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This image and claim has been making the rounds on Twitter, having been shared by Candace Owens and others, listing the supposed pork barrel spending included in the stimulus package passed by U.S. congress in December 2020:

Tweet (text below)

Every American left and right should be calling for a #VETO of this stimulus “deal”— which provides MORE funding to foreign governments and to American arts centers, than to the American people.

RETWEET so EVERY American sees how corrupt the Covid-19 “relief” packing is.

Domestic Funding

  • Kennedy Center - $26,400,000
  • Smithsonian - $1,000,000,000
  • Natnl Art Gallery - $154,000,000
  • Natnl Art & Humanities - $167,000,000
  • W. Wilson Center - $14,000,000

Foreign Countries

  • Egypt - $1,300,000,000
  • Sudan - $700,000,000
  • Ukraine - $453,000,000
  • Isreal - $500,000,000
  • Nepal - $130,000,000
  • Burma - $135,000,000
  • Cambodia - $85,500,000
  • Pakistan - $25,000,000
  • Asia R.1.A. - $1,400,000,000

American People

  • Citizens - $600

The text of the bill would seem to support this for at least some of these countries. For example:

"Of   the   funds   appropriated  under  title  III  of  this  Act,  not  less  than  $85,505,000  shall  be  made  available  for  assistance  for  Cambodia"

"Of  the  funds  appropriated  by  this   Act   under   titles   III   and   IV,   not   less   than   $453,000,000  shall  be  made  available  for  assistance  for Ukraine."

Is it true that foreign governments are receiving billions of dollars of stimulus funding from this bill? Or is there something else to explain what's actually going on here?

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    For one thing, as I understand it, it's misleading to call this a "stimulus bill"; it's the entire federal budget for fiscal year 2021 (or at least the 9 months of it that remain). So it's hardly surprising that it contains lots of general government spending that has nothing to do with COVID or economic stimulus. – Nate Eldredge Dec 22 '20 at 1:34
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    Also, from what I can tell, foreign aid spending in recent years has been on the order of $40 billion per year, so if it's really only $4.7 billion that would be a dramatic cut. And in general, according to brookings.edu/opinions/…, foreign aid spending tends to go mainly to NGOs rather than directly to foreign governments. – Nate Eldredge Dec 22 '20 at 1:48
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    "MORE funding to foreign governments and to American arts centers, than to the American people" seems unsupported even by their own data: at $600 per person, the American people are receiving somewhere north of $150 billion in direct stimulus payments alone. The numbers they cite for foreign aid and arts organizations are orders of magnitude lower. I mean, I guess it's true that governments will receive more than a single American would, but that's a ridiculous comparison. – Nate Eldredge Dec 22 '20 at 2:19
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    I don’t know whether this claim is real, but I do know they’ve misspelt Israel. – Andrew Grimm Dec 22 '20 at 5:40
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    While the critique that the argument in the OP misses the point that the $600 amount is a per capita amount and not the sum total of funding to the American people, I do want to clarify some numbers. The $600 amount is a maximum - not all recipients will receive that amount, many will receive less. Also, not all citizens qualify. In all, the numbers will likely be about an order of magnitude lower, though that doesn't significantly change the critique's premise. – cpcodes Dec 23 '20 at 0:04
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TLDR: the appropriations bill for 2021 has a Covid stimulus attached to it. (Conceivably, the stimulus could have been a separate law as in the prior CARES act, but for intricate reasons of politicking, this stimulus was put in a "single legislative vehicle" with the rest of the normal years-end appropriations.) The FB post (and now Trump) have exploited this combo packaging to contrast and complain about the relative size of various spendings. Counter-critics have pointed out that many of those things Trump now complains about were actually in the budget request sent by the White House, sometimes in nearly identical amounts. Likewise the House of Representatives has now (at least formally) attempted to "fix" the problem highlighted by raising the Covid-relief check amount and cutting foreign spending... although the trouble with that is that House Democrats only want to do the former and (most) House Republicans only want to do the latter. (The size of the stimulus checks in the current law was itself bound from above by Senate Republicans who would have preferred a lower topline of $500 billion in relief; the $900 bilion was a later compromise. Both Democrats and Trump wanted more Covid relief.)


I don't see the $4.7B claim in the post. I guess you've added all the bullets. Their actual claim is:

MORE funding to foreign governments and to American arts centers, than to the American people

Without even checking whether the figures are in the law,

$600 x 330,000,000 (or so) US citizens = $198,000,000,000 = $198B for a start.

The largest number going to a foreign country (group) in the post seems to be $1,400,000,000 = $1.4B. And there are 9 or 10 bullets for countries, plus 5 for arts, so let's say $14B (max) for countries so I don't have to add all those to a precise figure. And adding the 5 arts bullets with a generous $1B each (only Smithsonian has that) gives $5B for arts.

$198B vs $19B is obviously a more fair comparison than how that post presents the same numbers, even assuming they are correct, so their claim of "MORE funding to foreign governments and to American arts centers, than to the American people" is obviously very, very motivated thinking.

(It is actually difficult to compute the exact sum that would be spent on these direct checks because of the intricate rules that dictate who can get a check. For the prior CARES act that had $1200 max for an adult and $500 max for a child, the total sum paid in such checks was around $269 billion.)

Also, they claim that those art and foreign spending are part of the "deal" not of some specific bill, so (on the post's level of motivated thinking) they could conceivably claim that any other part of US gov't spending is part of some (backroom) "deal" agreed in return to actual stimulus spending. (Prove that it's not!) I mean take last year's (2019) headlines from a comparable source:

Democrats Cave in Secret Budget Deal with Trump

What a grotesque way to spend taxpayer money!

Don't see what's different with your claim/post.

N.B. I'd be impressed if those individual checks (and art institution grants, if they're even in there and not some other bill--I've only seen mention of the Smithsonian grants elsewhere) are all there is in that new $900B stimulus. The previous one was nearly equally split between the [US] rich and the poor (and by that I don't mean they got equal per-capita benefits). But maybe the US rich don't count as part of the "American people" to some...

The new $900B stimulus was itself part of a $2.3T spending package, which e.g. also included $700B for the Pentagon. Was some foreign aid in there somewhere? Possibly, although I've not seen that highlighted in the press (I read). Not even Fox News' coverage mentioned it. Was foreign aid part of a (bigger) "deal"? YMMV, but all budgets passed by a divided government/Congress are an exercise in deal making, to some extent. Some legislators on both sides of the isle have complained (1st link in this para) that they had no time to read the 5,600 pages of this spending package, so they had no detailed idea what they were voting on.

For what's worth it, Twitter has this news (not a tweet):

$2.3 trillion government funding package includes foreign aid but the $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill does not, journalists report

The $900 billion COVID-19 relief deal that Congress approved after months of negotiations is one bill among many included in the $2.3 trillion year-end government funding package. Along with the COVID-19 relief stimulus bill, the package includes a $1.4 trillion omnibus bill which will fund defense spending and domestic programs, The Hill reports. After an excerpt of the spending package referring to foreign aid for Israel started circulating online, journalists from Tablet Mag and MSNBC and others reported the foreign aid is part of the year-end funding package but is not part of the COVID-19 stimulus package.

Although I could not immediately locate the articles it's alluding/referring to (maybe those were tweets).


Politifact covered this too now:

Appropriation bills usually include foreign aid, commonly for military and humanitarian aid, said Steve Ellis, president of the nonpartisan budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Our reporting has shown that foreign aid historically represents about 1% of the overall federal budget. Polling has shown that average Americans assume the U.S. spends about 31% of its budget on foreign aid.

[...]

The [Facebook] post conflates provisions of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill with provisions of a separate, $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill. Both were part of a broader $2.3 trillion package approved by Congress. The overall spending bill included funding for American arts centers and foreign aid, but that funding was not included in the COVID-19 relief bill. It was part of the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill. [...]

We rate it Mostly False.

But it seems Trump still didn't like it, for more or less the same reasons as the FB post:

He said: "This bill contains $85.5m for assistance to Cambodia, $134m to Burma, $1.3bn for Egypt and the Egyptian military, which will go out and buy almost exclusively Russian military equipment, $25m for democracy and gender programmes in Pakistan, $505m to Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama."

The president questioned why the Kennedy Center, a performing arts complex in Washington DC, was set to receive $40m when it is not open, and more than $1bn has been allocated to museums and galleries in the capital.

Mr Trump concluded: "Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it. It wasn't their fault. It was China's fault.

"I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple.

"I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package."

It looks like "no deal" for him. Now Democrats (e.g. Schumer) are saying they supported $2000 checks all along and Pelosi says she'd bring the $2000 issue to the HoR floor. Interesting times of what a budget deal may be...

In tune with Trump, other columnists wrote supportive pieces now e.g. in the Hill declaring that

Congress's 5,593-page porky 'relief' bill is essence of the swamp"

and leading with complaints about foreign spending. The fact that those are not in the stimulus bill proper is a distinction without a difference on a certain side of the political spectrum, since these bills are an "omnibus package". Likewise Fox News lined up behind (what is now) Trump's point, and in more than one show.

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    Do the 330,000,000 US citizens include minors (22% of the total population), those lucky enough to be currently in full employment, millionaires and also billionaires? Is each person expected to receive $600? – Mari-Lou A Dec 23 '20 at 13:54
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    @Mari-LouA: it turns out it is a bit complicated "Students age 17 or older don’t qualify for a stimulus check if their parents or guardians claim them as dependents. That means the stimulus excludes millions of high school and college-aged Americans. Their parents also won’t get a payment of $600 per child that the new stimulus package offers. It applies only to children 16 and younger." – Fizz Dec 23 '20 at 13:58
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    @Mari-LouA "There is no cap on the number of child dependents that a household can claims, so a family of four would receive up to $2,400." Also high-wage earners don't qualify... and neither do the minor children of illegal immigrants, even if the children themselves have legal status. Foreign workers on an H-1B do qualify though. It would be a good q on politics SE to determine more precisely the number of people who actually qualify. – Fizz Dec 23 '20 at 14:08
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    I haven't dug into this particular bill either, but it might be worth noting that often "foreign military aid" which it seems like these expenditures may be used for are kind of like gift cards to buy US equipment. One can certainly argue about the cost-benefit of this sort of spending especially when the country is running an overall deficit, but if this aid were removed from a bill the most immediate domestic effect would be on US defense industry. – Bryan Krause Dec 23 '20 at 18:18
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    So it's because of this "omnibus package" thing? In one vote, they passed several bills? To an outsider, that looks a lot like one thing, not several things. – fredsbend Dec 24 '20 at 4:33

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