The Plank

This Just In: Obama Is A Secret Agent From The U.n.!

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In case the McCain campaign's theme, "Country First," was too subtle, the Republican National Committee just sent out a fundraising pitch called "Good for America--or Good for Obama?" Here are the highlights:

It seems the Democrats’ would-be president of the United States of America really believes that the rest of the world’s problems, and approval, trump the interests of Americans when it comes to how we live our lives and where our money is spent.While stumping for the support of his party’s leftist base, Obama proclaimed, "we can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."

...

A bill he has sponsored in the U.S. Senate, the so-called Global Poverty Act (S. 2433), would raise the amount of American tax dollars allocated to United Nations’ redistribution efforts to $845 billion.That’s $2,500 from every American taxpayer, when many in our country already are struggling to make ends meet.

... Senator Obama and the Democrats don’t seem to understand that American prosperity is a result of the hard work of American citizens in a free market economy.  And that the American people already are the most generous in the world when it comes to global aid.Help us show Barack Obama that Americans don’t need foreign approval to lead their lives as they see fit, and that he ought to remember that he is running for president of the United States, not the United Nations.

Obama is un-patriotic, Obama is un-American, etc--I know, there's not much new or surprising here. But that bit about $845 billion caught my eye. That's real money--even in Washington and even if it's spread out over ten years, as those figures typically are. Can it be right?

A quick Google search on "Global Poverty Act" and "845 billion" indeed turns up tons of references. But look more closely and you'll see it mostly comes from right-wing websites. As best as I can tell, some people have decided that the law would obligate the U.S. to fund a fixed percentage of United Nations efforts to reach its Millenium Goals--an obligation that would apparently run $845 billion over 13 years.*

But whoever came up with these figures isn't the final authority on these matters. The Congressional Budget Office is. And CBO's official cost estimate shows the $845 billion figure to be just a tad inflated. To wit:

S. 2433 would require the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce global poverty.  The strategy should include, among other things, more effective forms of development assistance, coordination of efforts with other countries and international organizations, and continuation of existing initiatives to reduce poverty and disease in developing countries.  The bill also would require the State Department to prepare several reports describing the strategy, its implementation, and the progress made on achieving the objectives for reducing global poverty.

Based on information from the State Department, CBO estimates that implementing S. 2433 would cost less than $1 million per year, assuming the availability of appropriated funds.

[emphasis mine] 

Now, I don't follow the particulars of global anti-poverty policy that closely, so perhaps I'm missing something. (I'll try to do some more checking in the morning.) But it certainly appears that the Republicans are telling a pretty bald-faced lie about Obama here.

Of course, that wouldn't be so new or surprising either, would it?

*For the record, spending $845 billion over 13 years seems to be roughly in the ballpark of what we'd be spending if Jeffrey Sachs had his way.  I have a pretty high opinion of Sachs and his work, so that makes me think maybe we should be spending that amount, or close to it. But that's a topic for another day, perhaps after I've had a chance to actually learn a bit more about this subject.

Update: Via readers Jeff Frey and sbarr13, here's more background from bloggopher.

--Jonathan Cohn 

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