June 05, 2007

Joined at the Claw - washingtonpost.com

I was in Richmond this morning after celebrating my lovely wife's birthday in that fair city, and as I was leaving town I was approached at the stop light by a bum, err, "homeless" guy, and asked for changed. Her was a young fellow perfectly capable of working, but I still felt that twinge of regret. There I was in the luxiorious splendor of my 1997 Ranger sipping on coffee and perhaps this guy was a real living version of Tom Kromer.

My default is not generally to give money to healthy looking people on the street who can work for their money like everybody else (except maybe college professors). And here I see in the Washington Post that there are so few people willing to pick crabs that they have to import workers from (yup) Mexico.

Joined at the Claw - washingtonpost.com

Brooks says he cannot afford to pay more. The local crabbing industry is under pressure from Southeast Asia. Maryland blue crabs once dominated the regional market, but their total value has dropped from $24.8 million in 1997 to $14 million last year, according to a study of Chesapeake Bay crab processors by University of Maryland associate professor Douglas Lipton, who researches costal and marine economics.

Lipton also found that each seasonal crab worker saved 2.5 local jobs. Without crab pickers, there would be less need for crabbers, distributors and drivers. Pretty soon, an entire culture and way of life is lost. Expensive waterside condos have already replaced most of the old crab houses in Cambridge.

"I'm a crab man. I'm not an economist. I'm not a lobbyist," Brooks says, picking a male crab out of a bushel with his bare hand as a group of Mexican men prepared to weigh the load. "A year without them, and we would lose all of our markets to competition from Southeast Asia. This is a good legal program that works."

It works, Gonzales agrees, but she is sad every day here."

That is really striking that the crab bers are under such tight competition from Asian crabs.

After the fiasco of the Brazilian crab meat I talked about last week, I check Phillips brand crab meat, figuring that was a mid-Atlantic staple. Nope, they use the Asian crabs too.

Pretty neat trick, isn't it? Send the jobs overseas, build a bunch of condos and strip malls in the old work spots, and nobody has to work but some foreigners who we can ship back arbitrarily when we want. Pass the soma!

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