us doing 1-Click on Amazon, etc. can allocate this better than a federal tax funded initiative. Please.

Nothing holds this nation back more than the "small government" small minds crowd. Government should be a constant iterative process of improvement. We should actually be able to audit our military budget... what a concept. The small government crowd says, "government has always been bad and inefficient", so punt and settle for the status quo of minimum government. Minimum government just means minimum chance for society to evolve. We don't need small government, and we don't need large government... we need an efficient large enough government that ensures more equality and social justice than what we have going at present. We are a pretender... we can do better. It's like the small government crowd says "sure, we are running an unjust society, but hey... we got that freedom thing."

Human nature does not change.... but governments can.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Ed Abbey said...

I agree on a couple point that you made Tony. First, I happen to live in Iowa and no it isn't immune to disasters such as heat, moisture and the occasional tornado. The difference between my choice of place to live and someone who chose to live along the coast is that I can survive a sudden heat wave, an onslaught of rain or the occasional tornado. The only way to survive a tsunami is to go somewhere else, preferrably higher.

Secondly, I agree that if you are poor, you don't have the luxury of choosing your place to live. That is why I think we should concentrate our money on rebuilding the destroyed areas on higher ground and telling them that there won't be a next time when the next tsunami comes around.

CG - Yes the earthquake was in an unlikely spot. But both the coasts of the US are in high risks spots of tsunamis. Other than an early warning system on the Pacific coast, what is being done to prevent the same destruction of property on our shores? Should we start saving up for the time when New York, LA and numerous other large cities are devestated?

Yes we are a large country with uncomparable wealth when compared to third world counties but we also have uncomparable national debt. We might not affect the stock markets now by giving away large sums of money but what about in the future when the bubble collapses.

Sorry about the use of 'dead serious.' Based off earlier comments it was a poor choice of words. Tony, I have enjoyed your site since I surfed onto it several months ago.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Glad you have enjoyed the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon. I hope you will hang out for the arguments, because I think we have had some good ones here. We tend to go at it hard here because some of us know each other well and we can be pretty brutal. Brutal in a good way, I think. I like to think that when the dust clears, we are all left better for the experience. And certainly I hope that all feel welcome no matter how misguided there opinion might be.

I totally agree that we should assist with moving the poor people to higher ground. Those are the kinds of things you can do if you get a little more serious. The thing is, I think we need a national commitment to doing more. In the grand scope, the tsunami is an aberration. While we should respond vigorously to these urgent needs, the longer outlook deserves more deliberation and thoughtfulness. I’d hesitate to pick top priorities in terms of specific projects, rebuilding for these people on higher ground sounds sensible.

As far as our large cities go, yes of course we need to be planning for serious disasters in major cities-man made or otherwise. The big one in California isn’t a matter of if, but when. Hurricanes will keep coming. Hitting closer to home (for me) was the monster tornado that went through Oklahoma City a few years ago...move that same tornado to a more populous areas such as Oklahoma City proper or the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and you would have had an unbelievable disaster to deal with. If memory serves, I think Iowa had a monster tornado back in the 1930s that hit primarily rural areas. Add to the equation things like terrorist wielded nuclear weapons and yes, I think we need to be prepared to lose a major city.

Of course, you won’t here any such sensible planning coming out of this Administration. After all, anything like that will probably occur after the next election.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Oh Sh*t... I just saw my two Senators sworn in. Scratch that big goverment rant I just made. In fact, I would be willing to live with 98 Sentators, if you know what I mean.

This isn't the week or month to teach the Tsanami victims "how to fish for life" or "personal responsibility". Maybe we can just give them food and water for a while, without strings, and before the sermon.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

When I first heard about the earthquake that moved the tectonic plates some 98 feet and caused the tsunami over the holidays, my first reaction was sadness for the people that lost their lives. I hear the rapid, concussive waves swept through these beaches and towns with impressive force. I was glad to hear that the US responded with regret and prayers as well as a promise to assist financially with the humanitarian crisis that is currently taking place over there. That’s what America does and does very well, I’m very proud to say. Of course, there are those that argue that we should do more but little makes those people happy.

I’m glad to say we have always been a generous country. The ways in which we have rebuilt Europe after WWI and WWII are only two examples of this, though there are those who’d want more. Like I said, few things make those people happy. Our contributions to the IMF and UN are unprecedented. Since 2000, our contributions have increased 64% (Official Development Assistance –, from 9.5 Billion to 15.8 billion. Yes, as a percentage of GDP you can say we can do more but factoring in our debt, that is very generous. There are those who… Private contributions from Americans themselves thwarts government efforts (all governments), but this is the way it SHOULD be. It’s like someone saying “Hey, I take CARE of my kids!” Well, you’re SUPPOSED to take care of your kids. It SHOULD be Americans making the decisions for where their money should go and not the government saying “this is where we think you want us to contribute to the world.” This model in our country has ALWAYS thwarted ALL OTHER MODELS for governments both here and gone. It's only one of the reasons why the US is what it is. This gulf in logic cannot be bridged between the two sides on this issue, no matter the thought-sharing medium.

And that brought my second reaction. I can clearly see two distinct efforts taking place in these impacted areas – humanitarian and rebuilding. I’m all for the humanitarian effort. It’s the rebuilding facet that doesn’t bode well for me. As Mr. Abbey rightly pointed out, helping them rebuild their houses on the sand should not be our dharmic mission. I don’t believe that is fair to the American people.

I believe in coming to the assistance of people in need, be it under the effects of a tsunami or an oppressive regime. But that’s just me.

I believe that Americans are the best ambassadors of this type of assistance and I believe that keeping someone from dying is just as important as “rice and vaccinations.” But that’s just me.

Rebuilding an area that will be prone to the effects of the Indian Ocean in years to come would not provide for wise stewardship of the American tax payer money, however. There are those who disagree and the differences that shape these opinions are more powerful than this Asian tsunami. Indeed, it is in my opinion that the type of society sought by some of our American brethren can be, and should be, found elsewhere in the world.

The Blue Light SpecialI like how helping THESE people is far more altruistic for the leftward leaners of this great nation.

Seriously, I’m not a comic so there is no threat of coming across like one, there are countries out there that believe the government should be all things to all people; common good or otherwise. This is not one of them.

The mentality of some people that says to

   Feed someone but don’t prevent their death,
   Clothe someone but don’t train them,
   Hand someone a check but don’t make them look for a job,
   Vaccinate someone but for Pete’s sake, don’t pray for them

is perplexing to me.

Maybe I’m just slow. That must be it.

Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in!

2:12 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Hi Tony! Thanks for chance & place to blog.

I once thought that generosity was a virtue of man. I now know that is not the case. It is a virtue of Government. I have just reread the preamble to the Constitution and am trying to figure out where we should insert the phrase “...and Generous, too!” I’m sure the consensus on this blog could tell me where to put it.

I had high hopes that Tony’s subject would cover the Generosity of man. However, as can be scene by the early posts preceding mine, compassion starts with a hatred and ridicule of “this administration.” And Tony’s blog equated what “we are doing” exclusively to government’s expenditures. CG ridicules the "private donations is preferred." (Hi CG!)

Being on the outs of current “global citizen”(GC) thinking, I’m here to learn. Maybe a “generosity” FAQ would help this vast right wing conspirator understand the support for redefining “generosity” from man (Pr. 11:25, 22:9; Is.32:5,8; 2 Cor.9:5) to governments (I have no scriptural support).

I do not know if Tony’s suggestion for 1% GNP (i.e. $1000/hungry person/world) was just a hypothetical or desired amount.

Q1: Is it GC’s (global citizen) goal to eradicate poverty and hunger? With tax dollars alone?

Q2: What level(%) of the overall humanitarian aid from private organizations is acceptable?

Q3: The $15m, $35m, $350m stair step increase in less than 10 days was unacceptable. Everyday the casualty count has increased and knowledge of villages completely wiped out has come to our knowledge. What appropriate amounts at which days would have been (A) the minimum humanitarian aid ($) given our knowledge on that day of the tragedy, (B) what level of humanitarian aid is ideal, (C) What level is excessive, and finally (D) If you are basing the expenditure by a method other than actual costs by the % we would like to cover, what method is it?

Q4: Given the wealth of our great nation, do any of you have any comment on the participation of US States, Counties, Cities, and Towns in this matter? I.e., would you consider this part of the makeup of GC generosity, or is that thought of more like private donations and such?

Q5: Those nations that are giving are those nations that are wealthy. Wealthy nations are, for the most part, those that are free economically and politically. Those nations that are free, are so almost exclusively determined by the intrusion of government taxation, regulation, and laws on the common man. Conversely, those nations with the poorest, hungriest people are those nations with oppressive socialist governments and cultures. Should relief go to the governments of the poorest countries that are manufacturing more poverty? To the people themselves? Or a combination of both?

Q6: Should there be strings attached to aid to oppressive governments?

Q7: What is the greatest level of taxation that either, you are comfortable with, or you consider morally defensible PURELY for the humanitarian portion of our budget, based, not upon the impersonal GNP, but upon our own personal incomes?

Prof. Ricardo

2:37 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


First, welcome back. I’ve missed your posts. However misguided they might be. :-D

You are correct, there are two facets to the matters at hand: long term and short term. And up to a point, I would agree with those who say that we need to worry about the long term needs more than the short term.

I will stipulate that everybody here on this Messageboard cares sincerely for those who are suffering. I understand that very well and would not impugn anyone for simply disagreeing with me. But after you get past that basic caring, there is a lot of disagreement and it is in that space which I would choose to argue. Maybe I don’t know everybody’s heart, but I think that folks wouldn’t bother ranting here if they didn’t care.

And for the record, I am not one of those who called the administration on to the carpet for its initial bungling on the tsunami assistance. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney were on vacation like all of us, so it is little wonder that the President was speechless without his handlers. When they got back to the office, they seemed to get into the swing of things so I’ll wait for actual additional bungling before criticizing.

Where I started was taking issue with those who said that bringing up global poverty at this juncture was inappropriate. I pointed out the short attention span of the American people and that this is the perfect time to discuss our global responsibilities.

There is no doubt that the Marshall plan was a great thing. It was also fifty years ago. That people continue to bring that up in this context is amusing in a way. The plan was implemented as much for realpolitik considerations as for generosity-and it was the right thing on both counts. Central to what I’m arguing today is that aggressive assistance to the poor of the World will produce as similar win-win for America. At the risk of quibbling with your post, I’m unaware of any large scale assistance we provided to Europe after WWI. Perhaps I’m unaware of something and would love to hear about it. What I do know about is the miserable shape that Germany and Austria were left in at the end of World War I. Most historians seem to believe the harshness of the armistice, including war reparations in particular, was central in producing the wretched economic conditions that nurtured the rise of Fascism. It is in part from this understanding that Marshall argued for his plan. But don’t ignore that the impending cold war was a big part of it as well.

I for one can not wrap my brain around the argument that the present rate of American largess, .1% of GDP (or 1/3 that of the EU) is somehow “generous”. I am verging on abandoning that discussion because it may be one of those very rare situations where the argument I am opposing is so wholly without merit to deserve debate.

But, if I haven’t been clear, let me be so now. I’m not suggesting, and have never meant to suggest, that we engage in quick fixes exclusively. Sure, there are times where dropping some food and medicine is a good thing, but I too would want to see any money spent wisely. That is why I am opposed to the UN as a vehicle for delivery. I have said repeatedly that I wish to see well reasoned and considered endeavors, but on a scale that is serious and not laughable as in our present state of affairs.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Hello! Hey, I’m always happy to educate. Listen closely and I can help.

First, I hate to break it to you, but the Government is “We”. And while I don’t ridicule what private donation can accomplish, and am on the record for preferring private means in an ideal world, I choose to live in the real world were the starving people are. You are however correct when you aver that I am being compassionate when I ridicule this Administration-what I really think ought to be done involves impeachment trials and firing squads.

So at your request, here goes. The first ever official

Disenfranchised Curmudgeon’s Generosity FAQ

Q: Is it GC’s (global citizen) goal to eradicate poverty and hunger? With tax dollars alone?
A: Yes! Using tax dollars when necessary and free things like prayers as well.

Q: What level(%) of the overall humanitarian aid from private organizations is acceptable?
A: Whatever level of private aid that private donors desire. The more the better!

Q: The $15m, $35m, $350m stair step increase in less than 10 days was unacceptable. Everyday the casualty count has increased and knowledge of villages completely wiped out has come to our knowledge. What appropriate amounts at which days would have been (A) the minimum humanitarian aid ($) given our knowledge on that day of the tragedy, (B) what level of humanitarian aid is ideal, (C) What level is excessive, and finally (D) If you are basing the expenditure by a method other than actual costs by the % we would like to cover, what method is it?
A: Here at the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon, we have never taken a position on specific dollar amounts that should have been pledged. As much as this Curmudgeon strives to be the repository for all useful knowledge, alas, I must sling computer code for a living in order to keep the global economy humming until someone from Bangladesh eventually assumes my duties. The correct answer to the dollar amount would be: enough.

Q: Given the wealth of our great nation, do any of you have any comment on the participation of US States, Counties, Cities, and Towns in this matter? I.e., would you consider this part of the makeup of GC generosity, or is that thought of more like private donations and such?
A: Given that developmental aid is equal part compassion and foreign policy, I think it is unwise to demand a role for local governments. However, if the good citizens of Bumblyburg think it is wise to throw on an extra penny sales tax for the cause, who would argue with such generousity?

Q: Those nations that are giving are those nations that are wealthy. Wealthy nations are, for the most part, those that are free economically and politically. Those nations that are free, are so almost exclusively determined by the intrusion of government taxation, regulation, and laws on the common man. Conversely, those nations with the poorest, hungriest people are those nations with oppressive socialist governments and cultures. Should relief go to the governments of the poorest countries that are manufacturing more poverty? To the people themselves? Or a combination of both?
A: Certainly assistance in the nature of emergency aid should be independent of political condition. As you correctly point out, absent a commitment to free markets and democratic principals, large scale assistance should be properly limited to only that which goes fairly immediately to saving lives. This of course creates gray areas such as building a hospital or some other incrementally larger project than providing rice. Clearly, if there is no expectation of any improvements on the human rights front, then we must be circumspect in how much resources we expend.

Q: Should there be strings attached to aid to oppressive governments?
A: Oppressive is a bit vague. In general, we shouldn’t provide any aid that would only pad the coffers of tyrants. I’d apply the same rule to domestic corporate welfare. If we are talking about a regime along the lines of Saddam Hussein, I would certainly demand strings: ropes around the necks of the key players.

Q: What is the greatest level of taxation that either, you are comfortable with, or you consider morally defensible PURELY for the humanitarian portion of our budget, based, not upon the impersonal GNP, but upon our own personal incomes?
A: Like most Americans, I support a progressive tax system with zero loopholes and no deductions other than personal. While in general I eschew bright lines in such matters, I am willing to advocate a rate cap of 50%.

I hope this helped!

3:23 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


BTW, my 1% of GDP was hypothetical, but it does sound very reasonable to me.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"I for one can not wrap my brain around the argument that the present rate of American largess, .1% of GDP (or 1/3 that of the EU) is somehow “generous”. I am verging on abandoning that discussion because it may be one of those very rare situations where the argument I am opposing is so wholly without merit to deserve debate."

That's really it for me, also. You can bring in your god, your absolute truth, your interpretation of the divine inspirations of the founders, the government is evil, man should not worship government, liberal elite are government worshipers, man should get to do anything he wants in his society, man has no obligations to his society but he should get much from it, the glories of freedom, individual liberties and man's autonomy, how gloriously god-like the US is, some belief that the US is God's country and the gift to the world, your mamma or daddy taught you best.... whatever the *%*% you can come up with, and the wealthiest nation in the world has to debate "how much we should give" to Tsanami victims. You have to believe .1-.5% GDP in foreign aid really is generous. It is NOT. Get over it, America isn't that generous compared to our wealth... and that's the comparison we need to use because it defines what we are capable of. Prof asks "how much"? How about 5%? I really don't have to know "how much" to know .13% is frickin embarrassing. And this isn't America bashing.... it looks like all wealthy nations give very little.

Pick your ideology, but don't kid yourself about American generousity.... numbers don't lie. Our mix of capitalism, materialism and self-interest absorption hasn't lead to anything to be proud of in 2004. The founders probably got it about 75% right. It was up to us to take it the other 25% as national wealth increased, providing opportunity to seek greater equality and social justice. A nation of our wealth can only be moral when we put social justice and foreign aid commitment into our constitution. If we can't be "collective" even on those basic tenets, we aren't worth saving anyway.

US Conservatism on disply to the world is embarrassing. More and more, it looks like it's US conservatism against half the US population plus the rest of the industrialized world. That doesn't mean it is wrong, but it certainly means it's days are probably numbered. You may not want to join the globe, but globalization isn't asking for volunteers.

Not in a playful mood on this one.


3:43 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Ah, just take a chill pill. All that .NOT stuff has got your drawers all twisted up no doubt.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

For the record, I concur with the Curm FAQ, with the following additions.

Private aid is welcome, encouraged, healthy... however, it is extra on top of a federal commitment, in writing, in the Constitution. In other words, our federal commitment does not change yearly based on measuring "what the private sector did this year".

I would not cap the top tax rate at 50%. It would be excellent if one ran the numbers and that could work, but certainly not a rule I would impose. If 2% is off the charts in our economy reguarding wealth, they may very well be tapped for 70% of future dollars. As I said before, I have no problem at all if those "who have enough" retire... or take their blanket and go home. An trust me, that blanket wouldn't include setting up an offshore PO Box and selling back to the US market.

Tony, sorry... not going to chill on this one. Conservatism went from being "a noble opposing argument" to a "frickin embarrassment". I've never seen it exposed in it's pure naked form as clearly as post tsanami. A funny thing happened after the Tsanami... the richest nation on the planet had to explain it's ideology of aid to the rest of the world before we got in gear. Not good enough. I have similar issues with such obvious needs being directed by religious beliefs, but out of respect, I will bypass that rant.


4:00 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Bypass a RANT? On the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon?

I may have to reign in my open posting policy after all...I don't like when people hold back.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...


It would appear that you hold the license on that which is right and that which is wrong. I can at least say what I believe to be in stark contrast and expose the huge gap between your thinking and mine and you resort to a conservative argument as being "embarrassing." I suppose even your form of tolerance has its limits.

As disgusted as you feel about the position of people who disagree with you, think for a second that our teeth clench and phalanges stiffen just as rigidly when we retort on your liquid-crystal-display arguments spewn about dragnet-style by someone who whips out his badge of righteousness and boldly proclaims that you are the moral police and we are all under arrest.

Conservative baaad, Common - Goooood. Jolly good, then.

As big of a problem you have with "Theocracy Lite", I have with "Diet Socialism". The difference is, history is on my side and you seem to claim the future is on yours. I'd like to hear that argument in court.

Curm, the idea of "enough" is in and of itself, political quicksand. WHOSE enough? Believe it or not, it's more than just money. It's principle. The shades that I see in your argument and "others" is palpable in respect to the obvious (to me) incongruence of socially-applied moral tenets. What? Just keep reading, nothing to see here. On the one hand, helping people is good. I agree. On the other hand, helping people is bad (or ill timed, or none of our business, or not eminently necessary). I disagree. Where is the warm creamy center? I've lost the scent, I'll find it. So the argument is "Can the US do more?" The answer is quite likely yes. We can do more. The question I ask is "Should it be the government taking tax money and doing MORE?" I'd say maybe, yes. Believe it or not, and the latter will be your choice I'm sure, the aid we (US govt) have given has increased by 64% since 2000. But YOU want MORE, right? More money to AIDS than anyone else (including other presidents) but you want MORE right? Herein lies the san-andreas fault between our views. How MUCH more? Why is a goal of increasing our donations gradually such a deplorable thing to you. Look at the numbers, don't believe me. (I was way off on the WWI remark BTW, I can admit that. Turns out we were quite the loan sharks.) I believe that if we (you-Curm and I) can agree to disagree on this, we can make some progress and have this not turn into such a lost cause. I believe the people, me, you, others, should do more and not rely on our government to take our tax dollars and spend it in other countries. If you and I want to give, let's give. The government will give too, I don't believe we should close the purse strings but let the impetus lie with the people, not the government.

You believe the impetus should lie with our lawmakers. THEY should decided to spend more of OUR money on foreign aid because WE are the richest nation in the world. I disagree with you sir. It is US not U.S. that should be doing more. Wherein lies the substance that government should do more. Show me your books. Show me your papers. Show me the verse. Show me something. Anything that says government should assume the role of purveyor and not the people. OF / BY / FOR the people.

I AM in the mood. Bring it, bring it, bring it.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


"I've lost the scent, I'll find it." Your writing style (but not your ideology) is amuzing. Do you hear voices? Seriously, you are among friends... tell us.

"You believe the impetus should lie with our lawmakers. THEY should decided to spend more of OUR money on foreign aid because WE are the richest nation in the world."

Actually, you have not been following along. First, the lawmakers work for us... we have a representative government you know. Yes, I know you like to minimize their "representation".... Second, I have been very clear that I think "social justice (healthcare, education) and foreign aid" should be detailed in our constitution. I assume if my brand of social justice was implemented via constitution ammendment you would agree that represented "we the people's" voice. You see, we don't all get to be an island AND have a decent society. You guys avoid "collectivism" like it's automatic communist plague. We have it already, we couldn't exist without it. The Articles of Confederation were not good enough because we didn't have enough "collectivism". I know the purest and romantics will fight that statement.... but there it is. A tax funded military is "collectivism". We already have "collectivism"... we are just arguing about the details. Maybe that will help you sleep better when we slide in "social justice" and "foreign aid" into the common good bucket. Probably not.

Globalization is on my side. Maybe your "caring god" will overrule it.



6:28 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Get on board, TC. You don't want to be looking back when you are old saying, you know, my ideology was stingy after all. Your "we are making progress" rings hollow. It's like the next door neighbor slapped his wife 40 times in 2003, but only 20 in 2004. Progress?

A New Wind Behind Our Backs

7:05 PM  
Blogger Ed Abbey said...

What about our national debt? I just read a piece yesterday saying I may get a third less social security money when I retire (if any at all). Congress had to raise the debt cap so that we could spend more for the war. How can we be generous when we are in debt up to our ears and spending more everyday? Shouldn't we save ourselves first before saving others?

7:05 AM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Common Good“You guys avoid "collectivism" like it's automatic communist plague.”

I thought it was a plague. :-)

“We have it already, we couldn't exist without it."
Going that direction. Not quite there yet.

“The Articles of Confederation were not good enough because we didn't have enough "collectivism". I know the purest and romantics will fight that statement.... but there it is.”

Cool. I’m a purest and a romantic. Can’t wait to tell my wife. The AofC did not lack completeness, it lacked completeness. There was no way to fund built into the document. There were no consequences to lack of participation. The unanimous vote was too strict. The lack of an overpowering centralized government was not what it lacked.

“A tax funded military is "collectivism".”

Collectivism, n - a political or economic theory advocating collective control, especially over production and distribution; also : a system marked by such control.

If you want to argue that ANY representative government to ANY degree, or merely containing military spending, is “collective”, then the word ceases to be profitable in describing the difference between a socialist agenda, and one not controlling the “production and distribution” by redistributing the wealth, thus divorcing to some degree the consequences of wealth acquisition (income) from the act of wealth acquisition (investment and effort).

The insinuation in adopting socialism for the moral good of helping others is that our great or excessive wealth is a constant, merely by being us (the US), and not the result of millions of people seeking to individually profit from their actions, investment and labor. Once you divorce the incentive (profit) from the act (wealth creation) you have destroyed the golden goose that shames you with our wealth and compels you to give not just your money to worthy causes, but other peoples money on your behalf.

If we are not a great nation because of our high moral ideals (A Christian Nation), then our wealth must be purely a result of economics. You apparently seek to take proven wealth enhancing principles and trade them for the socialist (collectivist?) principles that are partly responsible for the miserably poor nations of this earth. How can one with a clear conscious adopt the failing principles of destitute countries (socialism), employe them here (US) and expect our wealth to not be affected? Or is that your end goal?

Prof. Ricardo

8:57 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I wish I could tell you that I have the magic measuring stick that can measure “enough”, but as you are well aware, I do not. Like so many things in life, there isn’t always bright lines to guide us to the center of the path. There are bright lines marking the shoulders: on the left we have Jesus telling us to sell everything and follow him, on the right we have the cold indifference of doing nothing. As men, we must do the best we can at splitting those differences and finding the closest thing we can to the center.

Nobody likes a good guiding principle better than I. This is part of the reason I threw out 1% GDP-to get an argument going that might get us somewhere closer to a principle. What is pretty clear is that one tenth of one percent is pretty close to that right shoulder of nothing. Elsewhere, I brought up the story of the widow’s mites and on that rationale I am extremely unimpressed with the argument that we give more than any other country.

I’ve said it in this thread before, but I am not advocating writing blank checks. I’m not advocating creating a legal entitlement. I am simply saying we should do more and we should be discussing what that more should be.

There are natural limits on what we can do. Ed properly asks whether in light of our national debt problems we should do more. First, it is clear to me that bankrupting the US Government is good for nobody. In the area of political philosophy, fiscal conservatism is very high on the list of that which is important to me. But to characterize the current mess as simply caused by the war is to ignore a bunch of other changes that have taken place. And if you want to blame the budget mess on the war, which would be incorrect in my view, then one has to question the war itself I would think. Perhaps we should take a look at a military budget that is greater than the combined expenditures of the rest of the world? Maybe we should look rising medical costs and their implications?

At the risk of repetition, what I’m saying is that we should be having this discussion. Instead we get worthless platitudes from both sides of the artificial isle of American political thought. What we need is a serious national conversation along the lines of what we are doing here.

TexaCon, gradually increasing what we are spending on global development assistance is certain a good thing in the sense that it leads to doing more. But we are at least an order of magnitude off on what even a selfish and stingy people would do. What I would like to see is for us to put our money where our mouth is on the generosity thing. I think a starting place would be to at least get our spending on such things up to the EU’s level but that is still way too little.

I don’t fail to credit us for what we do accomplish. American funded organizations do a lot of good in the world. As individuals, many of us are very generous indeed. But we can clearly do far more. If that means a few less Raptor fighters and new cars in the driveways that is OK by me.

As far as the lawmakers making the decision, we you know I have a lot of problems with our current “leadership”. But we have chosen these people to represent us for good or ill. If you don’t trust them, you shouldn’t be voting for them. And therein is a great irony-so many of us say we don’t trust them to do what is in our best interests, but every election we (obviously not including me) go to the polls and return the same people to office. Using a lack of trust in lawmakers as an excuse for not pursuing the best policy is truly a sad state of affairs.

Where is the substance that government should do more? It lies in your and my moral conscience under-girded by the simple truth that we can do far more when we join ourselves in a common cause than we can as individuals. It sounds well and good to say private citizens should address the need, but private citizens are not getting it done. And this is often the case-economists call this the tragedy of the commons.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


OK.. the dictionary. Replace my use of the word "collectivism" with "more collective federal laws", because everyone on this board knows I'm not implying that our government take over the means of production.

Using our tax dollars on the military is "collective agreement". Using our tax dollars for the mess in Iraq is "collective agreement". If we choose, a 1% federal budget for foreign aid can be "collective agreement". None of it will imply that the government owns the means of production.... that's a dumb argument, and a waste of time.

Our nation can't make progress because we are too often driven by religious belief rather than common sense. We don't make progress because we worship founders and original intent rather than make the best choices for the living. We have a nation that teaches children "guilt at birth, guilt of sin" but fails to teach almost any form of "collective, we are in this together". We are proud that we are all acting in self-interest mode, and we point to our $'s to prove it's grand success. Our society will never evolve while religion is treated as a public matter, or a template for our pluralistic government. Individual solace through religion is a wonderful thing on a personal level, but becomes evil, corrupt and an agitator at the public level. Don't kid yourself... public religion isn't a battle of ideas, it's a battle of ownership (i.e. theocracy-lite) and a means to reinforce one's personal religious faith (if you convince others, it must be true).

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The U.S. ranks 15th in terms of generosity per capita -- both private AND governmental. Refer to the table below from the Foreign Policy Magazine web site. This stands in direct contrast to the commonly painted portrait made (primarily by American conservatives) that the U.S. is the "most generous nation on the Earth." There's no question that many Americans have what might be termed "objectivity issues."

Country Government Aid Private Giving Total
1. Norway $1.02 $0.24 $1.26
2. Denmark $0.84 $0.01 $0.85
3. Sweden $0.61 $0.01 $0.62
4. Netherlands $0.57 $0.04 $0.61
5. Ireland $0.28 $0.06 $0.34
6. Switzerland $0.25 $0.07 $0.32
7. Belgium $0.28 $0.02 $0.30
8. France $0.25 $0.01 $0.26
9. Finland $0.24 $0.01 $0.25
10. United Kingdom $0.23 $0.02 $0.25
11. Germany $0.18 $0.03 $0.21
12. Japan $0.20 $0.004 $0.204
13. Austria $0.18 $0.02 $0.20
14. Canada $0.17 $0.02 $0.19
15. United States $0.13 $0.05 $0.18
16. Australia $0.14 $0.03 $0.17
17. Spain $0.11 $0.01 $0.12
18. Italy $0.11 $0.002 $0.112
19. Portugal $0.09 $0.001 $0.091
20. New Zealand $0.08 $0.01 $0.09
21. Greece $0.07 $0.001 $0.071

1:09 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

If we didn't give it thru the gubment, it must not be generosity.

Prof. Ricardo

1:23 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Regarding the anonymous data above: I went to the foreign policy website because I was curious-that data is dollars per day per capita.

So Prof, you are going to say next that a nickle a day per capita is generous? Man, we can double that by just skipping after dinner mints.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Prof isn't results oriented... the method and ideology is more important. Better to be stingy and do it "right" than be generous and do it "wrong/left".

1:42 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Well, I’m not very results oriented either if by that you describe a utilitarian analysis. But, just because I reject utilitarianism as an analytical model does not mean that I also reject real world measurements.

Maybe the theme here for the pro-America-is-generous crowd should be, “A nickel a day makes the guilt go away”?

1:48 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


"Well, I’m not very results oriented either if by that you describe a utilitarian analysis. But, just because I reject utilitarianism as an analytical model does not mean that I also reject real world measurements."

What does that mean? Let's put it in real world terms. If the US could give $350 mil to the Tsanami aid victims via Christian churches OR could give $500 mil to the victims through government, which one do you pick? What's the "value" ... the actual aid to the starving or your preferred charity route?

2:49 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


What it means is that utilitarian analysis is not all that matters. What do you think I would pick in light of my other arguments? I think it is pretty clear.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"What do you think I would pick in light of my other arguments? I think it's pretty clear."

It was until the utilitarian guidance. :)

3:13 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I guess phrases like "result oriented" rankle me. Justifying the means by the result has been the starting point of much evil in the world.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"I guess phrases like "result oriented" rankle me. Justifying the means by the result has been the starting point of much evil in the world."

I hear you, particularly that "getting to heaven" results oriented thing.

Some things would seem to be "means" sensitive, and other not. Feeding people before they die doesn't seem to be very "means" sensitive, IMO.

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest people take a look at the article below from the Christian Science Monitor. I'll highlight the critical section for people:

"In relation to affluence, the US lies at the bottom of the list of rich donor nations. It gave 0.15 percent of gross national income to official development assistance in 2003. By this measure, Norway at 0.92 percent was the most generous, with Denmark next at 0.84 percent." (This figure includes BOTH government aid AND private giving).

Once again, I find it fascinating that so many Americans invest so much of their personal pride in the measure of this country's foreign policy and foreign aid impact on the world.

There are certain types of Americans out there (who TEND to be conservative/Republican, though not exclusively) who really need to try and separate their personal national affiliation from an objective examination of the FACTS. We're not in Kindergarten anymore, folks. These are real, extremely serious issues that we're discussing here, and you are required to be OBJECTIVE in your analysis.


US Foreign Aid: Do Americans Give Enough?
By David R. Francis - The Christian Science Monitor

American giving to help the victims of the Asian tsunamis, so sudden and captured so dramatically by television, is huge. Washington has pledged $350 million in aid. Only Japan, which is closer to the Indian Ocean, has promised more - $500 million. Moreover, President Bush enlisted two former presidents, Bill Clinton and his father, George H.W. Bush, to lead a nationwide campaign to raise private funds - a move that squares with the president's preference for private economic activities.

Such efforts have pushed the question of American charity to the forefront. Is the US stingy when it comes to foreign aid?

The answer depends on how you measure.

It's a sensitive issue to the Bush administration, which is proud of its sizable boost in foreign aid with the creation of the Millennium Challenge Account for poor countries with good economic policies and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS relief. Mr. Bush, one aid expert said, undoubtedly shares in the humanitarian concerns of the evangelical Christian community that supports him politically.

In terms of traditional foreign aid, the US gave $16.25 billion in 2003, as measured by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the club of the world's rich industrial nations. That was almost double the aid by the next biggest net spender, Japan ($8.8 billion). Other big donors were France ($7.2 billion) and Germany ($6.8 billion).

But critics point out that the US is much bigger than those individual nations. As a group, member nations of the European Union have a bit larger population than the US and give a great deal more money in foreign aid - $49.2 billion altogether in 2003.

In relation to affluence, the US lies at the bottom of the list of rich donor nations. It gave 0.15 percent of gross national income to official development assistance in 2003. By this measure, Norway at 0.92 percent was the most generous, with Denmark next at 0.84 percent.

Bring those numbers down to an everyday level and the average American gave 13 cents a day in government aid, according to David Roodman, a researcher at the Center for Global Development (CGD) in Washington. Throw in another nickel a day from private giving. That private giving is high by international standards, yet not enough to close the gap with Norway, whose citizens average $1.02 per day in government aid and 24 cents per day in private aid.

But the administration sees that count as too restrictive. Andrew Natsios, head of the US Agency for International Development, claimed on television last week that US foreign aid was $24 billion in 2003, up from $10.6 billion when President Clinton took office. Some experts say that number, bigger than the OECD count, is a bit mysterious. It probably includes some debt forgiveness, such as $1 billion for the Congo. Last month, the US forgave $4 billion in Iraqi debt, which may get counted in 2004 numbers for foreign aid.

The purpose of much foreign aid is to reduce poverty and encourage progress in developing nations. Toward that end, Mr. Roodman's CGD has attempted to capture other policies to construct a Commitment to Development Index for 21 rich nations. Here the US comes in much better, at No. 7. The index considers trade policy, foreign investment, immigration, environmental policy, technology, and security (some military assistance), as well as official and private aid in ranking the generosity of nations.

The US, for instance, has relatively open borders to exports from poor countries. Its agriculture is less protected than that of Europe or Japan. It lets in 1 million or so immigrants a year, mostly from Mexico and other poor nations. They remit tens of billions home.

Moreover, the US has a huge defense budget, some of which benefits developing countries. Making a judgment call, the CGD includes the cost of UN peacekeeping activities and other military assistance approved by a multilateral institution, such as NATO. So the US gets credit for its spending in Kosovo, Australia for its intervention in East Timor, and Britain for military money spent to bring more stability to Sierra Leone.

Then there's the question of balance.

Some aid experts worry that American giving to alleviate the tsunami disaster will prove out of proportion compared with other needs around the world.

For example, some 240,000 people a month (1,776 in rich countries) die of HIV/AIDS, another 136,000 a month from diarrhea in developing countries, notes Roodman. Famine kills far more people than the 150,000 plus who died in the tsunamis.

The US often helps battle these more endemic challenges too. But politics can intrude. Motives are sometimes mixed. Assistance to famine in Ethiopia or elsewhere can be a big boost to American farmers.

"Not to belittle what we are doing, we shouldn't get too self-congratulatory," says Frederick Barton, an economist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Anon, good post. We can't change the past. We can effect the future.

One thing does come to mind with our current administration running up the debt. Did we blow our chance to have the impact some of us hope for? This nation has had one hell of a run over the last several decades, but now we face challenges on several fronts (outsourcing, offshore tax avoidance, China looming as the new #1, middle class squeeze). When one hears that 2% of GDP can have substantial impact, then one believes we still have the means to change the world... but why so late to the obvious?

2:39 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Yes Anon-thanks for the post! I hope you will hang around and contribute.

I think there is some truth to the missed opportunity you suggest CG. During the halcyon days of our recent past, we could have looked at number more like three or four percent of GDP without much honest argument. But harder times and 43’s budget fiasco will limit in what we can do now. A shame the Democrats didn’t move to do more back when they had the power. No matter how the numbers crunch, the facts are pretty plain that we need to do much more.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Hi, thanks Anon. I’ve added REQUIRED and OBJECTIVE to my word wall so thanks for the pc lesson.

Indeed, I have learned that generosity has been a word long tied to dollars and less to percentages. That is pretty clear now. I suppose the reason why this still appears to be generous is that the amount of money that has never made it past the pockets of UN officials, their sons and dictators is far more than what reaches the people in need. We shouldn’t be contributing ANY money via the UN. How’s that for objective. I started a few responses here and noticed that my fundamental problem with being on the side of giving more than 6 times what we give now is trust. Gosh darn, I just don’t trust the UN and many of these foreign governments. The painting of concentric circles on my comment is drying so take your best shots now. That’s what it boils down to for me. The idea of giving the UN more money, since they’ve done so well with what little we have given them (that’s sarcasm by the way, first word put on my word wall), is unacceptable to me. Of course, I’m the greedy Repub. s.o.b.; international propagator of all things eee-ville. Seriously, do you trust these governments? Think of Indonesia? Can you say “corruption?” Their government has been in shambles for years and years and has long been accused of bilking and mismanaging money while hundreds of thousands of their people live in absolute poverty. So we give them billions more? Where is the accountability? How many cents from every dollar actually makes it to the people? I’m thinking 1 or 2. The immediate reaction from others is Oh, there you go again. Another greedy conservative worried about his money. Only concerned about the money in his pocket and no deference to the poor and starving kids of this world. Think about the children, TexaCon, what about the CHILDREN?! As Curmie pointed out, no one here is denying the fact that humanitarian aid is needed and in fact, a DUTY of the US government so spare the lectures. The only reason my last sentence seems blithe is because of the sharp statements pointed at conservatives as being the cause of this lack of generosity. You would think there’s never been a Democrat-ic president or a Democrat-ic congress. Oh, sure, we’re the PRI over here and control all the purse strings. Where is YOUR objectivity Anon (quite convenient to take shots anonymously). After all, you are REQUIRED to be objective. You did agree to the TOS of this blog that included a requirement to be objective didn’t you? I know I checked the box (I didn’t really read it, though).

Look at what the UN has done with the money we have given them. Look at how corrupt the IMF has been. Look at how regimes exploit these UN-sanctioned programs. The fact is, I don’t trust them and maybe providing organizations that have proved themselves worthy like the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, etc. with exponentially more money is the better answer. I’m PRO-“that idea.”

My church contributes millions every year in missions around the world, maybe the government should invest in churches. Ooooh, c’mon CommieGud, get excited! GET FIIRRRED UP! YEEEEHAAAWW!

I’m really not this obnoxious but I do enjoy watching CG’s panties ride the curvature of his back side.

Either way, if the answer is pumping more money internationally via the UN mechanism, I’m against it and what we have been giving them IS generous based on what they have proven. It’s like a brother-in-law that keeps taking your money and buying dope with it along with the occasional head of lettuce and bologna. Anything you give him is generous.

Of course, I am conservative. I’m prone to greed, cover ups and movements to theocracize the United States of America.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


You talk funny.

Let me try and narrow you strange rant.

1) Remember divide and conquer. First phase post-tsunami is feeding, watering, clothing, disease avoiding, rape avoiding, .... you know... all of the stuff that doesn't need to go through the "are we doing this in the Christian way" algorithm. And by all means, feed those poor dogs (not necessary with cats... bad joke in here that I skipped). Dogs, imo, are twice as good as people, so I would put them at the top of the list.

2) Second phase... rebuilding, child adoption, risk analysis, political hurdles, etc. Who in there right mind would just give money without some kind of measurement of it's effectiveness? However, "did it foster Christianity" isn't a needed measurement for foreign aid. If it sounds like I'm hammering tying foreign aid to religion, your hearing is perfect. So let's make sure we try our best to get foreign aid bang for the buck... but please take a look at the world without the rose colored "we know all the answers and can control everything (guess not, note Tsunami)" glasses. Some money will end up in wrong hands... some corruption will happen... none of it offers a defense for our current foreign aid budget (lack of). BTW.. I thought I made the point that our lack of generousity spanned the Reps and Dems. Maybe another blogsite.... sorry, I'm not blogsite monogamous.

3) Please quit being one of the "get rid of the UN" bozo's. Is it too much of a concept for the UN bashers to understand how important the imperfect UN is? Also, here's a newsflash... Kofi Annan and son is not the UN. Fire the sob's... no problem. Sounds like the US has plenty of involvement in running the UN, so where were we. Let's follow your "if corrupt folks found in the org, shut it down" lack of logic. Consider the catholic church. Some of their folks, were bending small boys over for pasttime. Then, leaders in the know moved the sick sob's around ... some form of holy whack a mole... and said nothing. Too bad the church network only reaches high pitch during presidential elections. Didn't hear to many calls to shut down the Catholic church. Oh, here is another... you won't like this one a bit. I think we really have to shut down the US org. The CEO lied us into a war. Let's file for BK, and stiff the creditors... maybe then we can up our "christian filtered" foreign aid budget.

4) Anybody in there right mind is going to get the funds to people on the ground who are plugged into these societies before it became the rave to recognize other's poverty and pain. Doctors Without Borders... been watching their reps on TV... what a glorious example of humans they seem to be. Bet if we were made up of those guys only in the US, or foreign aid budget would be "ENOUGH". I took the easy way out, figured Red Cross is solid, and Amazon 1-Clicked. But, even that can be decieving... note how they falsely collected for 911, then claimed it was a pool they could use for anything. Nothing wrong with having that as a rule, but plenty wrong false adverstising.

"Of course, I am conservative. I’m prone to greed, cover ups and movements to theocracize the United States of America."

More specifically, a religous right conservative.

Yep, that's a fact. Can't dismantle social safety nets fast enough.... can't wait to get back to church handouts or die... kind a holy version of "eat your own kill fundamentalist laisse-faire". Can't wait to get more church into government... that is theocracy-lite however you want to dress it up. Can't wait for government to be shrunk down to the military complex and the church.... period. Of course, all federal saving to be applied to the military so we can ramp up the Crusades. Can't wait to create more billionaire's... but of course not interested in measuring the poor. The nation with maximum GDP, even if only a half of your nation participates, wins. Don't understand why everyone doesn't recognize our free market are perfectly capable of being a fair arbiter... no human intervention necessary... in fact, that is communism and taboo.

"It’s like a brother-in-law that keeps taking your money and buying dope with it along with the occasional head of lettuce and bologna."

No, it's like an adopted parent that takes you in, and reminds you every day "that you wouldn't be jack" without them.

GOP new theme song "I'm too greedy for my body, too greedy for my body...."

"I’m really not this obnoxious but I do enjoy watching CG’s panties ride the curvature of his back side."

Dude, quit staring at my ass.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


That, my knuckle dragging friend (or friend of a friend :), is what we call a liberal bitch slapping.

Nothing personal, we could still swap .NET notes. :)


4:23 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Bet whoever is running the following website watches over his shoulder constantly for the black helicopters. Their is the public Bush family, and the one behind the scenes. Just think, now that 43 slid in brother Jeb, maybe we can go for a three-pete in 2008.

Not pretty

4:45 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

IMO, "rebuilding" foreign aid (with strings) should involve iterative improvement by the nation receiving aid whenever possible. A real world example comes from the Tsunami disaster. Many of the devastated people earned a living by fishing. Seems like almost none of them had insurance for their boats... probably not even available. Well, if you are the US, it would seem to be a bit harsh to say... well, that's it... we won't help you with the $15,000 to get your boat back in business. Also loans may not even make sense, because the incomes are so low to begin with. What does make sense, even if we (and other rich countries) decide to cover the costs of getting the boats up and running again, is a commitment from the recipient nation regarding pooled insurance risk FOR THE NEXT DISASTER. In the end, risk analysis may prove that just covering the rare loss by the nation or donor nations is cheaper, but the point is valid. We should look for iterative improved situations these poor countries find themselves going forward.

6:32 PM  

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