Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Charles Boustany's moral compass

On Monday, Rep. Charles Boustany made his long expected official announcement that he is running for David Vitter's soon-to-be vacant Senate seat in 2016.
At Monday’s announcement, Boustany touted his efforts to fight “Obamacare,” protect the domestic seafood industry from cheap foreign imports, secure local clinics for veterans and protect the oil and gas industry from new taxes.

He spoke of the need to fix the nation’s health care system, reform welfare and rewrite the tax code, describing himself as “a conservative problem solver” who can help restore the nation’s “moral compass.”
Regarding that "protect the seafood industry" thing, you may have noticed today reports like this one about what's keeping those foreign imports so cheap. 
SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand (AP) — An Associated Press investigation found enslaved migrant workers and children ripping the heads, tails, shells and guts off shrimp at processing factories in Thailand.

AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp going from one peeling shed to major Thai exporting companies. Then, using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports, they tracked it globally. They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites.

U.S. customs records show the farmed shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Target, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden. AP reporters in all 50 states went shopping and found related brands in more than 150 stores across America.
So you can see why a Senator out to "restore the nation's moral compass" might be keen to, at the very least, protect domestic seafood production from slave-based competition.  Boustany has some funny ideas about how he might go about doing that, though.  He elaborated on them a bit earlier this year in a T-P op ed.
Today, there is a statutory cap on the number of visas issued per fiscal year – 33,000 from October to March, and 33,000 from April to September. As the economy slowly improves, the need for these visas is increasing and surpassing the number available. Unfortunately, between onerous new rules promulgated jointly by Homeland Security and the Department of Labor and what appears to be manipulation of the process employers must complete to attract these workers, the program is in chaos. This year, the cap was opened for applications on April 1, and all 33,000 visas were spoken for within a few days.  Amazingly, my friend Frank told me that he's resorted to bailing prisoners out of jail to do the backbreaking work of processing Louisiana seafood.
Boustany is pleading on behalf of "my friend Frank" whose seafood plant needs access to more guestworkers like these.   
Each year, more than 100,000 people from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and South Africa come to America on what is known as an H-2 visa to perform all kinds of menial labor across a wide spectrum of industries: cleaning rooms at luxury resorts and national parks, picking fruit, cutting lawns and manicuring golf courses, setting up carnival rides, trimming and planting trees, herding sheep, or, in the case of Valdez, Gonzalez, and about 20 other Mexican women in 2011, peeling crawfish at L.T. West Inc.

A BuzzFeed News investigation — based on government databases and investigative files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, thousands of court documents, as well as more than 80 interviews with workers and employers — shows that the program condemns thousands of employees each year to exploitation and mistreatment, often in plain view of government officials charged with protecting them. All across America, H-2 guest workers complain that they have been cheated out of their wages, threatened with guns, beaten, raped, starved, and imprisoned. Some have even died on the job. Yet employers rarely face any significant consequences.

Many of those employers have since been approved to bring in more guest workers. Some have even been rewarded with lucrative government contracts. Almost none have ever been charged with a crime.
So Boustany's "moral compass" directs him to help his friends compete with overseas slavers by helping them to hire slaves of their own.  Curious. 

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