In Maine, Weston, whom I know through his sister, a former classmate, is trying to innovate as well. When the New England dairy farm business collapsed in the 1980s, his father looked for a new business model. He was desperate to keep a family farm that has operated in Fryeburg, Maine since 1799 in business. He chose vegetable farming and retail sales.
Since attending the University of Maine, John has expanded on the idea. He got portions of the farm certified as organic and opened up two large retail stands to cater to wealthy tourists visiting the area. Business grew, but the younger Weston had a problem: Americans were no longer willing to be farmworkers.
"As the generations changed, it stopped," he said. "You could do retail work, which was much more attractive."
Instead of hiring illegal immigrants, his father hired summer farmworkers from other countries through the current U.S. guest worker program. The two men from Jamaica employed at the farm this summer work far harder than Americans, according to Weston, picking vegetables at twice the rate American workers had in the past.
'SLOW, CONVOLUTED, AND DISCRIMINATORY'
Weston said that since the recession, the Department of Labor has instituted ever more stringent requirements that he prove no Americans will do the work. Each year, Weston pays hundreds of dollars to advertise the jobs in papers in Maine, New Hampshire, Florida and California, and files dozens of pages of paperwork to prove it. He was audited last year and fears that a technical flaw in his application will result in no workers and the possible closure of his farm.
"What ultimately frustrates me is how hard the government is fighting farmers that are asking for help," Weston said in an email this week. "Rather than try to offer productive solutions, their time and money are going into creating ways to make farming more difficult."
At the same time, talented researchers educated in the U.S. are leaving because they can't get visas. In aMay report, Bloomberg's think tank described how other countries were providing incentives to attract talented and hard-working foreigners.
In a phone interview this week, Zhang Yuanbo, one of the cases described in the report, said he had decided to return to China after getting a Ph.D. in physics at Columbia University. The American visa process was so slow, convoluted and discriminatory that he gave up.
"There is much more research money now, it's much better than the states," he said in a phone interview from China. "There is more opportunity in China."
Back home, politicians focus on blocking illegal immigrants from crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. Demands for building a massive wall spanning the border are popular among Romney's conservative base.
Feinblatt, the Bloomberg policy director, said border crossings are at their lowest level since the 1970s. A recent New York Times article said that the improving economy in Mexico, growing middle class there and weak U.S. economy has resulted in zero net migration between Mexico and the U.S.
"Rather than making political calculations," Feinblatt said. "Both candidates should be making economic calculations."
I agree. We no longer rule the roost. We need to work with the world, not fear and fight it.
David Rohde is a columnist for Reuters, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and a former reporter for The New York Times. His forthcoming book, Beyond War: Technology, Economic Growth and American Influence in the New Middle East will be published in March 2013. More
This article also appeared on Reuters.com, an Atlantic partner site.