Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke on the Senate floor today on the U.S. international affairs budget and its importance to national security and keeping Americans safe and prosperous.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
February 28, 2017
Senator Rubio: It's important to point out, by the way, that there have been reductions in foreign aid over the last few decades. Today we spend 60% less on foreign aid as a percentage of our gross domestic product than we did when President Reagan was in office near the end of the Cold War. And there is rationale for this as well. For our economy and for our national security, from our economic perspective, 95% of the consumers in the world, 95% of the people on this planet who buy things live outside the United States.
Seven of the ten fastest growing economies happen to be in the developing world. So if you are an American company that makes things -- and I know we want to make things in America again -- you have to sell them to someone. If you can only sell them to 5% of the world's population that happens to live in the United States of America, that's one thing. But imagine how much more you could sell, how much more money you could make, how much more value you would have for shareholders, how many more employees and jobs you would create if you could sell to more than that 95% of the people around the world.
But you can't sell, people can't be consumers if they are starving. They can't be consumers if they're dying of HIV-AIDS. They can't be consumers if they're dying of malaria. They can't be consumers if they live in an unstable country. So there is an economic rationale for our investment around the world. We are helping people to emerge from poverty and ultimately become members of a global consumer class who buys American goods and services. We are in essence planting the seeds for markets to develop that we can trade with, that we can sell to.
That's one of the reasons why it's so important. That's one of the reasons why today one out of five American jobs are tied to international trade. One in three manufacturing jobs in America are tied to exports. You can't export unless there's people on the other end of the deal to buy it from you. And we want as many people in the world to be able to afford to buy things from us, and it begins in many places around the world by ensuring that they are alive, and then to ensure that they have the education they need to develop an economy so their people can become consumers and trade partners with us.
There is a national security component to this, and here it is. Imagine for a moment that you're a child born in Africa and your mother, your parents had HIV and they survived because of because of American assistance from dying from HIV or from malaria or you got to go to school because of American help or you didn't contract polio the way your relatives used to contract polio because of American assistance. Imagine if you are one of these young people around the world whose lives are better because of the help of the American taxpayer.
This is never going to be 100% for sure, but I promise you it's going to be a lot harder to recruit someone to anti-American and anti-American terrorism if the United States of America was the reason why they are even alive today. That's the national security component apart from allowing countries to become more stable and provide for their people and for themselves. By the way, when we talk about the international affairs budget, it's not just foreign aid. It's everything, diplomatic relations, trade and economic relationships with the global community, security assistance with key allies. Israel as an example provides them $3 billion in military assistance. They are a key ally in the strategic part of the world. We talked about the health clinics in the schools, the humanitarian relief efforts.
So when we talk about this, I think it's critical for us as leaders to explain to the American people just exactly what it is we're talking about. We always want to put America first. We always want to think about the American people first. That's our obligation. But I think this is part of that. If you really want to help the American people, you have to ensure that the world that we live in is a more stable place. Now, I will close by saying well, this gets back to the argument some make, well, why does that have to be us? We have been doing this for so long. We have been involved in this for so long. We spent so much money, so much blood and treasure around the world for the cause of freedom, democracy, humanitarianism and the like. Why does it have to be America?
I think that gets to the fundamental question of what kind of a country do we want to be? And the choice before us is, it has to be America because there is no alternative. That's the point I hope people will remember and understand. There is no alternative for America in the world today. If America decides to withdraw from the world, if America decides to step back, if America declines and our influence around the world becomes less palpable, what will replace it? And there are only two things that can replace it. not the U.N., not -- there is only two things that can step in whatever America leaves that it steps back. Number one is totalitarianism. For the growing movement around the world led by China and Russia and North Korea and Iran, totalitarian regimes. That is the first thing that could step in and fill the vacuum. And the other is nothing. The other alternative to America is nothing. It is a vacuum. And that vacuum leads to instability, and that instability will lead to violence, and that violence will lead to war, and that will ultimately come back and impact us, whether we want it to or not. This is the choice before us.
So without a doubt, I am the sponsor of a law we passed last year, foreign aid accountability. I want to make sure that every dollar of American taxpayer money that is invested abroad for these purposes are spent well and aren't going to line the pockets of a corrupt dictator. 100% agree with that. But this idea that somehow we can just retreat from our engagement in the world is bad for national security, it's bad for our economy. It isn't good for policymakers that want to put the American people first. And by the way, doesn't live up to the standards of who we are as a people.
And I have said this many times before, and in this I'm guided by my faith. I believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. That is what the ancient words and scripture teach us. I think that principle is true for people, and I think that principle is true for nations. I believe in the depths of my heart that our creator has honored America's willingness to step forward and help those around the world, and I believe he will continue to do so as long as we use our blessings, not just for our good but for the good of mankind. And so I hope that in the weeks to come as we debate the proper role of government and the proper way to fund it, we understand what a critical component foreign aid and the international affairs budget is to the national security and the economic interests and to our very identity as a people and as a nation.