Denial Is An Estuary In the Mid-Atlantic Region

The crab bidness in the Chesapeake Bay has a problem (boldface mine):

Nearly half of the Eastern Shore’s crab houses have lost the temporary workers, mostly from Mexico, who come every season to pick crabs, the Baltimore Sun reported last week. The businesses couldn’t get visas for the crab pickers because the Trump administration awarded them by lottery this year, instead of on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Just one month into crabbing season, everyone here is feeling it. The guy who builds the crab pots, the bait fishermen, the crabbers, the crab house suppliers, the little roadside crab shack, the local general store, the waterman’s wife who can’t afford to stay home with the kids anymore — all of them are in trouble thanks to the fear of immigrants that helped elect President Trump and is now shaping the administration’s hard-line approach toward legal and illegal immigration.

…The administration isn’t taking aim at just undocumented immigrants. The knee-jerk, simplistic, shut-it-down, build-that-wall approach to the complex issue of immigration is also affecting workers who have been legally coming to the United States and are an integral part of our economy.

Harry Phillips, owner of Russell Hall Seafood, understands that. Like his neighbors, he voted for Trump and supports him. But he believes the president has been misinformed on the seasonal H-2B worker visas and would see the devastating results in one quick visit to the island.

…Phillips is frustrated that his neighbors don’t see the connection as clearly as he does.

“People are disappointed,” he said. “They don’t want to blame him. But he’s the man, the man in charge, and I think they just don’t understand.”

But never fear, Motivated Reasoning is here!

For the most part, though, the very folks in trouble on the Eastern Shore refuse to see the connection.

“There are different sides to it.”

“Finger-pointing won’t help.”

“Immigration has to be legal.”

“He’s the best president we’ve had in a long time.”

So who does he think is responsible for the crab picker crisis?

“Oh, that’s all the environmentalists,” he said. “This is how they want it. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation did all of this. They want us to stop crabbing.”

I checked in with the foundation, which lobbies for the health and restoration of America’s largest estuary.

We are all about reducing pollution and restoring water quality,” said the foundation’s spokesman, John Surrick. “We have done no work on immigration or the H-2B visa status.”

So I asked Lewis, the friendly waterman’s wife who works in the general store. She doesn’t think Trump is to blame, either.

“Finger-pointing isn’t going to help,” she said. “It’s really all of them in Washington on the immigration issue.”

There aren’t many sides here. It’s clear who is at fault, and it’s not the environmentalists or ‘Washington’, it’s Il Trumpe.

As we say from time to time on the blog, the ethos of personal responsibility should not be solely the purview of poor single minority mothers.

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5 Responses to Denial Is An Estuary In the Mid-Atlantic Region

  1. mrtoads says:

    1. The Party of Personal Responsibility has never been personally responsible for its actions,
    and
    2. “Some of you may die, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.” has been one of the mottos of the GOP for longer than I have been alive.

  2. So why don’t they offer higher wages and more attractive benefits to get U.S. citizens to do the work? Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen in a “free market”?

    • preaction says:

      It’s a global economy: They can’t pay more for the work if they can’t charge more for the goods. They can’t charge more for the goods if imported goods remain the same prices. If they can’t compete with imported goods, they just close.

      Before you say “tariffs”, those can backfire. In fact, a bunch of people lost their jobs in the steel industry because of the new tariffs we created (a net loss of 146,000 jobs according to Trade Partnership: http://tradepartnership.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/232EmploymentPolicyBrief.pdf)

      • Min says:

        Imported crabs?

        And it is not a global economy. Capital, in the form of money, moves between countries freely, labor does not. Capital is global, labor is not. Under these conditions Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand does not work. (Check out what he actually wrote. The Invisible Hand constrained capital as well as labor.)

        Anyway, the increase in the cost of labor is proportionally less than the increase in the price of goods and services. That means that workers who earn more will be able to afford higher prices, and then some. OC, that’s just on average. Different businesses will have different experiences.

  3. kernel says:

    Visited Eastern Shore two weeks ago, no problem getting Crab Cakes at local restaurants (but too early for whole Blues). Local restaurants sell Local Crab (supposedly), so they don’t compete w imported Crab. People like me who go there expect to pay a price for Local Arthopods caught by Local Humans. Would be different for big canneries, but 1st two businesses discussed in the article are small shops with restaurants, retail, and small trucks. Websites brag about local history and don’t mention modern use of foreign workers. Looks like the work was previously done by Black women. (Note that MD is on the south side of the Mason-Dixon line…)

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