Opinion Columns & Blogs

This barbaric practice being abetted by our most wealthy and powerful must end

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned after it was revealed he cut a sweetheart deals with a wealthy financier who was a sex trafficker behind closed doors. But sadly, there’s more. This same secretary of labor tried to also cut funds to combat other sex-traffickers. This is a clear case where members of both parties can agree: Yes, Alex Acosta needed to resign. Yet more is needed to stop these predators.

Several years ago, my students and I were accepted to an economics conference in Las Vegas. These students gave an excellent presentation at the annual meeting of the Association for Private Enterprise Education, and had a poster session that attracted a lot of attention because we made a controversial finding: states and countries with good free market systems were better at combating human trafficking.

Even many of the economic libertarians hard a hard time accepting our findings. Our research was rejected by several journals, with reviewers replying that they just couldn’t buy our counterintuitive results, even though our statistics were sound. “It’s not that crazy a conclusion,” one of our conservative students responded. “Have you seen the movie ‘Taken?’ A lot of this (stuff) occurs with someone in government protecting them, helping it along.”

Well, we all got a lesson in how some in government do just that. We’ve learned that wealthy investor Jeffrey Epstein had been running a sex-trafficking ring of underage girls throughout the 2000s. Enter U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, who bragged about having a tough record against such traffickers. But even though Acosta’s office compiled a 53-page indictment against Epstein, the defendant agreed to an 18-month stint in jail (of which he did not serve the full sentence in jail), and was registered as a sex offender. That seems to have not worked, as a mountain of new allegations have been made and new underage girls have come forward to document additional Epstein actions.

Acosta came under fire for such a sweet deal for Epstein. Guess it pays to be a friend of Donald Trump’s, and to fly on Bill Clinton’s planes. The police really wanted to nail Epstein, but were forced to back off, as Acosta and other prosecutors had something far more lenient in mind back then.

And it gets worse. Earlier in 2018, Acosta presented to the House of Representatives a lot of promises to fight trafficking. Congress was impressed with his nearly 2,000 recommendations around the world to contest such problems, until they learned of his plan to cut the budget to fight such trafficking by 80 percent.

We’re seeing a rash of politicians, from red states like Oklahoma and Kentucky, charged with child sex trafficking, and concerns about politicians in Alabama like Roy Moore running for office again, unapologetic for prior actions with underage girls. Hey, even ex-Florida Congressman Mark Foley, instigator of the House page scandal, is hoping to re-enter politics. Guess he thinks it’s safe to get back into power today. Does anyone wonder why?

Even with Acosta resignation, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Our country needs to battle these barbaric practices against underage girls, where politicians and those well-connected to them face justice. But there’s hope. That conservative student (an imposing football lineman at our college) who researched human trafficking at the national and international level is heading to a top-notch graduate school to study cybersecurity. He and other college graduates focusing on law, police work, and public service can’t get there fast enough, evidently.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.