Mitt Romney made a curious remark during last night’s debate, where he suggested that because China is manipulating exchange rates through large-scale purchases of American debt, that means we should eliminate humanitarian aid:
Foreign aid has several elements. One of those elements is defense, is to make sure that we are able to have the defense resources we want in certain places of the world. That probably ought to fall under the department of defense budget rather than a foreign aid budget. Part of it is humanitarian aid around the world. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to give it to another country for humanitarian aid. We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people.
This is a very odd line of thought. America’s $14.5 trillion GDP is much larger than China’s $6 trillion GDP. And on a per capita basis, the average American is four to five times as rich as the average Chinese person. What’s more, China has a very large population. There’s no need for China to look abroad to find worthy recipients of humanitarian aid and there’s no need for America to give humanitarian aid to poor Chinese people. It’s sensible to expect a growing China to be responsible for its own humanitarian needs, and it’s sensible to expect the big rich United States of America to carry a large share of the load in Africa, South Asia, and Central America. The debt purchase issue has nothing to do with anything.
Meanwhile, it would send a mighty strange message to the rest of the world for us to pre-emptively cede our global leadership role out of a goofy desire to save pennies in foreign aid spending. If you don’t want to spend money helping the global poor, then don’t spend money helping the global poor. There’s no need to turn it into a gesture about the might and power of China.