Tom Delay was a small business owner. He did pest control. When the government required he stop using DDT he was outraged, and went to Congress on an anti-regulation crusade. Damn these government beurocrats stifling innovation and inhibiting economic growth. Here he is cutting that damn red tape off Lady Liberty.
He and others that think likewise got to try that theory on the small Pacific Island of Saipan, also known as the Commonswealth of Northerm Mariana Islands. Delay says that prior to instituting pro market policies the island was totally dependent on the government. An awful society with high alcoholism, high drug use, high divorce rates. He would tell the Washington Post that the low wage, non-union conditions were a "perfect petri dish of capitalism."
The garment industry set up shop. They imported laborers. There were rumors of 18 hour days and 7 day work weeks. Workers fleeing because of abuse and beatings. Pregnant women being informed that their jobs would be at risk if they didn't have abortions. You know, the kinds of things you might expect in an unregulated, free market environment where the balance of power is heavily skewed towards the owners.
Congressman George Miller proposed legislation that would bring Saipan under the umbrella of US labor laws. Garment store owners didn't like that idea. And they knew that Tom Delay supported free markets when it came to election contributions. He had said “If you support the free market in everything else, why wouldn’t you, above all, support the free market principles in election campaigns?” So they funneled money to Delay to block the measures. Jack Abrahmoff collected about $200K/month.
Part of the campaign included bringing conservatives out to tour the island. These included John Doolittle (R-CA), Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), Ralph Hall (D-TX), Tom Feeney (R-FL), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Robert Underwood (D-Guam), Phil English (R-PA), John Sweeney (R-NY), John Duncan (R-TN), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Bob Schaffer (R-CO), of course Tom Delay (R-TX), and also others. The charges were all lies of course coming from liberals and "big union."
Congressman George Miller though did something the others didn't do. He talked to the workers. One weeping worker begged him to buy his kindeys so he could pay off his debts and return to China.
Grover Norquist and his think tank "Americans for Tax Reform" were enlisted to demonize big labor and liberalism in exchange for sweat shop money. The efforts to releive the suffering continued to be stymied.
Ultimately though the reality could not be suppressed by the rhetoric of freedom and lobbying efforts in this case. The allegations, all denied by Congressmen that were wined and dined at Saipan, in fact were true. New rules were instituted and most of the garment industry fled looking for a new source of exploitable labor. In the wake is an island reeling from envioronmental destruction, prostitution, and crime. Delay saw it as a test case for a world without onerous government regulations and for free markets. On that he was right.
I learned of this via a documentary about Jack Abrahmoff. It's worth watching.