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May 20, 2022

About That $40 Billion for Ukraine…

It’s a lot of money, and it doesn’t do anything to alleviate the suffering here at home.

Recently, you might have seen your neighbors flying the sky-blue-and-yellow national flag of Ukraine. Supporting that battered but resilient country is popular these days, as it should be.

Individuals, organizations, and businesses nationwide are courting donations to help the Ukrainian people endure these hardships. And it’s all but impossible not to feel compassion for those whose homes, towns, and families have been devastated by Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Americans are good people. We don’t like seeing the innocent being pillaged by despots anywhere in the world. We also have legitimate national security interest in stopping Russian imperialism.

Then again, we have our own problems here at home. And our leaders don’t seem to care.

Americans are, right now, having trouble putting gas in the tank and food on the table. Mothers can’t find baby formula for their infants. Our big cities are being ravaged by drugs and crime. Our roads and bridges are crumbling despite decades of “infrastructure spending” by Congress. And our southern border is practically nonexistent thanks to Joe Biden.

Yet this week, the U.S. Senate passed, in bipartisan fashion, a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine — a package Biden requested and is expected to sign.

Before the bill emerged from the Senate, Heritage Action put things in perspective: “America is struggling with record-setting inflation, debt, a porous border, crime and energy depletion yet progressives in Washington are prioritizing a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine — more than the entire annual budget of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

What does $40 billion cover? According to National Review:

The bill — termed the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 — passed 86-11 and would provide Ukraine with $20.1 billion in direct military aid, which will be used to obtain U.S.-made weapons systems such as Patriot and Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and Javelin anti-tank missiles, used to destroy Russian armored columns and military aircraft. It also provides $8 billion in economic assistance, $5 billion in food aid, and $1 billion to support refugees who have fled country, which the U.N. estimates to be over six million people.

We’d certainly argue over the wisdom of certain allocations, but the bottom line is that we don’t have the money. Unless we borrow it from China.

Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul temporarily blocked the measure in the Senate, but it wasn’t enough. “We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the United States economy,” he said. “This bill under consideration would spend $40 billion. This is the second spending bill for Ukraine in two months, and this bill is three times larger than the first.”

Paul also argued, “It’s threatening our own national security, and it’s frankly a slap in the face to millions of taxpayers who are struggling to buy gas, groceries, and find baby formula.”

Of course, many people in Congress and on social media criticized Paul for downplaying the gravity of the situation. They claim we must do whatever is necessary to stop Russia from threatening Europe and the United States.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, among others, is fully on board with the spending, having warned that our refusal to fund Ukraine would threaten our national security, make Americans less safe and secure, and might force us to spend much more down the road. “The reason we should support our Ukrainian allies who are fighting and killing Russian soldiers is because it protects American national security,” he said. “It keeps America safer, and it prevents our enemies from getting stronger.”

Likewise, as The Wall Street Journal notes, this money isn’t merely for military hardware. It will also aid that war-torn nation in other ways and will send a message to China that aggression against the West will come with a price tag.

In terms of politics, the issue is splintering the Republican Party between its America First and Interventionist factions.

Clearly, both sides have valid arguments. But there’s one aspect of the debate that sticks out: accountability. According to Heritage Action, “The legislation does not include several important measures — there are no spending offsets, no accountability for where each dollar will be spent, and no guarantees for equal contributions from European neighbors. Additionally, the aid package only lasts through September of this year, meaning Congress will be expected to reconsider the legislation after only about three months.”

For now, the debate is over, as this $40 billion just needs Joe Biden’s signature. But important questions linger. Will it be the last aid package? Will it really be enough to help Ukraine fend off Russia? When will Europe get its act together and solve its own problems? And, finally, when will this president and this Congress see fit to focus on America’s problems?

Few in Washington are asking these questions.

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