Monterrey Misgivings

March 28, 2002

By Cal Thomas

President Bush told a United Nations conference on global development in Monterrey, Mexico, last week that Americans have an obligation to “share our wealth” with poor nations. He proposed a 50 percent increase in foreign aid. He thinks more aid should be in the form of grants, not loans. He would also forgive much of the current Third World debt. The president said new aid would only go to nations that reform their governments, economies and human-rights practices.
Mr. Bush also announced his support for a Senate bill that would grant amnesty to 200,000 more illegal Mexican immigrants as part of an “incremental” approach that could lead to amnesty for as many as 12 million people. That’s the number of people from all countries the Immigration and Naturalization Service believes have broken our immigration laws.
Let me see if I have this straight. Individuals can violate our immigration laws and get amnesty. Nations can refuse to repay the debts they owe (many, in fact, do pay) and be forgiven. And not only forgiven but they can get more money. And not only more money but grants, not loans, so they never have to worry about repaying us or any institution supported by the American taxpayer.

As Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff says, “What a country.”

The president apparently believes his ambitious plan will dampen the hatred some nations feel toward the United States, if not buy their love. He is mistaken.

Nations are poor for at least three reasons: They have the wrong governmental system, which does not allow citizens to choose their leaders; they have the wrong economic system, which stifles free enterprise and discourages capital investment; and/or they have the wrong religious system, which tells them they must pacify an angry deity, not serve a loving God who has a purpose for their lives.

Since the Marshall Plan rebuilt Western Europe after World War II, the United States has given away more of its wealth than any other nation. Some of those who have taken our money hate us and are worse off economically then before we started writing checks.

Even the liberal Brookings Institution now concedes that foreign aid does not work. Brookings scholars Michael O’Hanlon and Carol Graham studied the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid and concluded in 1997 that, “Countries getting more aid do worse macroeconomically, on average, than those getting less.” The reason, according to a study of 96 countries by Peter Boone of the London School of Economics, is because virtually none of the money is invested. All such aid does, says Mr. Boone, is increase consumption and expand the size of government without any benefits to the poor.

CATO Institute policy analyst Doug Bandow believes the U.S. Agency for International Development, a major source of foreign aid, should be eliminated and that the United States should instead open its markets to goods from the developing world. Money would then be exchanged between seller and buyer, creating wealth, and bypassing corrupt and inefficient governments.

As for immigration, each new amnesty encourages additional waves of people, who look for the same treatment once political conditions are favorable.

According to INS figures, the 1986 amnesty transformed 2.7 illegal aliens into legal residents, permanently adding millions of poor to our society. After 10 years in the United States, the average amnestied illegal alien had only a seventh-grade education and an annual salary of less than $9,000, $500 of which was sent to his or her homeland, the INS notes. According to the Center for Immigration Studies (available at, after 10 years, the direct and indirect costs of services and benefits for such ex-illegal aliens, minus their tax contributions, is over $78 billion.

Increasingly, thanks to our public schools, children of illegal immigrants do not become Americanized by learning and embracing the history, language and ways of this country. Instead, too many are taught that America is a bad place and that capitalism is a bad system, though their parents came here presumably because our system is far better than the one they left.

President Bush’s heart is in the right place but he should study the history of foreign aid and amnesty for illegal immigrants before repeating the mistakes of the past.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.