Guy W. Farmer: No more gravy train for UN
‘Bureaucrats and diplomats at the United Nations are scrambling to adjust to the new Trump administration,” wrote Joseph Klein of Front Page magazine. “The Obama days of wine and roses for the UN are over,” Klein continued, because the new administration in Washington “is reportedly laying the groundwork for cuts of at least 50 percent to U.S. funding for United Nations programs.” It’s about time.
For far too long the U.S. has paid way more than its fair share to support a bloated, spendthrift international bureaucracy headquartered in New York City. American taxpayers foot the bill for 22 percent of the UN’s operating budget and nearly 30 percent of peacekeeping expenses — far more than the next biggest contributor, Japan, which supports 9.7 percent of the UN budget.
By comparison, economic powerhouse China pays less than 8 percent of the UN budget, Russia accounts for 3.1 percent and rapidly developing India less than 1 percent, which isn’t fair.
A few years ago I wrote a column about how many billions of American tax dollars were going to an ever-expanding international bureaucracy that provides jobs for corrupt Third World politicians who ride the New York gravy train without doing much real work. Here’s what I wrote in 2011: “A 2010 Heritage Foundation study revealed that U.S. contributions to the UN totaled more than $6.34 billion in fiscal 2009, and its budget has expanded by an average of 17 percent per year since 2002 as the world economy has contracted.” In other words, the UN has been impervious to budget cuts … but not anymore.
I encountered many UN bureaucrats and officials during my diplomatic career, and can report they worked many fewer hours than we did and made lots more money. I shouldn’t complain, however, because we enjoyed UN cocktail parties, which usually featured expensive booze and jumbo shrimp. Of course I didn’t feel guilty about indulging because we were paying 22 percent of the bill.
The U.S. contributed nearly $10 billion to the United Nations in 2015 plus billions of dollars more in “voluntary” contributions to various UN agencies. That’s about to come to a screeching halt, however, as the Trump administration cracks down on profligate UN spending. According to Foreign Policy magazine, President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have instructed State Department staffers “to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for UN programs.” At the same time, State and its controversial foreign assistance programs face budget cuts of up to 30 percent.
Several UN agencies, including the New York-based Human Rights Council (UNHRC), will face scrutiny by the Trump administration. Tillerson has warned the 47-nation Council the U.S. will withdraw if it doesn’t reform itself. In a letter to human rights groups, Tillerson said he was “skeptical about the virtues of membership in a human rights organization that discriminates against Israel and includes states with troubled human rights records such as China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.” In addition to the millions of dollars we spend on the UNHRC, we shell out millions more for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, of Jordan, who is based in Geneva — one of the most expensive cities in the world — with a staff of several hundred well-paid bureaucrats. The U.S. should help fund one of these human rights offices, but not both, thereby saving millions of taxpayer dollars.
Bottom line: We should cut our UN contribution in half and spend the savings, approximately $5 billion, on America’s struggling inner cities. It’s the right thing to do.
Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a retired diplomat.