America has pledged to give condoms to Africa, but Asian factories produce them cheaper than we do. So why have GOP congressmen been so successful in securing federal condom-producing contracts for American factories, instead of the more efficient Asian ones?
EUFAULA, Alabama—Here in this courtly, antebellum town, Alabama’s condom production has survived an onslaught of Asian competition, thanks to the patronage of straitlaced congressmen from this Bible Belt state.
Behind the scenes, the politicians have ensured that companies in Alabama won federal contracts to make billions of condoms over the years for AIDS prevention and family planning programs overseas, though Asian factories could do the job at less than half the cost.
In recent years, the state’s condom manufacturers fell hundreds of millions of condoms behind on orders, and the federal aid agency began buying them from Asia. The use of Asian-made condoms has contributed to layoffs that are coming next month.
But Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, has quietly pressed to maintain the unqualified priority for American-made condoms and is likely to prevail if the past is any guide.
“What’s wrong with helping the American worker at the same time we are helping people around the world?” asked the senator’s spokesman, Michael Brumas.
That question goes to the heart of an intensifying debate among wealthy nations about to what degree foreign aid is about saving jobs at home or lives abroad.