In the United States, this kind of subsidy trimming has long been a political taboo — but in a season of obsessive budget-cutting, it may no longer be. During negotiations over the deficit in July, the While House and Congress were close to agreeing on agriculture subsidy cuts worth around $35 billion over 10 years, and nearly $5 billion in direct payments to farmers may be cut in the 2012 farm bill.
And then, of course, there’s migration. The CDI reports that migration from poor countries to the United States each year amounts to one-third of 1 percent of the U.S. population — that puts it in 15th place out of 22 rich countries. So much for “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.” Yet it is increasingly clear that the movement of people is a considerable boon to the economies of both origin and destination countries. So more open borders are another area where rich countries including the United States could benefit considerably from greater generosity to the world’s poorest. Even on this contentious issue, there are signs of some movement on Capitol Hill toward immigration reform, as members of Congress hear from farmers whose crops are rotting in fields as supplies of undocumented labor dry up and firms who can’t find skilled applicants for their jobs. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has suggested new visa programs for both high-skilled and agricultural workers, for example. And presidential candidate Mitt Romney has called for a green card to be stapled to the front of every college diploma awarded to a foreigner.
Republican politicians in the United States are hellbent on axing international development assistance. But Congress’s budget-cutting mania might actually improve it in other ways.