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A Bad Day For Democracy

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  • A Bad Day For Democracy

    This is a story about the United States Protectorate of American Samoa. The Samoans are a tall, athletic, good-natured people. Aside from them, there are no heroes in this story.

    It all started with a pretty ugly scandal involving another US protectorate, the Northern Mariana Islands. Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R, Texas) took stacks of money from business concerns operating in the Northern Marianas in return for turning a blind eye to horrendous labor rights violations. We’re not talking about simple sweat shops here; we’re talking about indentured servitude and forced abortions of female workers (because pregnant workers arenít as productive). When the scandal broke, it had a lot to do with putting Abramoff in federal prison and unraveling the Republican control of the House of Representatives.

    One aspect of this whole business was the federal minimum wage. Federal laws have, for many years, exempted both the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa from the federal minimum wage. The Northern Marianas has the sort of diversified economy more likely to benefit from a hefty minimum wage increase. In the case of American Samoa, the island is dependant on a single industry, Tuna, which faces pretty strong wage competition from Asian and South American canneries. As a result, minimum wages were set in American Samoa every two years by the Department of Labor, after careful on-site study, and they did a pretty good job of keeping wages up without killing the island’s industry. So maybe I ...


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