It is business as usual in the US Congress. For years the US has preached to developing countries around the world the benefits of free and open markets, unfettered by government taxes and regulations. However, the US continues to practice distorted trade replete with government subsidization in the area of agriculture. Although the US tells other countries in the Doha trade liberalization discussions that they need to do more to open their markets to US exports, the US (along with the Europeans, the Japanese and others) continue to do less. For two good articles discussing the issues see Sebastian Mallaby’s article in the Post yesterday and David Brooks’ piece in the NYT today.
People around the world are being held hostage by an industry that employs less than 2% of the workforce in the US. The US people say they want change in many areas. And, now is a perfect time to commit to change in agriculture especially because with rising world prices for food, subsidies and other supports could be more easily cut back without inflicting as much harm to the US farm industry. And still two US Presidential candidates (Obama and Clinton) support business as usual. McCain supports vetoing the bill. But even though McCain supports change, even if he were President there is little he could do about it. The Farm bill has a super majority support so that any veto (like President Bush in proposing) will be overridden by Congress and passed into law anyway.
This issue raises an important concern that the Presidential candidates are unwilling and unable to answer. Even if a candidate has great ideas about how to protect jobs, or revamp the health care system, or stimulate economic development, he or she must still work within the political process to effectuate the change. That requires dealing with all the special interests who will come out of the woodworks when any new plan is proposed. How will the candidates deal with that reality? I surely don’t know. Do they know?