Glad people are giving relief... but sheesh.
December 31, 2004 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Our country is more humanitarian than YOURS is! No it's not. Yes it is. See? We donated more aid than you did. Well, we doubled our donation. So there. But yours are loans, not donations. Nuh uh. They're donations. Are not. Besides, we'll triple ours. And we'll send planes. You wouldn't. Watch us. Well then, we'll just octuple ours. Yeah? I bet you won't. I quadruple dog dare you. I hate you... you know that, right?
posted by miss lynnster (105 comments total)
 
Best post today.
posted by Plinko at 8:46 AM on December 31, 2004


On a side note... with far fewer fatalities than other countries, 12 spaniards were lost in the tsunami. Even so, Spain donated $68 million.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:50 AM on December 31, 2004


"I was against sending aid- Before I sent some"
posted by Balisong at 8:51 AM on December 31, 2004


I can think of worse things than countries competing to help people who genuinely need it. Countries competing to build atomic weaponry, for example.

And poor old France needs to be good at doing something, once in a while.
posted by crunchland at 8:51 AM on December 31, 2004


Well then, we'll just octuple ours. Why would France send cephalopods to help out? I betcha we send sharks if that happens.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 8:52 AM on December 31, 2004


Our generous gift of $35 million is about what Our Leader's inauguration will cost. In the spirit of conservatism, let's save some cash invite the survivors to the big party!

Uttlerly revolting stingyness.
posted by moonbird at 8:59 AM on December 31, 2004


The NYT editorial yesterday really pissed me off. Not at them, but at the US. I've never, ever understood why people here are typically so proud of the total dollar amount and completely ignore the fact that on a per capita basis the US is "stingy". It's always been this way, except perhaps after WWII.

On the other hand, that editorial mentions (without qualification or citation) that the "average" American believes that up to one-quarter of the US government's spending is on foreign aid! (The true amount is far less than one percent.)

Meanwhile, Canada has for years and years been generous both on a per capita basis, and in many other respects, as well.

It should be noted that the US, given the culture's preference to private charity over government charity, when all forms of foreign charity are tallied up, public and private, on a per capita basis the US does pretty well, comparatively.1 But even then we're in no sense the "most generous country in the world". On a total dollar basis? Yes, sure. But the local millionaire, wherever he/she may be, also gives more money to charity than most of us do. So if he/she preens about their greater generosity than the rest of us, should we fawn over them for it?

1  Too. Many. Commas. Sorry.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:59 AM on December 31, 2004


A look at Amazon's contribution page indicates that from that one avenue alone, Internet users have donated 25% of what the US government has deigned to put forth.
posted by crunchland at 9:05 AM on December 31, 2004


You know, I really don't understand the dig against the US about the amount of money that we give relative to our GNP or per capita. Do the people who recieve that money actually give a damn? Our government hands out over 15 billion dollars around the world each year, and combined with private donations (about 35 billion) from our citizens, no other country even comes close to the amount of cash we firehose on people.

Yet, that's not good enough. No, countries like France and Norway have to bark about how they contribute more per capita? Why does that matter? Because their economy is smaller, that doesn't mean their money buys more food, water and medicine. In any practical sense, if you have 5 dollars and give 1, and I have a 1000 dollars and give 50, you're doing a hell of a lot less than I am to help the person receiving that money.

The more petulant side of me says screw France, Norway and everyone else who's taking pot-shots at the US. If you want to call us stingy, hell, let us oblige you and be the stingy bastards that you accuse of being. And then see what a deep, dark hole you find yourselves in.

God, sometimes, I really wish we could go back to our isolationistic days, pre-WWI.
posted by mstefan at 9:07 AM on December 31, 2004


Why would France send cephalopods to help out? I betcha we send sharks if that happens.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 8:52 AM PST on December 31


But then Iceland would send Orkas!

Bet hey, I'd rather have an Aid Race than an Arms Race.
posted by Floydd at 9:08 AM on December 31, 2004


So if he/she preens about their greater generosity than the rest of us, should we fawn over them for it?

Fawn, no? But say "thank you", be happy that you got that money and shut your fucking mouth? Yes.
posted by mstefan at 9:09 AM on December 31, 2004


Hehe. Great post.

Ethereal Bligh, I don't know that we should be looking at the US government not providing enough foreign aid when they're cutting back on DOMESTIC social programs and screwing over their own poor. Charity begins at home, right.

As you said, most donations come from private sources. I think that's the way it should be. Charity should be a personal, voluntary thing, not something that we're forced to pay for through mandated government programs.
posted by aerify at 9:10 AM on December 31, 2004


Damn. Countries are such big babies!

In all seriousness, though - the whole huge pissing contest will have been worth it, if it ends up raising a bundle to relieve people affected by this disaster.
posted by contessa at 9:10 AM on December 31, 2004


Good to see the "ugly american" contingent is on the case.
posted by crunchland at 9:11 AM on December 31, 2004


Victims can't eat "percentages" or "per capita". Only real resources count.

Of course, tiny, insignificant countries like Norway* need some kind of metric to boast about.

* Full disclosure: I'm Norwegian.
posted by dagny at 9:12 AM on December 31, 2004


I have no evidence to this, but it wouldn't supprise me if the majority of the US "donation" goes to private firms to provide "security" and "stability patrols" for said relief aid missions.

You bring the bandages, water, and crackers, we'll bring the M16's and newly armored humvees...
posted by Balisong at 9:15 AM on December 31, 2004


And then there are the British citizens who have already donated more from their own pockets than the US government... appx. $1.7 million an hour at one point to the Disasters Emergency Committee.

If America could invest 1/10th of its war budget into actually helping people, this would be a far better world.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:17 AM on December 31, 2004


Good to see the "ugly american" contingent is on the case.

Oh, yes, we Americans are such horrible, horrible people. Our only redemption is in unabated public self-flagellation and in-depth examination of our many faults. After all, national pride is really nothing more than arrogance. Unless you're some European country with the gross national product of Podunk, Idaho. Or French.
posted by mstefan at 9:20 AM on December 31, 2004


If America could invest 1/10th of its war budget into actually helping people, this would be a far better world.

Yes, because we all know that there's no problem that can't be solved by dumping buckets of money on it. And if that doesn't work, just dump more buckets of money.

You must be a Democrat.
posted by mstefan at 9:24 AM on December 31, 2004


Yeah, spending money helping people is wasted money. What this world needs is more weapons.
posted by fleener at 9:26 AM on December 31, 2004


Oh, bullshit. The chief American character, well demonstrated here, is this putrid self-congratulations about our virtue which is, upon any real examination, a self-serving lie. We're the richest country in the world, with enormous resources, and we quick to spend a couple hundred billion to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis, but slow to spend a measly 30 million to save a few hundred thousand brown-skinned lives.

If I have to hear another American claim of virtuous generosity or another American claim of aggrieved outrage when it's shown to be the lie that it is, I'm going to throw up all over mstefan's smug face and then throw a punch or two.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:30 AM on December 31, 2004


You must be a Democrat.

Welcome to MetaFilter.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:32 AM on December 31, 2004


Yeah, spending money helping people is wasted money.

Americans, through our government and our citizens, already spend money helping people. More than any other country in the world. That should be good enough.
posted by mstefan at 9:35 AM on December 31, 2004


CNN is reporting that the U.S. is upping its aid package from $35 million to $350 million.
posted by coelecanth at 9:36 AM on December 31, 2004


If I have to hear another American claim of virtuous generosity or another American claim of aggrieved outrage when it's shown to be the lie that it is, I'm going to throw up all over mstefan's smug face and then throw a punch or two.

I have yet to see anyone claim that we're "virtuous" for donating money. I certainly didn't. I simply stated the fact that we donate more (primarily through private contributions) than anyone else, and that this idea that giving per-capita is some kind of useful benchmark is bullshit. My point is that we give enough, and while I don't expect people to go around telling us how wonderful we are, I'd like it if they just took the money, said thank you and went along their way. Not bitched at us about not giving them even more than we already have.

Oh, and may I wish you a good morning and a hearty "fuck you too, asshole"?
posted by mstefan at 9:39 AM on December 31, 2004


Floydd: we're not sending any "orkas" but we're sending a whopping 100k $. That's half of what rock band Linkin Park is sending. but per capita it's four times what the US is sending (on preview: not anymore, i guess). But still. We could easily afford to send a couple of million $. I think it's shameful.
Dagny: my country kicks your country's ass in insignificant ;)
posted by svenni at 9:46 AM on December 31, 2004


You know, I really don't understand the dig against the US about the amount of money that we give relative to our GNP or per capita. Do the people who receive that money actually give a damn? Our government hands out over 15 billion dollars around the world each year, and combined with private donations (about 35 billion) from our citizens, no other country even comes close to the amount of cash we firehose on people.

The fundamental difference is that the US is the only country which takes it upon itself to use military power for the goodof countries worldwide. You can only legitimately put your head in the sand when there is a major disaster, if you refrain from bombing the crap out of people who don't aspire to your values.

TV just announced this minute - an increase to $350M from the US. Bravo.
posted by Cancergiggles at 9:46 AM on December 31, 2004


Good god.

The US is a fantastically wealthy nation and those of us who are her citizens are prosperous beyond belief. If we don't pony up and help out the less fortunate then we confirm every disgusting stereotype that is applied to us, both foreign and domestic. The Federal government should open the floodgates. Period.

Private donations are between you and your conscience. I hope all of us feel the need to dedicate some of our discretionary income to the relief efforts despite what our respective governments decide to contribute.
posted by djeo at 9:51 AM on December 31, 2004


I'm quite proud that the public of the UK have managed to raise £45 million out of their own pockets, nearly matching our governments contribution of £50 million in just a few days.

As a small nation that's impressive.

I've just heard on Sky News that the U.S. has now upped their donation to $350 million (no links yet). Enough said.
posted by floanna at 9:52 AM on December 31, 2004


I was interested to hear that China has committed $75 million. They said it was meant as a way of thanking countries who've provided China with aid in the past.
posted by 327.ca at 9:56 AM on December 31, 2004


CNN is reporting that the U.S. is upping its aid package from $35 million to $350 million.

See what a little bitching and moaning on MetaFilter can do?
posted by msacheson at 9:56 AM on December 31, 2004


I don't mean to pick an old thread that has healed over, but what's going on here does not bode well for coordinated sustained relief is in the United Nations' mandate to coordinate relief efforts, and this is one area where the U.N. is actually very effective. There are always hard feelings when aid is being donated; it's the nature of the beast. But they many advantages over donor states.

Bush's rush to coordinate the effort is a classic example of ideology with no policy. Bush tries to step in for the U.N. whenever possible. But I don't really see a viable long-term plan for the region, nor do I see any relief mechanisms falling into place. Just throwing money into a pot doesn't rebuild a region. Sure France wants to show up the U.S., sure it's good that they are upping the ante, but why are donor states sidestepping the U.N. ? This seems like a knee-jerk reaction.

I have never seen evidence to support the claim that USians donate more to charity per capita more than any other society. I'd like to think it's true, but I am a little suspicious.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 9:58 AM on December 31, 2004


I'd like it if they just took the money, said thank you and went along their way. Not bitched at us about not giving them even more than we already have.

For the record, I think they do, by and large. The pissing contest mainly seems to be between the developed nations about whose donation is bigger.

Not that it's a terribly important point, but I think if we're going to get irate about it, we might as well at least direct the ire at people who arguably deserve it (other donors) rather than those who generally don't (aid recipients).
posted by rkent at 9:59 AM on December 31, 2004


You can only legitimately put your head in the sand when there is a major disaster...

My understanding was that the initial 35 million from USAID was basically that organization dumping it's entire emergency fund on the spot and we said that it was only the first step. And now we've committed 350 million. So who is putting their head in the sand, exactly?
posted by mstefan at 10:01 AM on December 31, 2004


I think countries *SHOULD* compete to donate heavily to help the earthquake survivors...

Besides, it gives them a good excuse to ignore the Bush administration's increasingly bellicose pleas to bail him out in Iraq.

"Sorry... we already gave. And we didn't have to be a party to the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis to do it!"
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:09 AM on December 31, 2004


Sure France wants to show up the U.S., sure it's good that they are upping the ante, but why are donor states sidestepping the U.N. ? This seems like a knee-jerk reaction.

You do realize that the UN is part of the relief core group, and we're coordinating with them? Did you even watch the press conference with Kofi Annan where he said that he was pleased with the level of coordination between all of the donor countries and the UN? Apparently not. Get your facts straight.

I have never seen evidence to support the claim that USians donate more to charity per capita more than any other society. I'd like to think it's true, but I am a little suspicious.

There is no such claim. The claim is that US citizens and private corporations donate more in total dollars than any other country, and as far as I know, that's true. Last year, it was somewhere between 35 and 40 billion. As I've said before, the whole per-capita benchmark is just bullshit spouted by smaller countries who want to stroke themselves off about what wonderful world citizens they are and confirm in their own minds how Americans really do suck.
posted by mstefan at 10:09 AM on December 31, 2004


save a few hundred thousand brown-skinned lives

Oh no you did not!

;)
posted by sic at 10:12 AM on December 31, 2004


Actually, I am not registered as a Democrat, mstefan... I am simply opposed to war. From the volunteer work I've done I've learned that, contrary to your belief, money can help those in need. So, I do see money as well spent on things that help people... aid, education, or whatever. Call me silly, but I think that taking care of the inhabitants of this planet is a far better investment than having a ginormous deficit to fund killing people.

I do understand that some people cannot discuss current events without getting overly personal. But IMHO, when people make personal attacks against eachother that are totally unneccessary, it just ruins the threads & makes you look totally rude.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:14 AM on December 31, 2004


From the volunteer work I've done I've learned that, contrary to your belief, money can help those in need.

Where did I say that money can't help those in need? The point I was making, which apparently zoomed right over your head, was that just firehosing unlimited amounts of cash on a problem does not necessarily resolve that problem. And, in fact, often creates problems of its own.

Charity is a wonderful thing, and I certainly believe in helping people. I also believe more in helping people help themselves, and spending money wisely and efficiently. And, frankly, there's a lot more to charity than simply throwing buckets of money at people. Certainly money is an important part of it, but not the solution in toto.

I do understand that some people cannot discuss current events without getting overly personal.

And I'm sick to death of liberal wankers using this tragedy as another opportunity to knock the United States up along side the head. Nothing that we ever do seems to be good enough for anyone, and it pisses me off to no end.
posted by mstefan at 10:22 AM on December 31, 2004


The US is a fantastically wealthy nation

We're up to our eyeballs in debt.

You bring the bandages, water, and crackers, we'll bring the M16's and newly armored humvees...

Sadly, they proved necessary in Somalia and Bosnia.

the "average" American believes that up to one-quarter of the US government's spending is on foreign aid

So average American taxpayer is content to pass off one quarter of his federal taxes to the poor. Speaks pretty well of the average American taxpayer, wouldn't you say?

As a side note, could we have a little less obscenity? It hurts my eyes.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:30 AM on December 31, 2004


It occurred to me as I was reading the linked article that what America gives is still point something (.15 or what-have-you). It's not even a whole percentage point. If Bush or any other president truly wanted to maintain some aura of "This is a Christian nation", couldn't they begin to advocate a 10% "tithe" (if you will) of money given to countries outside of ourself?

Or am I misreading this? What does .15 developmental aid actually mean? Is that truly all the money we're giving to help other countries in disaster times?
posted by redsparkler at 10:31 AM on December 31, 2004


"As I've said before, the whole per-capita benchmark is just bullshit..."

Actually, judging donations per capita is a lot more meaningful way to judge the balance of money donated than total donations, which favors larger countries. More meaningful still is the amount of donations as a percentage of GDP.

What it comes down to is that many Americans don't like to hear that their government was being stingy, even when it was only willing to cough up $15 million initially.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:32 AM on December 31, 2004


Let FEMA tell people in the U.S. after the next big tornado or earthquake or whatnot that "throwing money at the problem" won't do any good, and refuse to give them a dime. Money, it won't help rebuild roads 'n' crap, or help people rebuild their shelters faster, or provide extra security in a chaotic situation, or help get medicine to people quickly, etc.
posted by raysmj at 10:33 AM on December 31, 2004


Actually, judging donations per capita is a lot more meaningful way to judge the balance of money donated...

Right. And explain to me exactly how some starving kid in Indonesia eats "balance of money"? Or perhaps you'd like to share your wisdom on how "balance of money" can be used to prevent an outbreak of cholera? Oh, wait! It can't! It's the money itself, along with the many volunteers, which actually do those things.

What it comes down to is that many Americans don't like to hear that their government was being stingy, even when it was only willing to cough up $15 million initially.

That money was the initial response from one US agency, and it the following $20 million was basically it spending everything it had on hand before having to go get approval to spend more. You see, the President doesn't have a personal checkbook to the national treasury. We clearly stated that the money USAID gave was only the beginning. But you're obviously hard of reading. It's much easier just to snipe at the US and call us stingy.

On preview:
Let FEMA tell people in the U.S. after the next big tornado or earthquake or whatnot that "throwing money at the problem" won't do any good...

Are you being intentionally obtuse, or is English just your second language and you don't read very well? How does "it doesn't make sense to just firehose money on to people" translate into "not giving a dime"? There is a middle ground there where you can spend money effectively while not thinking that heaps of cash just magically make every problem go away.
posted by mstefan at 10:42 AM on December 31, 2004


TV just announced this minute - an increase to $350M from the US. Bravo.

How sad. We were literally shamed into contributing more. What fucking misers we are.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:42 AM on December 31, 2004


How sad. We were literally shamed into contributing more. What fucking misers we are.

My case in point. No matter what we do, it's never good enough. Just another opportunity to beat us over the head. And hell, with citizens like you, who needs France to do it?
posted by mstefan at 10:47 AM on December 31, 2004


Ok. My point was made. mstefan, you have a disrespectful & condescending way of speaking to other posters that IMO is totally unneccessary. I agree with IndigoJones' side note.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:52 AM on December 31, 2004


There's a lot of good things that the US does and a heck of a lot of reasons to be proud if you're an American and to defend the US when it's criticized. Our committment to foreign aid and charity to the poor, diseased, starving people of the world is not one of them.

What's not mentioned in that "average Americans think that 25% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid" is that poll after poll shows that the people that think this begrudge it. "Charity should start at home", they say. (As above, from both the left and the right.)

And the point of my anger and outrage is that whenever and wherever anyone ever points out that the US lags behind almost every other wealthy nation in terms of per capita or percentage of GDP for foreign aid, there's this sort of hysterical, self-satisfied, angry, self-righteous, and villifying complaint of patriotic, chauvinistic "we're #1! we're #1!", "we're so wonderful!", "people just like to bash the US" crap that mstefan here so neatly exemplifies.

It's the hypocrisy that I can't stand, this ostentatious and false virtue coupled with, of all things, a sense of victimhood.

It's not that the American people aren't generous and caring. I've seen a great deal of evidence in my life that indicates that we are. We well may be more generous and caring than average in the same way that most people around the world will alow that Americans are more friendly than average. It's not the essential character of the American soul I'm criticizing in this regard (generosity, kindness). No, I'm criticizing the insularity that makes it possible for most Americans to believe that our government and its (and our own private) presence in the world is quite different than what it really is; that we are actually, in practice generous when we really aren't; and, mostly, this chauvinistic sense of moral superiority coupled with a sense of outraged victimhood when it's questioned ("They just hate us! They're jealous!") What it reminds me of is, well, children.

Children can be astonishingly generous. Much more so than the average adult. They can also be very selfish. They believe in the ideal of generosity and kindness and, if questioned, will support it very strongly. But their behavior is generally erratic. A breathtakingly selfless and kind act is followed by something selfish and vicious. And always there are self-justifications. All this is true of children because, more than adults, they live in a reality that's chiefly shaped by their emotional (not intellectual, rational) experience of it. They can love everyone then, inexplicably, be sure that everyone is out to get them and hates them.

Fortunately, most children grow up to be more reflective, more self-critical, and more aware of the big, wide world beyond themselves.

Americans, collectively, however, don't seem to be doing the same.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:52 AM on December 31, 2004


mstefan, you have a disrespectful & condescending way of speaking to other posters that IMO is totally unneccessary.

You're breaking my heart.
posted by mstefan at 10:56 AM on December 31, 2004


mstefan: Thanks for the calm, collected argument. And where is that middle ground, exactly? Was it at the $15 billion (the amount discussed in your first use of the word "firehose") or the $350 million or whatever you've been extolling in a few of your dozen uber-defensive posts here? The $15 billion was, in the grand sheme of things, almost as good as giving nothing. Much of the initially promised money came as a line of credit anyhow.
posted by raysmj at 10:58 AM on December 31, 2004


Extremely well put, EB.
posted by toby\flat2 at 10:58 AM on December 31, 2004


Very well put. I agree.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:02 AM on December 31, 2004


I'm "uber-defensive" because I'm unwilling to join the liberal MeFi circle-jerk over what stingy bastards Americans and their government is? Ok. Guilty as charged, I suppose.
posted by mstefan at 11:05 AM on December 31, 2004


By the way, some of us are worried about whether money-from ANY source-will wind up lining someone's pockets rather than going to the people that need it.

Our church has a Sri Lankan native pastor contact, and that is probably where my aid will go....all I am saying is in the rush to be generous, let's all be as careful as we can.
posted by konolia at 11:09 AM on December 31, 2004


mstefan: You still didn't answer my question. What's the middle ground? Do you even agree that aid is necessary? If not, why don't you come right out and say so and not go on about how, y'know, really, we do all right, we give a lot, and you shouldn't throw money at problems, y'know, and, look, we're giving away a lot of money, and y'all should just all shut up if you're not satisfied, you ... you ... foreign nations.

There is a good reason to be skeptical of where money goes. But for diplomatic reasons, and just for reasons related to sharing the same planet and a common humanity, we should give as much as we can. My only big concern at this point is that America can hardly afford it, given Iraq and prescription drug benefits and general irresponsible spending. But what are we gonna do? "Oh, all that earlier wasteful spending? Well, those days are gone, won't be no more. So you don't get any dough. Sorry."
posted by raysmj at 11:14 AM on December 31, 2004


For all you know there are people on this thread that might agree with your statements if only you weren't being such a defensive tool to everyone. You are FAR too busy coming across as Mr. Angry Holier Than Thou, alienating people & judging them to ever allow or inspire them to agree with you.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:14 AM on December 31, 2004


mstefan, you have a disrespectful & condescending way of speaking to other posters that IMO is totally unneccessary.

You're breaking my heart.


mstefan, until you have the decency to include your email address or some other form of identification or contact information in your profile, you are simply a troll.
posted by whatnot at 11:18 AM on December 31, 2004


mstefan,

I know that Kofi Anan is acknowledging the aid of the U.S. That is what diplomats say. Before you tell me to get my facts straight (or tell me to fuck off), please consider that the politics of international relief are complex, and statements and news releases are subtle. Something tells me that you may be new to diplomacy.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:19 AM on December 31, 2004


What's not mentioned in that "average Americans think that 25% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid" is that poll after poll shows that the people that think this begrudge it. "Charity should start at home", they say

They may begrudge it, as they begrudge most taxes, but they're not voting out their representatives to change it. Ergo, they accept it as not an unreasonable use of the money. And many of them still donate to charity. Remarkable.

Here's a little thought experiment:

If Hurricane Godawful wipes out your entire state, FEMA comes in and cuts cheques for all involved.

If Microstorm Statisticallyinsignificant flattens your house and leaves everyone else alone, you are on your own.

Discuss from a moral, social, and financial perspective.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:19 AM on December 31, 2004


Some perspective, and some proof that there's still life in the MasterCard meme [thanks to Dan Levenson].
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:22 AM on December 31, 2004


mstefan, your premise that only Democrats "firehose money at problems" is ludicrous, considering the endless firehose gushing into Iraq at the moment.

And dismissing any criticism of US government actions, however grounded in fact, as "wanking" and "US-bashing" is a childish and cheap rhetorical technique. Any given criticism could be erroneous or unfair, but rolling all criticism up into a ball of "whining" is just stupid. Either have the balls to actually refute the criticisms or open a big can of shut the fuck up.

My personal belief, as a lifelong independent, is that the polarized two-party structure in the US leads to financial waste overall. My observations are that legislators have a "the other side got $$$X, so our side should get $$$$$XXX or we'll look like pussies" mentality which has been one of the factors in leading to our current budget deficit--the largest in history--and enormous national debt.

I think it's great that the US is contributing $350 million of public funds to the relief effort. I think it's laudable that individual US citizens are contributing personally.

I agree with miss lynnster that, for once, dueling international egos are going to wind up benefiting people really in need of help.

And konolia makes a good point--people should be sure that their giving is to reputable groups that will use the money wisely.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:26 AM on December 31, 2004


Okay, France, fine. You have a big dick, okay? SHEESH!
posted by OhPuhLeez at 11:34 AM on December 31, 2004


because we have all the time in the world to be careful.

*sigh* Corruption is part of what being human is all about. I have no doubt that the majority of posters on any side of ideology could be corrupted pretty quick.

The per capita scale is a good measure in my opinion. For example who gives more? The person who donates $3,000 from a $30k salary, or someone who gives $6,000 from a $1.5 mil salary?

I think, perhaps, conservative concerns and points could be at least addressed without needless flaming, perhaps? And if the place makes you so angry you have to name call, why post or read at all?

If you think people are America bashing, say so. Don't rant, it weakens your position and makes it harder for people to listen.
posted by edgeways at 11:35 AM on December 31, 2004


Just did a little research to put things into some perspective.

Wikipedia lists current US aid committments as $350 million Government ; $70 million NGO’s & Private.

I checked the FEMA news page for December and found some comparison numbers. Bearing that other countries don't send a lot of disaster aid to the US.

Dec 22 - Florida aid now 3.3 billion dollars
Dec 22 – Pennsylvania 111 million dollars
Dec 22 – 2005 commitment for homeless in US 153 million

I didn't take time to look up the amount of aid funded for Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana or others.

Now I have some comparison numbers....
posted by X4ster at 11:35 AM on December 31, 2004


The Commitment to Development Index is a far more interesting way to judge the generosity of a nation than total dollars, or percent GDP.

I'd guess this index isn't widely cited in the United States because it doesn't strongly support the idea that we give too much nor that we give too little.
posted by mosch at 11:37 AM on December 31, 2004


I'm unwilling to join the liberal MeFi circle-jerk

Then go away. You're trolling and we don't want to contribute to your lonely onanism when we're busy with each other.
posted by djeo at 11:38 AM on December 31, 2004


The US is a fantastically wealthy nation and those of us who are her citizens are prosperous beyond belief.

In my environment, my fellow US citizens work more hours and work harder (more productivity) than citizens of most other countries, while their paychecks falling behind in real value, their savings are lost to medical emergencies, and they receive less social services than citizens of most other industrialized nations.
posted by semmi at 11:44 AM on December 31, 2004


Hurried and poorly done prior comment. Can I try again with links?

Just did a little research to put things into some perspective.

Wikipedia (Wikipedia) lists current US aid committments for victims of Indian Ocean tsunamia at; $350 million Government ; $70 million NGO’s & Private.

I checked the FEMA news page for December FEMA and found some comparison numbers. Bearing in mind that other countries don't send a lot of disaster aid to the US.

Dec 22 - Florida Hurricane aid now 3.3 billion dollars
Dec 22 – Pennsylvania storm aid 111 million dollars
Dec 22 – 2005 commitment for homeless in US 153 million

I didn't take time to look up the amount of hurricane aid funded for Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana or others.

Now I have some comparison numbers....
posted by X4ster at 11:53 AM on December 31, 2004


miss lynnster - great post!

The idea of nations publicly challenging each other to greater levels of giving is wonderful - whatever metrics they use.

A crisis of this magnitude should pull people together around a common cause of helping the unfortunate victims, not be used as a forum for partisan rants and inflammatory allegations, and certainly not for profanity or personal insults. This applies to nations in the international forum as well as to posters in this thread.
posted by JParker at 11:58 AM on December 31, 2004


I wonder what will happen when the next big disaster strikes somewhere in this lonely world and Norway (or whoever) doesn't have anymore money to donate... while the U.S. ponies up another .15% (or whatever the figure is).

Disaster A - .15%
Disaster B - .15%
Disaster C ...and so forth.

I apologize for participating in this thread and would also like to admit that, at this point, I still haven't donated one filthy nickle. My American Christmas of excess has wiped me out completely. Additionally, I really just don't care all that much for brown people. But I am going deer hunting tomorrow. Peace!
posted by Witty at 11:59 AM on December 31, 2004


old barn door hinges
squeak rusty closing crow caws
that the horse can’t hear.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:05 PM on December 31, 2004


I just cannot understand the feeling of victimhood in this country. Other people are suffering through a holocaust and for some reason we can only focus on ourselves, our feelings are hurt and we feel like other people just don't appreciate us enough. Not to mention our persecution by those vicious bullies, Norway and France - it's intolerable.

I just don't get it.

If we're such a freaking world leader and such a hyper-power, we need to step up. This is a golden oppportunity to win some good will in the Muslim world and it's already been badly bungled by our initial stinginess. I'm glad that we're giving more now, but our current leadership has once again shown their incompetence at winning international goodwill.

X4ster - that was a great point about how much aid went to hurricane disaster areas. I've been down to Florida recently and it's amazing how much they've recovered. I guess turning on a firehose of cash works!
posted by rks404 at 12:22 PM on December 31, 2004


Additionally, I really just don't care all that much for brown people.

happy new year.
posted by the cuban at 12:31 PM on December 31, 2004


Dec 22 - Florida Hurricane aid now 3.3 billion dollars

Yes, and the FEMA payouts are now being called into question. Also reported on NPR (audio).
posted by Juicylicious at 12:37 PM on December 31, 2004


I just cannot understand the feeling of victimhood in this country.

It's the constant pile-on that gets old. We got it already. Americans are fat, selfish, stubborn, uneducated brutish dolts. (feel free to fine tune that)

The per capita scale is a good measure in my opinion. For example who gives more? The person who donates $3,000 from a $30k salary, or someone who gives $6,000 from a $1.5 mil salary?

Perhaps. But how many times can you expect to get $3,000 out the 30Ker before he's tapped? Guess who the needy are going to keep coming back to... Mr. Millionaire. If he blows his wad on the first person that comes calling, he ain't got shit for the next guy. You're thinking as though this is the last of the "disasters".
posted by Witty at 12:46 PM on December 31, 2004


It's only the biggest natural disaster that's happened on Earth in most of our lifetimes here.
posted by raysmj at 12:58 PM on December 31, 2004


It's only the biggest natural disaster that's happened on Earth in most of our lifetimes here.

Nope. This is like the total amount contributed by country thing. "Number of countries affected", which is the only metric that could be used to support this assertion, seems to me to be very facile.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:10 PM on December 31, 2004


Yes, I did make a small personal donation to Direct Relief International for the tsunami aid. I also spent six months doing typhoon relief work among the locals in the South Pacific over the last three years.
posted by X4ster at 1:13 PM on December 31, 2004


It's only the biggest natural disaster that's happened on Earth in most of our lifetimes here.

And? I wasn't saying any differently. My point, whether right or wrong, is clear... when other countries have depleted their "disaster relief funds for other countries", those other countries will still look to the U.S. for aid. Hopefully, we can provide it. So it's wonderful that Norway was able to belly up truckload of cash for these victims, but they won't, and can't, do it forever. No one can.
posted by Witty at 1:21 PM on December 31, 2004


I'm "uber-defensive" because I'm unwilling to join the liberal MeFi circle-jerk over what stingy bastards Americans and their government is? Ok. Guilty as charged, I suppose.

That doesn't make logical sense. You're defensive because you're unwilling to join the lefties? You could just as easily not be a superanuated cocksucker and still disagree with the liberals, you know? Now, if you said, "I'm uber-defensive because my mother dressed me as a girl until I was 15 and now I over-react to anyone who disagrees with me," that would make logical (if A -> B) sense.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:23 PM on December 31, 2004


I apologize for participating in this thread and would also like to admit that, at this point, I still haven't donated one filthy nickle. My American Christmas of excess has wiped me out completely. Additionally, I really just don't care all that much for brown people. But I am going deer hunting tomorrow. Peace!

Some threads are just poison. This one, for instance. I should know better by now, but...

Much is being made of the terrific burden the wealthier nations are forced to take on when disaster strikes. Why is it so hard to realize that Western nations aren't prosperous because their citizens are more upstanding, smarter, harder working, more deserving, etc? They're prosperous due to the predatory economic, military, and political policies of the last couple of centuries.

They say that the world's wealthiest 16% consume 80% of the planet's natural resources. Surely it's obvious that this is not sustainable or justifiable. What goes around comes around. How can we who live in such comfort begrudge the need to help?
posted by 327.ca at 1:25 PM on December 31, 2004


Witty: You used the word disaster in quotations, as if it were just a little thing that happened and not a major event. Then you stated that this wouldn't be the last of such events, as if it were just some little everyday occurrence.

meanwhile, Ethereal Bligh: Would you care, then, to tell me which disaster has been worse in terms of both financial (adjusted for standard of living, inflation, etc.) and human costs? I'm thinking one time natural disaster as well, and not a much more slowly developing one, such as a famine. I'm genuinely curious.

I'm also originally wrote "heard about in our lifetimes" and that was more accurate. There was a big Chinese flood in the '70s that wasn't written about in English until decades later, I believe. And as pathetic as some of the coverage of this event has been, the coverage has been of the large-scale variety.
posted by raysmj at 1:29 PM on December 31, 2004


Ethereal: what natural disaster in the past 35 years (which for most of us should more or less constitute our lifetimes) killed more than 135,000 people? I'm genuinely unaware of any such event.

Generally I would think the metric for disaster severity would be lives lost, and I'm struggling to recall anything since 1970 that killed over 100,000 people, period.
posted by Ryvar at 1:37 PM on December 31, 2004


league table
posted by the cuban at 1:41 PM on December 31, 2004


Tianjin , China, 1976; earthquake, at least 280K killed.
Bangladesh, 1970; flood, about 300K killed.

Both within 35 years.

"Merely" over 135K would include several others.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:43 PM on December 31, 2004


mstefan: 13 posts since 10:45a CST? Trust me, you're not saying anything that couldn't have waited a little while and be put into one big post. (That I could scroll past all at once)
posted by absalom at 1:46 PM on December 31, 2004


I haven't been able to find any detailed sources, and I would be interested to know more about where disaster relief dollars (or euros or yen) actually end up. I presume that immediate needs, such as water and blankets, can be purchased by relief agencies in the area of the disaster, boosting local economies. But what about when it comes to rebuilding infrastructure, do those contracts go to locals or does the money flow back to the more developed world via its multi-national construction companies?

As to the generosity, or not, of western nations. I feel that Mr Egeland's comments about the 'stingy' response of Western nations may have been less than diplomatic (even if I do agree, which I do), but if they did anything to get money flowing to where there is huge need then I say good, that is his job after all.

It seems to me to come down to this: If we agree that aid is useful and appropriate (not everyone does) and that despite the risks of misuse or corruption it is worth giving, then we who can afford should give and we should give generously. I am a citizen of two Western nations and although both of them have done relatively well at stepping up for this great need I still feel that they could and should do better. I have told my political representatives so.

As an aside, what does 'charity starts at home' mean to the people using the phrase, I would be interested to know.
posted by pasd at 1:50 PM on December 31, 2004


-pasd –

With a limited first hand knowledge of where aid goes I can tell you that most agencies and organizations first prefer to purchase relief goods from the closest source to where they are needed. It’s good for the local economy and lessens shipping complications. Wherever practical, infrastructure rebuilding is done by local workers using local materials from local vendors, again to support the area’s economy. Salaried US workers are generally asked to “spend all per diem”. That means that they’re expected to spend all the travel reimbursement money that they may get so that the money goes directly into the local economy. Most of the US Fed disaster relief workers that I’ve seen overseas have been generous with the locals and bought up all sorts of local handicrafts, largely for the benefit of native peoples.
posted by X4ster at 2:17 PM on December 31, 2004


As noted above, $350 million in aid from the US - a welcome step in the right direction.

Interesting read from this morning's Boston Globe (prior to the announced bump in aid) :

"...on a per capita basis and as a percentage of the nation's wealth, America's emergency relief in Asia and development aid to poor countries actually ranks at the bottom of the list of developed nations, some of the world's top economists and analysts of international development aid said yesterday.

The world's Asian relief effort -- the largest in history -- and the enormity of the disaster have put into sharp focus an intensifying debate over what it means for a country to be generous: how much should wealthy nations pledge for relief from natural disasters, and how much should those governments donate for development in poorer nations?

As of yesterday, the amount the United States has pledged is eclipsed by the $96 million promised by Britain, a country with one-fifth the population, and by the $75 million vowed by Sweden, which amounts to $8.40 for each of its 9 million people. Denmark's pledge of $15.6 million amounts to roughly $2.90 per capita. The US donation is 12 cents per capita." [from "Global analysts dispute perceived US generosity"; Boston Globe; December 31, 2004]
posted by ericb at 3:19 PM on December 31, 2004


Busting into here late and sweaty, I'd like to blurt out that while I'm sure much of these upped donations are part of a larger charitable dick measuring contest, the reality is also that governments can't instantly throw out a specific figure of what's going to relief efforts.

I remember back when France had €100,000 or so down, and there was much head-scratching. And then they increased it to a sane amount (€30 million? Is it higher now?). And then I saw Colin Powell on Nightline talking about how the $35 million was just a down payment, and that he would have to meet with Bush and others to see from where to draw out more money and how much more those amounts could be. Now it's $350 million, and I'm sure it'll go up from there both directly and indirectly. Doesn't mean that Bush isn't a tard, or that we can't do more, or that we won't do more, but citing that $35 million in statements about the American government's generosity or lack thereof is no more accurate or well-informed than when I saw the commentators on Fox and Friends scoffing at France's €100,000.

Many of these early figures don't represent anything except what can be approved instantaneously. It's not like there's just a big pile of money with one guy sitting on top, holding a clipboard, ready to pass it out at a moment's notice. There are levels of authority and budgets and whatnot that must be dealt with, and in addition to that, money may not be approved until people can figure out how it's going to be spent, so that you aren't winding up with $350 million worth of anoraks sitting at port while people starve outside.

No doubt, there's an element of a horse race here, but it's probably much less than it appears, and expressed more through Bush's coalition to distribute aid versus going solely through the UN and other such political dickery than through sheer dollar amount.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:26 PM on December 31, 2004


D'oh. The dollar amount for France is $57 million. That's what I get for having the memory of a coked-up gnat.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:46 PM on December 31, 2004


Meanwhile, over at the Justice League of America



With thanks and apologies to Tim Wan
posted by OhPuhLeez at 6:02 PM on December 31, 2004


Best post today.

What are your criteria?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:52 PM on December 31, 2004


It was obviously early in the day, stavros.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:59 PM on December 31, 2004


Been a long time since I've made a comment here, but what the hell.

Having been running a charity now for over a year, I have come to learn how slimely some charities can be. While I would encourage any and all to donate to the relief efforts, I would also suggest spending some time researching the charities you are giving to. Size of the organization means little.
posted by Plunge at 12:00 AM on January 1, 2005


Oh yeah, and if you want to get personally involved in the aid effort in the form of buying things and sending them off yourself, we are currently shifting our focus to help with this relief effort. :-) Yes, shameless self promotion.

Here.
posted by Plunge at 12:06 AM on January 1, 2005


puh-lease.
I hate the US Administration as much as any other right minded European, but they've always been good for Humanitarian aid. It was obvious that the US would pledge more money as the scale of the problem increased, and I'm happy to see that the amount of aid given is greater than my initial estimates. Please note also that the US isn't the only country offering the money as a "loan". Spain is (was) doing exactly the same thing.

Also, this may not be about governments outdoing each other, but rather responding to the will of their people. Democracy in action.
posted by seanyboy at 2:47 AM on January 1, 2005


Many of these early figures don't represent anything except what can be approved instantaneously.
Couldn't have said it better myself
posted by seanyboy at 2:50 AM on January 1, 2005


>we quick to spend a couple hundred billion to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis, but slow to spend a measly 30 million to save a few hundred thousand brown-skinned lives.

Wow, the looney left is tripping over itself to find any way to criticize Bush using this horrible disaster as their platform. Talk about a lack of ethics.

I dont like the guy either, but this whole "generosity" ranking crap and picking some arbitrary government function and comparing it to the aid are really low blows and you guys are just using dead people cheap political kicks. Did it ever occur to you that nations closer to the event itself will pitch in more? Or there's no real guide to work with on these matters? Or that there's a chain of command for doling out huge amounts of money? Its like there's this global poker bet and "we gotta beat them japs!" Pathetic really. I'm glad aid agencies are out there and working and volunteers aren't just sitting around and bitching about how Bush is Satan.

If it wasnt the war, it would be the inauguration, or missile defense, etc. Sigh. No wonder you guys can't get anyone in office.

Not to mention the playing the race card of "the brown people" is an even lower blow.
posted by skallas at 4:24 AM on January 1, 2005


< the idea of nations publicly challenging each other to greater levels of giving is wonderful - whatever metrics they use. (jparker)>>

Two points of perspective: (1) If we're going to have nations challenging each other, giving wars are preferable to the far more historically prevalent kind. (2) There have been some controversial comparisons between this tragedy and 9/11 in other MF posts, but one is very apt: When wallets are opened so quickly in response to disasters such as these, massive corruption and theft are never far away. Recall the post-9/11 tales of fraud, and beware. I would prefer to see the money coming in more measured amounts, over a longer term, to heal this the right way rather than have people tripping over each other with photo-op checks in hand.
posted by humannature at 8:36 AM on January 1, 2005


The post itself was cleverly written, nice work. The topic, on the other hand, was a clarion call for trolls to come out from under the bridge...and voila...so they did. I'm not going to address them individually...you know who you are, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

That said, much of this brouhaha about who gave what is nothing but a giant international penis competition. Good lord, who cares what people have pledged, what matters is what's happening on the ground in the area.

I can pledge a zillion dollars...doesn't mean the money is ever going to show up in any tangible format. There are people trapped on reefs, there are people surrounded by the bloated corpses of their friends and family, there are people dying at this very moment from the diseases that are ravaging through the area.

Could everyone just put their penises away and get some freaking plane loads of blankets, food, medicine, and personnel over there, please? We can sort out the accounting later. Right now...let's get some tangibles on the ground.
posted by dejah420 at 9:52 AM on January 1, 2005


Well said, thanks.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:02 AM on January 1, 2005


Footnote: the pissing contest continues on...
posted by miss lynnster at 2:47 PM on January 1, 2005


That said, much of this brouhaha about who gave what is nothing but a giant international penis competition.

I get your point and agree, but it's not like women are immune to engaging in pointless pissing contests. Is it still a penis contest when they do it?
posted by jonmc at 9:21 PM on January 1, 2005


Well, Japan's a little closer to the action. I don't think Japan is trying to prove how big it's penis is here - it's Japan, already.
posted by raysmj at 10:33 PM on January 1, 2005


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