By The Standard Of Percentage Of GDP, The U.S. Is A Piker With Foreign Aid
Bill Gates's 2010 annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a telling document with regard to how much foreign aid the U.S. spends each year. It is 0.19% of the total GDP. Although in absolute numbers the U.S. gives more than any other country, in terms of GDP it is way down the list.
Bill and Melinda Gates during their visit to the Oslo Opera House in June 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Part of the problem, as Bill Gates points out, is that people are still programmed to think of foreign aid as it was duing the Cold War when a lot of it went to prop up dictatorships for the sake of them not showing allegiance to the then-Soviet Union. Those days are over for the most part.
However, it is true that a lot of the U.S. foreign aid does not go to programs promoting education, health, and development of infrastructure. Unfortunately, a lot goes to the Middle East (about a third of it) to prop up Israel and Egypt. And most of that is military aid or aid to financial institutions. If you take the non-cynical view of this, it is money to stabilize the region, the cynical view being that the U.S. is subsidizing its oil supply.
According to Gates, the U.S. is not the stingiest by any means. In terms of GDP Sweden, Norway, and Denmark at the most generous, but Italy, which during the reign of Silvio Belusconi issued very little in foreign aid to other countries.