"This is called slave labor," said Pope Francis.
The Holy Father was referring to the $40 a month paid to apparel workers at that eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on top of them, killing more than 400.
"Not paying a just wage ... focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at personal profit. That goes against God!"
The pope is describing the dark side of globalism.
Why is Bangladesh, after China, the second-largest producer of apparel in the world? Why are there 4,000 garment factories in that impoverished country which, a few decades ago, had almost none?
Because the Asian subcontinent is where Western brands -- from Disney to Gap to Benetton -- can produce cheapest. They can do so because women and children will work for $1.50 a day crammed into factories that are rickety firetraps, where health and safety regulations are nonexistent.
This is what capitalism, devoid of a conscience, will produce.
Rescuers at the factory outside Dhaka have stopped looking for survivors, but expect to find hundreds more bodies in the rubble.
The Walt Disney Co., with sales of $40 billion a year, decided -- after an apparel plant fire in November took the lives of 112 workers -- to stop producing in Bangladesh. "The Disney ban now extends to other countries, including Pakistan," says The New York Times, "where a fire last September killed 262 garment workers."
Not long ago, the shirts, skirts, suits and dresses Americans wore were "Made in the USA" -- in plants in the Carolinas, Georgia and Louisiana, where the lower wages, lighter regulations and air conditioning that came after World War II had attracted the factories from New England.
The American idea was that the 50 states and their citizens should compete with one another fairly. The feds set the health and safety standards that all factories had to meet, and imposed wage and hour laws. Some states offered lower wages, but there was a federal minimum wage.
How did we prevent companies from shutting down here and going to places like today's Bangladesh to produce as cheaply as they could -- without regard for the health and safety of their workers -- and to send their products back here and kill the American factories?
From James Madison to the mid-20th century, we had a tariff.
This provided revenue for the U.S. government to keep other taxes low and build the nation's infrastructure. Tariffs prevented exploiters of labor from getting rich here on sweatshops abroad.