Strategy & Marketing

Why America Is In Debt – A Nonprofit Perspective

A friend of mine leads a major NGO (non-governmental organization) in Africa working on a humanitarian project being funded by the United States government.  This week he gave me an interesting glimpse from his perspective of why America is in such staggering debt.  In his words, here’s what happened to him the other day:

1. The U.S. government told us that they felt one of our staff member’s jobs should be done by a South African. Keep in mind this is a U.S. citizen doing work paid for by the U.S. government (your taxes). They told us that if we persisted with an American doing the job they would cut at least 90% of our staff funding. Keep in mind that our American staff member has been doing the job for two years. But we were given an ultimatum: If we hired a South African they would pay 100% of the budget. So to keep an American employed, I had to cut her hours by 90%.
2. She was going to put her daughter into our day care program. But with the 90% cut, she can’t afford that now. That reduces the number of daycare children, so we also have to cut a teacher.
3. In addition, the U.S. government told us that if we don’t spend $100,000 today we will lose it from next year’s budget. Therefore, if I don’t spend $100,000 today I will lose $200,000 for the work we’re doing here in Africa. So we pre-paid equipment, computers, and other items we don’t really need, just so we can continue the work.

Bottom line: This week we put one American out of work, cut another back by 90%, and spent $100,000 we did not need to spend, and created one South African job.  And we wonder why the National Debt is $16,743,988,756,517.45.


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  1. I don’t want my name on this, but my son has a wonderful job in an electronics company making $21 a hour. Not bad for two years past high school graduation. Except he doesn’t always make the $21 an hour he is so happy to get. If he is assigned a government job, like for example, the IRS, he makes $75 an hour because the government forces the company to pay him that and compensates them accordingly.

  2. Phil, I hate stories like these and wish you wouldn’t use them attempting to make a larger point. Please don’t add to the ignorance of how government has run almost since the beginning. This story is full of selected tidbits that sound outrageous and only serve to give a narrow picture to those who are not familiar with how these NGOs run to the trough of government money until they are held accountable to some directive that they don’t like. Only then does the world needs to hear how badly government works. Given one day to spend $100,000 or lose it? Right. How long did they know they had it to spend? I think most NGO budgets are really over-inflated, self-serving and self-perpetuating slush funds disguised as helping the needy, but mostly feed the greedy.

    1. I love stories like this! I think the tendency toward all governments’ bureaucracy needs to be looked at. I think the stories may be greater & deeper than we know. Without telling these, we will waste more.

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