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Mark Caserta: U.S. lacks basic business principles

Apr. 04, 2013 @ 12:26 AM

A successful corporation operates under a strict business model that appropriates wise spending, plans for growth and expects a return on investments.

Unfortunately, if the United States were indeed such a "corporation," one could maintain it's being run by arguably some of the worst business minds in history.

Last month the Congressional Research Service released a report showing that in 2010 the U.S. handed out a total of $1.4 billion to 16 foreign countries that held at least $10 billion in Treasury securities.

Essentially, the U.S. gives billions of dollars in foreign aid to some of the world's richest countries, and then asks to borrow it back with interest!

According to the U.S. Treasury, foreign governments hold about 46 percent of U.S. debt, with China being the largest debt holder at nearly $1.2 trillion in bills, notes and bonds.

So why would the U.S. give China $27.2 million dollars in foreign aid in 2010?

But China was only one of three of the world's top 10 richest countries who received foreign aid from the United States. India received $126 million, Brazil $25 million, and Russia $71.5 million in federal assistance, compliments of U.S. taxpayers!

Many, like Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., realize this is no way for the U.S. to conduct business.

"Borrowing money from countries who receive our aid is dangerous for both the donor and the recipient," Sen. Coburn said in a written statement. "If countries can afford to buy our debt, perhaps they can afford to fund assistance programs on their own."

It's inexcusable that a nation like the United States, which many claim is now on pace to engage in austerity measures similar to those of many European nations, is "traipsing" around the world bartering taxpayers' money with the wit of a drunken sailor.

In what I believe to be analogous to wearing the international fiscal "dunce's cap," the government provides a "Foreign Assistance Dashboard" tracking aid to other countries using a variety of filters. The Dashboard has an interesting disclaimer, saying it "is not an accounting tool, but a way to help the U.S. Government be transparent" in its budget planning and financial data.

What budget planning? Congress hasn't been operating under the constraints of a budget since April 2009. And Democrats don't want one.

"The fact is that you don't need a budget," Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said last year. "We can adopt appropriations bills and we can adopt authorization policies without a budget."

Talk about poor business acumen! I wouldn't operate a lemonade stand without a budget. It's that "tax liberally -- spend blindly" mentality that's plunged our nation over the fiscal cliff.

At a time when the United States is facing tough decisions about taking care of its own, we simply can't continue to lend money for the development of other nations who really don't need it.

Two basic business principles are needed: Ensure the financial security of our own "corporation" before helping to secure others and expect a return on our financial investments.

What a concept.

Mark Caserta is a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

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