Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said Thursday that he does see eye-to-eye with President Donald Trump’s America first approach to foreign aid but and will try in his White House meeting with the president to convince him that continuing such global spending is in the nation’s best interests.
Gates is scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office with the president, where he said he will tailor his pitch on continued foreign aid spending to the president’s worldview.
“Yeah, I don’t agree with the American first rhetoric. That is, I think the alliances that we’ve built over time and the help we’ve provided to countries uplifting them… have made the world a more stable, a richer place,” Gates said in an interview with POLITICO Playbook authors Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman.
“I’ll take his framework and explain why things like health security and continued foreign aid, even in that narrow framework, where you give no credit for saving lives in Africa, kind of pure humanitarian things, even without that, this is money well spent,” he added later.
As part of the president’s broader America first agenda, the Trump administration has proposed significant cuts to the amount of foreign aid the U.S. doles out around the globe, suggesting that those taxpayer dollars would be better spent at home. Trump has long insisted that the U.S. spends too much on supporting other nations while Americans who could also benefit from government spending languish.
Gates, who along with his wife has given away $28 billion through the foundation they oversee, rejected the notion that the Trump administration’s reduction in foreign aid might spur other nations to do more, remarking that “it’s hard for me to understand the notion that helping people that are poorer than we are is a bad thing. It’s kind of in the Bible.”
Thursday morning, Gates argued the case that aside from humanitarian benefits, U.S. foreign aid can promote the stability of foreign governments and prevent health crises with the potential to spread to the U.S. Americans feel much warmer towards foreign aid, he said, when they connect it to specifics like combating HIV.
Gates said his message to Trump will be twofold: That foreign aid, which makes up less than 1 percent of the federal budget, has already proven beneficial to U.S. interests and that a sliver of the increased spending in the upcoming budget dedicated towards readiness for a pandemic could work wonders for national health security.
“The preparedness we have for a pandemic, either a naturally caused pandemic or a bioterrorism, intention-caused pandemic, we don’t have the tools, the preparedness, the capacity to deal with that,” he said. “And yet the science is at a point where for a fairly small portion of that increase, say a few percent a year, you could do something quite miraculous in terms of health security.”
On the global stage, Gates said America’s step back from certain forums on the world stage has the potential to prove problematic because it “creates a vacuum of leadership that people badly miss.” Still, he predicted that Trump’s interest in leadership and breaking new ground on difficult issues might open an avenue by which the president could be persuaded that supporting future foreign aid could bear fruit for his administration.
“In business you meet a lot of different kinds of people and you have to be good at adapting to different styles of working. I wasn’t in the New York real estate business or the New Jersey casino business and obviously I missed a whole different approach,” Gates said.