It may be an apocryphal quote attributed to the late Sen. Everett Dirksen: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

There’s really no credible citation one can find that suggests he actually ever said those famous words – though I swear I can still hear him saying them when I was a child.

Those words were reverberating in my mind again this week as it was revealed that Barack Obama has increased spending on foreign aid by 80 percent through last year.

Transferring U.S. taxpayer dollars to foreign countries has always been a pet peeve for many Americans, but the actual money spent has never been that great – until now.

To put it in perspective, the U.S. government now transfers 76 percent more money overseas than it spends securing the borders of the U.S.

In fiscal 2008, the government spent a total of $11.427 billion in international assistance programs. In fiscal 2011, it spent $20.599 billion – an increase of $9.172 billion, or 80 percent, from 2008. A billion here, a billion there …

In fact, before Barack Obama took office, the trend on foreign aid spending was downward for at least three years. In fiscal 2005, it was $14.787 billion. In fiscal 2006, it dropped to $13.914 billion. In fiscal 2007, it dropped again to $12.764 billion. And, in fiscal 2008, it dropped yet again to $11.427 billion.

But since 2008, international assistance spending has increased every year. In 2009, it climbed to $14.827 billion. In 2010, it jumped to $20.038 billion. In 2011, it hit $20.599 billion.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet, because by the end of August, after the first 11 months of fiscal 2012, the federal government had already spent $20.058 on foreign aid. So a new record is about to be set. A billion here, a billion there …

By contrast, CNS News reports that while foreign aid spending has climbed over the past four years, spending on border security peaked in fiscal 2009 and has since declined. In fiscal 2008, the federal government spent $9.984 billion on customs and border protection. In 2009, that increased to $12.122 billion. But, in fiscal 2010, it dropped to $11.376 billion. In fiscal 2011, it increased slightly to $11.698 billion – still less than the $12.122 billion spent on customs and border protection in fiscal 2009.

The $20.599 billion spent on foreign aid last year was an astonishing 76 percent more than the $11.698 billion spent on customs and border protection.

However, when it comes to foreign aid, it’s never been just about the actual money. Americans are troubled with the whole idea of spending U.S. taxpayer dollars abroad, especially when Washington is borrowing $1.2 trillion every year just to keep pace with its spending.

But the bigger question is whether foreign aid is even legal.

Many, like me, believe there is absolutely no constitutional justification for transferring U.S. wealth – real or make-believe – to foreign countries. Like so much of what happens in Washington these days, it is just plain unconstitutional.

Yet it continues – and now increases, under the Obama regime.

I suspect if you asked the average American whether they think the U.S. government should spend more on foreign aid or securing our borders, there wouldn’t be much question about how they would answer. In fact, I suspect most Democrats and Obama supporters would tell you they’d rather see money spent securing the borders than padding the bank accounts of foreign tyrants, as foreign aid often does.

So maybe Mitt Romney should make this a campaign issue.

As for me, I have never believed a single dollar spent on foreign aid has been justifiable or productive or legal – not even when it goes to countries I like, such as Israel. It’s all counterproductive, creating dependency much like welfare does at home.

And, of course, welfare spending is way up under Obama, too – even though we don’t have the money!

Nevertheless, you look at the presidential polls and they are about dead even. How can this be?

I don’t expect the media to tell the story. But I would expect Romney to do so.

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