Q: Do you think the United States is spending too little, too much or the right amount to help the world's poor and aid victims of natural disasters such as the recent tsunami in Asia?
The latest projection for the U.S. gross domestic product is almost $12 billion. The government currently plans to spend $350 million on relief efforts for the Asian and African nations devastated by the tsunami disaster. Even allowing for anticipated additional American financial assistance for reconstruction, this is less than the proverbial drop in the bucket in relation to the wealth of this nation.
At the same time that the Bush administration proposes to spend such a miserly sum to rescue people, many of whom are Muslim, it is prepared to spend apparently unlimited billions of dollars to kill thousands of Muslims in a wholly unjustified war in Iraq.
The administration's priorities are clear - death over life, destruction over creation.
Sheldon H. Laskin
The American people have traditionally been very generous in helping the world's poor and the victims of natural disasters.
We rebuilt countries such as Germany and Japan following the World War II.
However, our present economic situation makes it difficult to do more than we are doing at this time.
The United States' manufacturing base is no longer what it was. The steel industry and our airlines are in trouble. And these are just a part of our problems.
There are poor people in our country who go hungry and go without adequate housing. In spite of all this, Americans have responded to help the victims of the latest disaster (the tsunami in Asia) as well as other disasters.
Can we do more? Perhaps, but we also need to restore our industrial might and stop moving our manufacturing base to other countries.
As human beings, we are morally obligated to assist our fellow men in times of strife or disasters such as the tsunami in Southeast Asia. The United States should continue to support and assist people whenever and wherever we are needed, as we always have done. We must, however, be cautious and realistic with our generosity.
The information we see daily in the media on our national debt sounds most threatening. And our country is spending huge amounts of money on the pre-emptive war in Iraq.
I believe our nation has provided enough assistance around the world.
How long can we continue to be the world's breadbasket before the well runs dry?
Last year, the U.S. government spent $2.4 billion on international humanitarian aid. The United States spends about the same amount on a couple of weeks of the occupation of Iraq.
Even the aid that is delivered by our government comes with strings attached.
The United States requires that much of its foreign aid be spent on medicines, agricultural products and manufactured goods imported from this country - no matter how costly they are compared to locally produced alternatives.
The United States makes bold proclamations about its generosity, but the reality is that it spends far more on war and destruction than on humanitarian relief.
I believe that the United States gives far too much away in foreign aid.
It is expected that, because we are the wealthiest nation on the face of the Earth, we will never see any foreign aid to this country, no matter what disaster might occur.
It is expected, again, that because we are that same wealthiest nation, we should be "the first with the most" when disaster strikes anywhere else in the world.
As a Christian nation, the American people want to help when disaster strikes. But we have no mandate, or obligation - moral or lawful - to give away our money. We do it because we want to.
The problem arises when the liberal government decides it must give, in unaffordable amounts, for each and every disaster that strikes anywhere. This is both unrealistic and, on an extended basis, ruinous to this nation, its economy and its people.
As long as there is a child in Appalachia who cannot read, or goes hungry, or a child in Harlem who attends school with a gnawing hunger every day, or who goes home to a single-parent household where that parent is seldom home - as long as poverty, hunger and ignorance exist in this nation, I believe we are giving far too much away.
And, sadly enough, many of the recipients of the benevolence of the American taxpayer are simply ungrateful.
How many of our own social ills could be corrected if we weren't so benevolently liberal in our generosity to ungrateful nations? I wonder.
Robert Di Stefano
What are the priorities of the U.S. government?
Even after the Bush administration's increase in funding for the victims of the tragic tsunami disaster to $350 million, the lion's share of tax dollars - billions, not millions - is going to the continuation of the war on Iraq - an unnecessary, pre-emptive invasion that the American people were misled into supporting through fear and jingoism.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday was celebrated recently, called for a reordering of priorities in the United States, working toward an end to poverty, racism and militarism at home and abroad.
In 1967, he said that "a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
That statement is as true today as it was then.
When did we become the caretakers of the world? When any natural disaster hits the United States, who comes to our aid? No one.
What other country gives as much as the United States? Not 10 other countries.
But, somehow, we forget about our own. We still have people living in shelters from the 2004 hurricane in Florida. Heck, we still have people in Maryland living in shelters.
With all the disasters hitting the United States of late - flooding, mudslides, etc. - don't you think we should take care of our own first? I do.
America is a net receiver of wealth from Third World countries, not the other way around. And the United States is at the bottom of the list of 22 wealthy donor nations for foreign aid as a percentage of gross national product.
The U.S. contributes at a rate of 0.15 percent, which is well below the United Nations' announced goal of devoting 0.7 percent of gross domestic product as development assistance to developing countries.
J. Russell Tyldesley
It's a normal, knee-jerk reaction to want to help anyone who is presented to us as a victim. It's who we are; it's what we do.
But while I applaud and support the fact that medicines are being sent to foreign shores, is it wrong for me to ask why I'm paying full, exorbitant prices for mine?
I think it's very magnanimous of our government to pledge millions of dollars to rebuild devastated countries and assist displaced people. But am I deluded and self-centered to wonder how much longer we will be sacrificing American servicemen and women in what Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld called "the Army we have"?
With a huge deficit, struggling social programs and a military that is being stretched gossamer-thin, I think we need to give (and yes, of course, we must give) with our heads as well as our hearts.
From an ethical and moral standpoint, the answer is clearly that we can do much more and we should.
The economic perspective is less clear, but a strong argument can be made for the proposition that the United States and other powerful countries will be financially richer in the long run if we help poorer countries succeed.
At the end of World War II, most of the countries of Europe were in desperate straits. Instead of vindictively demanding reparations, a bipartisan U.S. Congress approved the Marshall Plan, even though our own financial situation was weak. We also expended enormous sums in the rehabilitation of Japan.
These programs required high taxes and great sacrifices but helped these countries become strong economic producers. Can anyone deny that the Marshall Plan has paid for itself 1,000 times over?
We tend to forget that money circulates.
We need to contribute money and expertise to help the poor countries succeed. And when their people progress to a better lifestyle everyone benefits.
Eventually, with the right kind of help, the poor countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America can become customers for our products and producers of products we need.
Helping them to get there is a win-win proposition.