A VOICE OF REASON ON ‘FOREIGN AID’…. Good for Laura Bush for calling out the mistaken priorities of her party.

Former first lady Laura Bush admonished congressional Republicans against slashing key foreign aid programs in their thirst for spending cuts.

Bush, the first lady for eight years alongside Republican President George W. Bush, said the benefits provided by some foreign aid programs outweigh the savings from cuts to those programs.

“I would try to get in touch with some [House Republicans] and tell them that I think it’s really important and that it’s worth the 1 percent of the budget that it is,” Bush said in an interview to air this weekend on Bloomberg television.

“It’s worth it because of our own moral interest to be generous and to help other people, but it’s also worth it both for our national security and for economic interests,” Bush added.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a similar message a month ago, trying to explain to congressional Republicans that the deep foreign-aid cuts they’re demanding would prove “devastating to our national security, will render us unable to respond to unanticipated disasters and will damage our leadership around the world.”

And this also reminds me of a worthwhile piece that ran in the Christian Science Monitor the other day. (thanks to VS for the tip)

Polls show that in this big-deficit, belt-tightening time, Americans think that foreign aid should be cut. But they also think that it should be ten times the amount it is now. […]

That’s right. According to pollsters, the vast majority of Americans polled say the US should put foreign aid first in line for the chopping block. When you ask them how much of the federal budget is now spent on such aid, they say 25 percent. And how much should it be? They say about 10 percent.

But the fact is that foreign aid is only about 1 percent of the budget. Not 25 percent, as most Americans polled think. So slashing it to 10 percent — the level they think it should be at — would actually be a huge increase. This is just one of the misconceptions about foreign aid that exist in America. And it’s these misconceptions that need to be cleared up as we enter this budget season, or millions around the world are going to suffer. Ultimately, foreign aid isn’t just good for those we help; it’s good for America.

Polls suggest the only area of the budget both Democratic and Republican voters are willing to cut is foreign aid, which is why it’s worth emphasizing that most Americans vastly overstate how much we currently spend in this area.

We already spend so little on foreign aid, deficit hawks, for everyone’s interests, should look elsewhere.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.