A few weeks ago, I blogged about how the U.S. government uses the idea of helping malnourished people abroad as a way to promote domestic agricultural interests. As I explained there, "Instead of simply giving money to people to buy food from the cheapest source, the U.S. government buys food from U.S. producers and requires that it be sent overseas on U.S. ships." It turns what some might see as a noble cause into a means of industrial policy.
The Washington Post has been all over the issue, and has another good editorial today. They note the argument of one politician that "political realities are such that foreign aid cannot get funding unless domestic U.S. constituencies also benefit." But then they have a great response:
Perhaps it’s true that funding for foreign aid, always politically tenuous, has depended on greasing interest groups. But it’s also true that foreign aid depends on persuading taxpayers in general that their funds are being well spent. And there are more taxpayers than special interests.
The Obama administration is pushing in the right direction on this. Let's hope they can successfully fight off the special interest groups who are resisting.