If a U.S. government agency wants to buy solar panels, it must by them from a U.S. government corporation. This corporation uses federal prisoners to assemble the panels. Prisoners are paid between 23 cents an hour and $1.15.
This sounds like slave labor to me.
But can slave labor produce sophisticated solar cells? Of course not. Then where do the prisons get solar cells? From Taiwan.
You mean “buy American” means using American prisoners to assemble panels? By law, yes.
How much does the Taiwanese form get out of the deal? Initially, $218.6 million.
The contract can be renewed.
It turns out that this use of prison labor has been going on ever since 1934. The company is known as UNICOR: the Federal Prison Industries.
UNICOR says the panels are made in America. Assembled, yes. Made, no. But the law says that “assembled = made.”
UNICOR has a captive market: the U.S. government.
This is not free enterprise. This is government-run economics. The big winner is the Taiwan firm that manufactures the cells.
Who knew about UNICOR? Yet it has been around since 1934.
Who knew that this sort of deal is common?
For every deal like this a handful of Americans find out about, how many are not discovered? And how many Americans ever find out.
It never stops. But it will when the Great Default hits.