Bush and most Americans are a bunch of whining, cheapskates

By Sinclere Lee

–In the wake of the unimaginable tragedy that resulted from the tsunami that has devastated the poor people in Asia, all we can do as Americans is whine about not having a merry Christmas, and the loss of some damn baggage at the airport. We are a pathetic lot!

Now, stupid Bush defends America’s so-called generosity of just $35 million to help the tsunami victims. While Bush can spend over 200 billion in forcing democracy on the Iraqi people, the money that he has offered to help in the tragedy in Asia should put all of US to shame.

In his first remarks since the weekend disaster that so far has killed more than 76,000, Bush -- like some in his administration previously -- took umbrage at a U.N. official's suggestion that the world's richest nations were "stingy," and indicated much more is expected to be spent to help the victims.

"Well, I felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill-informed," Bush said from his Texas ranch. "We're a very generous, kindhearted nation, and, you know, what you're beginning to see is a typical response from America."

Bush noted that the United States provided $2.4 billion "in food, in cash, in humanitarian relief to cover the disasters for last year. ... That's 40 percent of all the relief aid given in the world last year."

But the journey from the $35 million to potentially $1 billion or more in help for the tens of thousands of latest victims is fraught with bureaucratic twists.

First, the U.S. Agency for International Development, which distributes foreign aid, will have to ask for more money, since the initial $35 million aid package drained its emergency relief fund, said Andrew Natsios, the agency's administrator.

"We just spent it," Natsios said. "We'll be talking to the (White House) budget office ... what to do at this point."

Natsios said the Pentagon also is spending tens of millions to mobilize an additional relief operation, with C-130 transport planes winging their way from Dubai to Indonesia with pre-stocked supplies of tents, blankets, food and water bags.

As of early Tuesday, dozens of countries and relief groups had pledged $81 million in help for South and East Asia, said the Geneva-based U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The United States uses the most common measure of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 30 rich nations that counts development aid.

By that measure, the United States spent almost $15.8 billion for "official development assistance" to developing countries in 2003. Next closest was Japan, at $8.9 billion.

That doesn't include billions more the United States spends in other areas such as AIDS and HIV programs and other U.N. assistance.

Measured another way, as a percentage of gross national product, the OECD's figures on development aid show that as of April, none of the world's richest countries donated even 1 percent of its gross national product. Norway was highest, at 0.92 percent; the United States was last, at 0.14 percent.

Such figures were what prompted Jan Egeland -- the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator and former head of the Norwegian Red Cross -- to challenge the giving of rich nations.

"We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries," Egeland said. "And it is beyond me, why are we so stingy, really.... Even Christmas time should remind many Western countries at least how rich we have become."

Egeland told reporters Tuesday his complaint wasn't directed at any nation in particular.

But Secretary of State Colin Powell clearly took umbrage while making the rounds of the morning television news shows. He said he wished Egeland hadn't made the comment and reaffirmed that the Bush administration will follow up with assistance that could stretch into the billions of dollars.

The White House also defended the U.S. record of giving.

"We outmatch the contributions of other nations combined; we'll continue to do so," Bush spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where the president is spending a post-Christmas vacation at his ranch.

Natsios said the Paris organization's figures overlook a key factor -- the billions more Americans give each year in private donations.

Americans last year gave an estimated $241 billion to charitable causes -- domestic and foreign -- according to a study by Giving USA Foundation. That's up from $234 billion in 2002. The foundation did not break down how much was for domestic causes and how much for foreign.

"That's a European standard, this percentage that's used," Natsios said. "The United States, for 40 years, has never accepted these standards that it should be based on the gross national product. We base it on the actual dollars that we spent."

"The reason is that our gross national product is so enormous. And our growth rates are so much higher than the other wealthy nations."

Back to home page