This post starts out with lots of caveats. First, I'm a big fan of donations and charity. I think philanthropy, volunteerism and giving back in general are among the most important things a person can do. Only through these actions do I think we can have stable, healthy, thriving communities.
I also know that as Americans, we have it pretty good. Sure, it isn't perfect (hello 10% unemployment), but compared to many places in the world, we have a sweet deal going.
But. You knew there was one.
The US almost defaulted on its bills. And yet, I just saw a news story about billions we are giving in aid to places like Somalia. (Somalia really needs some help. If you want to contribute, you can donate to Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF or a number of other organizations working to care for people there.)
Despite how much Somalia and other countries may need help, I believe you have to take care of yourself first. It's the "put your oxygen mask on before helping those around you" concept which as you know from flying, even includes before you help your kids. You are more help to others when you are in good shape yourself.
If we (like me and Ross) couldn't pay our bills, well, then no matter how much we love puppies or hate cancer, we wouldn't be able to donate to those causes. But admittedly this US problem is akin to not being able to pay your very fancy cable bill but still wanting to make donations. Yes, the cause you are donating to is more important than fancy cable but if you really believe that and want to live that way, the answer is not neglecting your cable bill. The answer is turning off the cable and directing those funds to a higher purpose.
If the US wants to continue to provide international aid and help elevate all peoples, we must cut the fluff from our expenses first. Because when we run out of money, we will be of zero use to those struggling people who need our aid and in fact, may find ourselves in line for aid.