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The thanks we get

(NOTE: See the follow-up to this post below.)

The death toll from the disastrous Indian Ocean tsunami has passed 29,000 and is expected to climb.

The U.S. pledged to take a major relief role, providing $15 million in aid for starters, with $400,000 already disbursed.

In response, U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland slammed the U.S. as "stingy" and said America should raise taxes on its citizens so it would have more funds to give.

Really, I'm not making that up.

Of course, lower taxes allow the American people to make their own charitable contributions with their own money, a point lost on Mr. Egeland. Americans regularly give at least 2% of GDP annually to charity, amounting to over $240 billion in 2003. That's many, many times more than the foreign aid budget of any nation on earth. (America's own 2003 Official Developmental Assistance budget -- the world's biggest -- was only $16 billion.)

The entire European Union has pledged only 3 million euros ($4 million) so far, although it is suggesting that more will be on the way. Louis Michel, European Commissioner responsible for humanitarian aid, said that the E.U. "is able to mobilize up to 30 million [euros] promptly through its emergency procedures."

Am I being too cynical to think that there might be a difference between "able to mobilize", and "actually giving"?

Meanwhile, gingerly easing toward the barn door after the horses have run off, southern Asian governments are thinking about whether they should finally get around to having a tsunami warning system.

My commenters have pointed out that Egeland's initial comments, while reeking of ingratitude and ignorance of economics, were directed more generally at rich western nations including America, as opposed to singling America out for stinginess.

(It's just another reminder of the power of the blogosphere -- as well as the value of having commenters who don't automatically agree with everything you say.)

Egeland has also since said that his initial comments were "misinterpreted":

I have been misinterpreted when I yesterday said that my belief that rich countries in general can be more generous. This has nothing to do with any particular country or the response to this emergency. It is still early, and the aid so far has been positive. The international aid has arrived as promised from the US, Europe, and countries in the region have also been very generous.
Also, the death toll is closing in on 60,000, which it may even have passed as I write this. And Secretary of State Powell stated that the U.S. will be sending at least another $20 million in aid on top of the initial $15 million.


fasteddie said...

the Washington Times link you've provided it says:"It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really," the Norwegian-born U.N. official told reporters. "Christmastime should remind many Western countries at least, [of] how rich we have become."

CNN he uses the same word again:
"If, actually, the foreign assistance of many countries now is 0.1 or 0.2 percent of the gross national income, I think that is stingy, really," he said. "I don't think that is very generous."
In an interview Monday night with CNN, Egeland reiterated his view: "It bothers me that we -- the rich nations -- are not becoming more generous the more rich we become."
The average rich country gives just 0.2 percent of its national income to international solidarity and international assistance, he said.

Clearly his comments were not directed only at the U.S. as you've protrayed. He uses the qualifier "We" in both statements. He is simply appealing for more relief monies all around,from the rich western countries for a known need. It doesn't seem he is attacking the U.S. contribution. wouldn't that be undiplomatic to slap the person who is giving you money? He is clearly apealing for more money though.
Because he wants to do more, you see it as a unreasonable attack?

futher more from your yahoo link, and your Washinton Times Link:
"the European Union's executive arm releasing $4 million in emergency aid and pledging an additional $27 million."

"European Union will send an initial 3 million euros"

for a total of 31 million from Europe. The key word in the second quote "initial"

The other day you had a couple of paragraphs devoted to the liberal's whining about the increasing influence of religion in U.S. government. You attributed the whole line of reasoning to a statement made by a Japanese man who possibly lives in Australia. And who you admit is not a liberal.

today you say the European Union
"has pledged only" 4 million.
I don't understand are you skiming the stories, then drawing conclusions based on gut instincts?

I said before I like your writing, it's very engaging, and I like that you conservative, and that I'm moderate, and liberal on some issues. That I can have civil debate a few points here and there. I just think you are not completely objective when you write your take on things. Shouldn't the facts be straight when you make a judgement?

as far as suggesting the U.S. and Europe tax itself more, the guy is from Norway? With those Scandanavian countries, (at least Sweden, don't know about Norway) being pretty socialist. so we have him coming from his political angle, asking for more money.

If you are beaten by the side of the road, you want a Good Samaritan to help you, His title should clue you in: undersecretary general for 'humanitarian affairs' he asks for money for aid for a living.

Big Ben said...

I have to agree with fasteddie here; the article clearly states that he slammed rich western nations in general as stingy, as much as the Washington Times headline tries to spin in into antiAmericanism. He's making a general assertion that those who are more fortunate should be more charitable than they are, and you have to be hypersensitive and actively searching for something to get offended about to think he was singling out the US.
There's plenty of real anti-US sentiment out there, but criticizing it where it hasn't even been expressed looks like overly self-conscious whining.

fasteddie said...

How many Gaijin bikers are there? okay the "stingy" remark bugged others. Powell just said we will be sending billions in aid. and was defensive about the statement. I wonder which news report the state dept. got?

Big Ben said...

Of course, America was among those being criticized, so it make sense for Powell to be defensive, and I'm certainly not saying I agree with the "stingy" remark. My point is that to see this as another example of European blame-America sentiment suggests that one is actively searching for something to get offended about.

GaijinBiker said...

Thanks for the comments, Ben and Eddie. I have been out visiting friends in Manhattan so I stopped blogging for a few minutes back there... :-)

First of all, Eddie, you are right that America is AMONG the nations the UN guy criticised, even if he used the word "we" and referred to "rich nations" in general. However, my view is that including other nations in his criticism does not make it OK to slam U.S. relief efforts along with those of other nations. As I understand it, Egeland has since said his initial comments were misconstrued and he has softened his criticism, although I am too busy to find a link right now (I'm on a public Internet terminal.)

Second,the main point of my criticism of his comments -- that higher taxes would not equal more relief -- is still valid. I understand that he has a different political "angle", and I think his "angle" reveals serious ignorance of basic economics as well as the magnitude of private charitable giving.

Third, I admitted in the comments to the earlier post that it's impossible to tell on the basis of his comment whether yesterday's Japanese commenter is a liberal. In fact, as Ben suggests elsewhere, the comment itself may be bogus.

Fourth, I clearly mention in my post that the E.U. is considering sending more aid. In the article I linked at the time, the exact amount of any further giving was not stated or known, so my cynicism was not provably unwarranted on its face. As the magnitude of the disaster becomes larger and more clear, it also seems clear that aid from the U.S., the E.U., and other nations will be far more than had been previously expected. Again, although I'm too busy to hunt for a link, I seem to recall hearing on CNN that the U.S. was more than doubling its original pledge, and again, that doesn't include private U.S. giving. (The bar I went to last night even had a "Tsunami Relief" jar out on the counter for donations.)


GaijinBiker said...

In the Washington Times article, I think the additional $27 million mentioned was a mistaken reference to the maximum 30 million euros the E.U. can apparently "mobilize", since I can't find any other articles from that time saying that that amount had been pledged.

While the E.U. will certainly give more than its initial 3 million euro pledge, I don't think there was any firm commitment to give an additional specific amount at the time.


fasteddie said...

hahaha, yeah blogs are fun. still wide open to trolling and flaming, but that ego boosting war of words flaming stuff mostly doesn't interest me. Mostly. Now I have to delete my criticism cause you edited? Too lazy. Instead I'll add this:

the U.N guy. As far as his tax statement, I'll leave the debate between Keynesian vs. Marx type economics to you. I'm at loss. (read ignorance. I barely know who Adam Smith is, the fifth Beatle?) it still stands that despite his economic bent, his bottom line was getting more money. Then The Washington Times, (are they conservative, I can't keep track?) turns his appeal into a "slam" because they, like you disagree with his tax statement.
Taking a word out of a quote, and goosing it like the that reporter did is unethical to me. Criticism? Let the words speak for themselves instead of labeling it a "slam" and blowing it up into something it was not. Harsh criticism is a slam.
Ingrate? I disagree. Politcal agenda statement when he had the opportunity? Clearly. His job is humanitarian. He gets the money from the govenments so he was gently criticizing. Let's be realistic, if you are a politician and you don't serve your district, you aren't going to be reelected. If you are a techno crat in charge of U.N. international aid and you don't help the people you aren't doing your job. The guy was being like any good politician soliciting money for his programs.
He says he was misinterpreted, I see plainly that he was. Still the immediate response was indignation, and more money. Being a diplomat the guy then has to back peddle. Which is a shame because he was accomplishing his job.

I still haven't heard if my friend and her family who went to Phuket are okay. I wonder how long it will take to hear that they are missing?

Last on this:
I still don't see how you could tie, liberals who don't want religion in U.S. government, to people who worked in complaining about Bush when they talk about the disaster in Asia? You have done the same thing: been arbitrary. Your starting point was *still* based on a quote, from a possibly fictious Japanese man, who could be in Australia, commenting how the god's aren't pleased with the state of the world. I guess the divisive state of politics in our country at this time means: those who are in power still have to bash the opposition even for reasons that don't exsist.

You got your man in, we who don't approve of him should be the strident ones.

fasteddie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GaijinBiker said...

fasteddie, I defnitely think you should NOT remove a comment just because I add a follow-up addressing the issues you raised.

It's good to be able to see the feedback that that led me to amend the original post.




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