Old Ironsides: A Bank That Robs You?

Last month the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the world’s richest countries, including the U.S., had agreed to pursue a 100% write-off of $70 billion of debt owed by the poorest countries to institutions such as the World Bank. The undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury said this 100% write-off is something the Bush administration has supported for some time.

About $800 million came from money the U.S. contributed in 1996. The question all this raised in my mind wasn’t whether we were robbed, or if it was right to forgive the debt, but rather why the U.S. made such a loan in the first place.

The Preamble to the Constitution, states “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure Blessing…” In Article I, Section 8, the Constitution states, “The congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” Now, the difference between “promoting” and “providing” for the general welfare is a topic for another day, but one thing is clear: the welfare the government is supposed to be concerned about is that of the United States. That does not mean that citizens of the U.S. can’t, or shouldn’t, contribute to the welfare of those outside our borders – only that it is beyond the government’s authority to use tax dollars to do so, whether it’s the World Bank, the International Red Cross or even tsunami relief.

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