Cruise Ships Ain't Getting No Stimulus Money Just Because They're Not Even American, Isn't That Sad?
The coronavirus and resulting economic shutdowns have laid waste to such industries as restaurants, hotels, airlines, and, yes, cruise ships, those floating petri dishes where you go to fall in love and catch the measles. The Senate passed a hefty $2 trillion stimulus package this week, but cruise ships won't have access to $500 billion in aid for large employers. That's because they've previously spelled “relief" T-A-X-D-O-D-G-E.
From the Washington Post:
Language in the 883-page bill passed by the Senate says that to be eligible for aid from the $500 billion fund, companies must be certified as "created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States" as well as having "significant operations in" and a majority of employees based in the United States.
Major cruise companies like to base their primary headquarters overseas, so they can avoid pesky federal taxes and even more annoying US regulations, such as health and safety codes. They staff their ships with workers from the Philippines, Indonesia and India, which they don't do because they're big believers in the global village. No, they pay foreign workers around $2 an hour and work them plantation style. Business Insider reported that cruise-ship employees often work eight to 20 hours a day, seven days a week.
Near slave labor and robber baron tax rates have greatly benefitted the cruise ship industry. The major players make profits in the billions. Norwegian, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean enjoy profit margins of 16, 17, and 19 percent, respectively, which is almost double the average of most hotels of a similar size. It was a good ride before they hit the coronavirus iceberg, but the bailout rules are clearly stated, in black and white, which the cruise ship owners can read for themselves in this photostatic copy.
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By the way, Royal Caribbean Cruises is literally incorporated in Liberia. Live by the Ayn Rand Boner Fantasy, die by the Ayn Rand Boner Fantasy, we guess.
The Cruise Lines International Association tried to plead poverty, but it didn't work. The major cruise lines aren't included in the stimulus package. CLIA spokeswoman Bari Golin-Blaugrund was just bummed.
GOLIN-BLAUGRUND: For the more than 421,000 people in the United States whose jobs are supported by the cruise industry, we will continue to work with policymakers to help our community recover from the impact of this pandemic.
LOL. She's trying to spin this as if cruise lines actually employ Americans. They treat their foreign workers like disposable goods: When crew members are injured on the job, they're left behind in their home countries with a “too bad, so sad" kiss off. Cruise ships also work out wiseguy-esque deals with local vendors at the ports they frequent, taking almost 70 percent of the onshore revenue. Sure, the cruise ship industry itself creates jobs for travel agencies and other small businesses, but they are eligible for the $377 billion in relief to small businesses that technically operate in the United States.
About one in seven cruise ship passengers is over 70, which is a high-risk group for the coronavirus. Cruise ships have a bad reputation in general for keeping passengers safe from contagious disease. It's true that this pandemic is an existential threat to cruise ships, but it's debatable how much the American taxpayer should care. The cruise ship industry definitely never cared about paying taxes in America. Which must be why Donald Trump was so hot to throw money at them, besides his longtime friendship with the CEO of Carnival, which owns Princess Cruises. That guy should try hitting up Panama, where he's incorporated, instead.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).