In a free world, culture is to represent a specific society’s views on the world, through arts and economic specializations. Culture always exists, even without government subsidies, because it is the inherent show of what an individual area of the world has to produce for all of us. Cultural exchanges happen when there is a need for the products of a culture to be used by another civilization or group, and most of the time, they are capable of happening voluntarily.
These are basic premises of sociology. But our federal government, in its attempt to control every single aspects of humankind, has managed to even put its boots on cultural exchanges between nations and continents, and not in an irrelevant manner. Every year, the Department of State wastes more than half a billion dollars to “promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.”
And this comes at a time when the nation is being divided over what politicians call the Fiscal Cliff. We are more than $16 trillion in debt, we went from a record budget surplus about ten years ago to almost a trillion dollars of deficit in 2013, and the numbers keep adding up, yet Congress unapologetically appropriates $587 million for what is labeled as “Educational and Cultural Exchanges Program.”
Most of this spending is a waste within the waste. $251 million goes to undergraduate college students wanting to study abroad. $3 million is given to the “American Overseas Research Center”, a group with dubious goals. $5 million is offered to the “Global University Innovation Fund,” money that isn’t felt in any university of the world.
There are many other wastes, some reaching the seven digits, in this part of the State Department. But some are truly unimaginable. In a time when American taxpayers are being overwhelmed by the weight of the budget, our federal government dares to spend $192 million in subsidizing adult citizens, most of whom are from their country’s middle class, to come and visit the United States.
These are far from being cultural exchanges. They are just excuses to finance a huge, pointless bureaucracy. A bureaucracy that is unconstitutional to begin with, as the supreme law of the land does not allow the federal government to spend money for so-called “cultural exchanges”.
As to educational exchanges, the need may be more obvious for the average American. Students go study abroad all the time and foreign students, as myself, are glad to discover the American secondary education system. But most of these students do not need federal subsidies. State and local universities can already provide such funding, but more importantly, private scholarships, which are abundant and would be even more present in a free market, can give enough money for those students that want to study in a foreign country and truly deserve it.
The Fulbright Scholarship, the part of the federal program that subsidizes exchange student programs, will cost taxpayers a staggering $329 million in 2013, an increase of $4 million since last year. And this is not to count the other $4 million that will pay for alumni organizations, groups that are usually non-profit, private, and voluntary.
The private market can easily decide which cultures and studies are worth importing and what place needs our resources the most. But when the federal government is involved, it results in a six-digit subsidy to Timor Leste and South Pacific exchange programs and half a million dollars for something labeled as “Tibet Fund,” a group that probably fosters future American agents in the Chinese autonomous region, just as the Dalai-Lama used to be.
It is irresponsible for Washington to keep spending so much on something so unimportant. The federal government tends to forget that the money spent comes from American taxpayers and most of the time, most of the money is directed at administrations and bureaucracies rather than actual programs. And it is especially immoral for our elected officials to use our money for something that is already being provided by the private economy.
It is time to end the Educational and Cultural Exchanges Program of the Department of State, as just one minor step toward reducing the federal deficit and return to a constitutional government.
Day 5 Summary
Leave NATO = $800 million
End CPB funding = $445.2 million
Privatize NASA = $17.8 billion
End the CFA = $189.5 million
Stop subsidizing cultural exchanges = $587 million
(Total Saved = $19,821,540,000)