This election season we’ve all heard endless talk about how the election is about the lack of jobs and economic growth in the U.S. Government spending is out of control, the U.S. debt is going to make our children worse off, uncertainty about taxes and regulations are keeping businesses from hiring, and overall the economy is in the dump.

Although the US economy is in a pretty dire situation, we shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Despite the recent recession and the current sluggish economic recovery, the world is a better, more prosperous place than it ever has been. VOA reports:

This year’s U.N. Human Development Report finds poor countries have made dramatic progress in health, education and basic living standards during the past 40 years. 

Senior Research Analyst, Emma Samman, says the global Human Development Index shows health, income and education has risen by 41 percent since 1970 and by 18 percent since 1990. She says the world is a much better place to live in today than it was 40 or 20 years ago.

“We can say with some confidence that people today are more healthy [sic.], are better educated and they are wealthier than ever before. Now, average life expectancy has risen from 59 years to 70 years,” Samman said. “Combined school enrollments have risen from 55 percent to 70 percent and per-capita incomes have doubled to more than $10,000 in real terms.”

These are good news indeed. What is it that makes the world’s poorest better off? Is it foreign aid? Foreign aid is money given from one government to another. William Easterly, Professor of Economics at New York University specializing in economic growth and foreign aid, argues that income transfers from poor to rich countries benefit some people some of the time, while much of foreign aid makes countries worse off by propping up predatory regimes. U.S. aid to Ethiopia is a perfect example of the latter case:

Despite harsh allegations of abuse of aid money in the last report of Human Rights Watch, the United States of America will continue to support the Ethiopian government. According to Human Rights Watch, ruling party EPRDF uses foreign aid to suppress political dissent in the country.

The report […] accuses the ruling party of abusing developmental assistance by conditioning access to essential government programs on support for the ruling party.[…] Rona Peligal, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch said the government is “routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent”.”If you don’t play the ruling party’s game, you get shut out. Yet foreign donors are rewarding this behavior with ever-larger sums of development aid.”

Foreign aid is often given as a diplomatic incentive for military cooperation. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece last June, Abebe Gellaw describes Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as one of America’s key allies in the war on terror in Africa. In another interview with the Ethiopian Review, Gellaw explains that Zenawi’s recent 99.6 percent election victory was obviously fraudulent:

There is no question that the elections have been fraudulent. No repressive regime that kills, muffles, harasses and jails innocent citizens can win free and fair elections.

U.S. foreign aid to Ethiopia is propping up a predatory regime that severely abuses human rights. Foreign aid to Ethiopia is not improving the lives of Ethiopian citizens, rather, it is stifling economic and social progress.

The good news is that overall poor countries are making economic and social progress. The bad news is that our very own government is stifling that progress by propping up predatory regimes.