Note to Developing World: The Cavalry Isn’t Coming

Xavier Becerra has withdrawn from consideration as US Trade Representative, concluding that trade will be neither the first, second, nor third priority for the administration (h/t Ben Smith–que bilingue!).

Meanwhile, Obama seems to have tapped former Iowa Gov. Tim Vilsack, a big ag subsidy advocate, for Agriculture.

If you are in the developing world, this is not good news, because it signals that the administration will not spend any political capital to reducing our horribly destructive agricultural subsidies, which not only waste money, but impoverish literally millions of third world farmers. This would be both the Ag Secretary’s job and USTR’s.

The more optimistic spin on this is that any President has to choose his fights. Obama has resolved to fight on health care, public works, energy, and climate change. Those are good priorities, and if he wins, then that’s a very productive first term. (Yes, of course agricultural subsidies impact energy and climate, but the administration seems to have determined that it is not as central.).

So once again I will suggest that Joe Stiglitz might be a really good person to put at the World Bank. If there is anyone who can call out the IMF on its often insane austerity policies, it’s Stiglitz. If the administration doesn’t want to take on certain powerful domestic constituencies, then that is its prerogative, and it might make sense. But at least it can try to ensure that the IMF doesn’t make the situation worse.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.