Last Updated: Jan 25th, 2006 - 09:26:54
Slave Labor: Made in the U.S.A. (Excerpt)
by William Norman Grigg
February 6, 2006
Under the influence of disgraced super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay became an apologist for slave labor camps — on American soil.Deep in a humid tropical island jungle, in poorly ventilated buildings ringed with barbed wire and patrolled by armed guards, impoverished Asian women — most of them Chinese — toil for 80 hours a week making brand-name apparel for export to the United States.
The female garment workers were lured to the labor camps, which are run by members of the Chinese Communist Party, with promises of wages extravagant by their standards, up to 60 percent of what their counterparts in the U.S. earn. But before they were hired, the women had to sign “shadow contracts” that effectively made them slaves to the company. Their activities are strictly regimented, and since they depend on the company store for most of their necessities, what they earn is recycled back into company hands. Furthermore, most of the workers had to borrow huge sums of money, at extortionate rates of interest, to pay, up front, the human traffickers responsible for transporting them to the island.
As is the case wherever the Chinese Communist Party claims jurisdiction, the female garment workers are subject to the regime’s repulsive one-child policy. They are forbidden to marry or have boyfriends. Those who become pregnant are forced to have their children aborted.
Despite being produced from Chinese fabric by Chinese laborers who labor under Chinese law, the designer clothing that emerges from those island factories is labeled “Made in the USA.” This is actually a case of truth in labeling, since these Chinese labor camps were established on Saipan, a territorial possession of the United States. Thanks to the efforts of super-lobbyist and confessed felon Jack Abramoff, this squalid arrangement has enjoyed political protection from, and been effusively praised by, many “conservative” Republican politicians, including disgraced former House GOP leader Tom DeLay.
The Northern Mariana Islands, a Pacific archipelago located about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines, were acquired by the United States from Japan following World War II. Saipan, the largest of the 14 Marianas, serves as capital of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the center of its billion garment industry.
During the mid-1990s, Saipan was also a very popular tourist destination for junketeering congressmen, as well as for journalists, analysts for Washington-based think tanks, and other key opinion molders. Many of them were brought to Saipan by Jack Abramoff, who until recently was the King of K Street — the boulevard that serves as a staging base for the estimated 50,000 lobbyists infesting our nation’s Capitol.
Since Saipan is a tropical white-sand paradise, Abramoff, representing the CNMI, encountered little difficulty persuading influential people to take all-expenses-paid trips to the tropical island. Once there, they were lobbied by the CNMI government and its allies in the garment industry to preserve its unique status under U.S. law. Among the privileges reserved to the commonwealth were the right to set its own immigration policy, exemption from labor and workplace safety regulations, exemptions from tariffs and quotas, and the right to label as “Made in the USA” goods that are manufactured by Chinese workers in factories that are, in effect, pockets of Chinese sovereignty.
“There is no doubt that trips to the CNMI are one of the most effective ways to build permanent friends on the Hill and among policy makers in Washington,” boasted Abramoff in a 1998 memo to his associates. Perhaps the most significant of the “friends” cultivated by Abramoff on behalf of CNMI was former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). In the company of Abramoff, DeLay spent his 1998 New Year’s vacation on Saipan as a personal guest of Chinese business mogul Tan Siu-lin.
During a lavish New Year’s Eve dinner held in his honor at the beach front Hyatt Regency Hotel, DeLay praised Saipan as “my Galapagos Island … a perfect petri dish of capitalism.” He singled out Froilan Tenorio, at the time the CNMI’s governor, praising him for being “a shining light for what is happening in the Republican Party, and [for representing] everything that is good about what we’re trying to do in America, in leading the world in the free market system.”
While DeLay never distinguished himself as an economist or scholar, it’s likely that he understood that selectively exempting politically protected manufacturers from regulations and taxes is corporatism, not free-market capitalism. It’s likewise a safe bet that he understood that a free market is not built on slave labor. And as one of the most conspicuous leaders of the Christian Right, DeLay certainly understood that abortion — particularly forced abortion — is an abomination. Yet all of these repellent practices thrived in the Saipan “petri dish” that so enchanted DeLay.
Had DeLay and the scores of other congressmen who visited Saipan on junkets been truly interested in deregulation, they would have directed their efforts at freeing up the entire U.S. manufacturing sector, rather than conferring such favors on Saipan alone. The sordid truth revealed in this episode is that the power brokers have corrupted our political system to such an extent that it now operates in many ways like a classic protection racket. By giving the political class a share of the boodle, the CNMI and its corporate allies were able to profit handsomely — as was the key influence broker, Jack Abramoff....To continue reading the complete article, place an online order for a PDF version of the February 6th issue of The New American, and get instant access to the full-text of this article along with the full-text of all the other articles in the same issue. Similarly, if you place an online order for one or more copies of the print version of the February 6th issue, you'll receive a complimentary link to the PDF version of that issue, also giving you instant access to the full-text of the "Slave Labor: Made in the U.S.A." article and all of the other articles in that issue.
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