Taxing Logic

In the midst of defending Ambassador John Bolton’s performance on the job, Thomas P. Kilgannon, author of Diplomatic Divorce: Why America Should End its Love Affair with the United Nations, claims that the Millennium Development Goals amount to “nothing more than UN-imposed tax on the American economy.”

This is a common canard offered by the rabidly anti-UN crowd. It’s time, once and for all, to dispel the myth that the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) are some sort of “global tax.”The MDGs grew out of a year 2000 commitment by UN member states to promote development in the poorest countries on earth. There are eight “goals” in total, to be reached by 2015. These range from reducing by half the number of people who live on less than a dollar a day to reducing by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio. The United Nations does not force any member state to pay a dime towards seeing these goals succeed. Rather, the MDGs provide an important framework for promoting international development. It is up to each member state to fund its own commitments.

For its part, the Bush administration responded to the Millennium Development Goals by establishing a new government agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In no way does this amount to a UN tax on American citizens. Rather, American citizens are taxed by their government, which in turn appropriates some of that revenue (approximately $3 billion) to fund a federal agency charged with promoting development.

Kilgannon should know that this is standard operating procedure in a democracy.