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   number, which has tripled in a decade (see chart). Non-farm workers get the H-2B. Their number is capped at 66,000 annually, but the administration has granted more H-2Bs every year.
To qualify for either visa, an employer must prove they cannot find an American to do the job. Once the Department of Labor has approved the request, the employer— usually a contractor—sends recruiters to find workers, usually in Mexico. Employers oversee applications, placement, transport and housing. They can refuse to renew a worker’s visa at will. Unlike most documented immigrants, guest workers do not
pay Social Security, Medicare or unemployment taxes, making them cheaper to hire.
Employers say the process is too bureaucratic and expensive, though once they start hiring guest workers, they rarely stop. Labor advocates worry that it could undercut wages and is potentially exploitative, handing employers too much power. America also has a spotty record with guest workers. Between 1942 and 1964 the country granted 4.6m agricultural contracts, largely to Mexicans, as part of its bracero program. Yet the man who ran it during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations later lambasted it as “legalized slavery”.
The issue remains fraught. But there have been signs of progress. In December a moderate bill passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, the first agricultural-labor reform bill to do so in more than three decades.
It would codify a rule-change proposed by the Department of Labor over the summer that would make the visa-application process easier, addressing some employers’ concerns and potentially expanding the program further. It also would offer a path to legal status for poten- tially thousands of unauthorized immigrants. Those who have worked in agriculture for at least 180 days in the past two years could apply for “certified agricultural worker” status. Those who have worked longer could eventually apply for green cards.
The bill’s fate is less certain in the Republican-controlled Senate. The guest-worker program is far from perfect. But a policy that encourages legal low-skilled migration and pleases both businesses and workers is certainly worth debating.
America’s aggressive use of sanctions endangers the dollar’s reign
Ever since the dollar cemented its role as the world’s dominant currency in the 1950s, it has been clear that America’s position as the sole financial superpower gives it extraordinary influence over other countries’ economic destinies. But it is only under President Donald Trump that America has used its powers routinely and to their full extent, by engaging in financial warfare. The results have been awe-inspiring and shocking. They have in turn prompted other countries to seek to break free of
American financial hegemony.
In 2018 America’s Treasury put legal measures in place that prevented Rusal, a strategically important Russian aluminum firm, from freely accessing the dollar-based financial system—with devastating effect. Overnight it was unable to deal with many counterparties. Western clearing houses refused to settle its debt securities. The price of its bonds collapsed (the restrictions were later lifted). America now has over 30 active financial - and trade- sanctions programmers. On January 10th it announced measures that the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said would “cut off billions of dollars of support to the Iranian regime”. The State Department, meanwhile, said that Iraq could lose access to its government account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
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Jan. 18th, 2020.
  soundwave - winter 2020

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