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Don’t bail out the cruise industry (theverge.com)
370 points by nobita 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 198 comments

I'm not from the US, but I don't even understand the basic premise.

If these companies avoid paying taxes by not being registered/incorporated in the US, how could they possibly be eligible for help from the US government?

That just seems like a contradiction, like a huge case of having your cake and eating it.

It's pretty crazy. They should, of course, feel free to petition the government of Liberia for help.

Carnival Cruises is headquartered in Miami. They register their ships in other countries for various reasons. One of which is taxes. But the company itself is based in the US.

The pay no taxes.

Carnival Corp and Norwegian both posted negative income tax expenses — that is, they received more in refunds or deductions than they paid or set aside for taxes — with Carnival reporting an income tax expense of $71 million and Norwegian reporting an $18.9 million tax benefit.

They don’t contribute to the public fisc in good times, they should have no call on it when times are tough.

So like Amazon? Have they never paid taxes? Because that quote seems to be referring to a single year?

They pay a ton income tax and sales tax.

What do they pay sales tax on that makes any material difference? And what's their income tax as a percentage of revenue?

Headquartered in Miami, but incorporated in Panama.

That doesn't matter. If you have operations in the US, you have to pay US taxes. Now they may be getting around those taxes, but they have to file.

Yes, they have to file, but it does matter:

> In general, under Section 883 of the Internal Revenue Code, certain non-U.S. corporations (such as our North American cruise ship businesses) are not subject to U.S. federal income tax or branch profits tax on U.S. source income derived from, or incidental to, the international operation of a ship or ships

From https://www.carnivalcorp.com/financial-information/annual-re...

Indeed, there's a bustling maritime law industry in the state of Florida that would die if the cruise industry were to fail or leave.

Are you arguing that we should bail out the cruise industry to save the lawyers?

I think there is a missing /s

They'll likely get it because they can pay politicians to vote in favor, or said politicians own a stake in those companies - probably indirectly to avoid an apparent conflict of interest, but who will find out?

Actually they did, see Panama Papers. So many higher-ups turned out to have a lot of money stashed away abroad.

Politicians are corrupt. I mean take Trump; while he 'officially' renounced control / ownership of his properties (I think?), he's still pumping hundreds of (tax payer) millions into his own resorts by going golfing every week in his own resorts. Said taxpayers are the common folk as well, not the actual resort itself.

The problem with statements like "politicians are corrupt" is that it makes it possible for people to see what Trump is doing as just more of the status quo. It needs to be possible for some politicians to not be corrupt in order for the allegation of corruption towards Trump to carry any meaning.

Maybe politicians shouldn't have as much power?

I am from the US and the premise is ridiculous to even consider. The cruise industry in no way should be prioritized or considered essential.

The cruise industry is one of the most polluting and damaging industries in the world. It ruins cities worldwide. Their ships are petri-dishes for disease, spreading it directly into our vital cities. They are blocking perfect vistas of the sea. They are ruining local sea life and are spreading non-native species. Their exhaust fumes are extremely detrimental to local air quality in cities. The swarms of tourists are detrimental to local hotels and restaurants, since the swarms only buy souvenirs but lack incentive to spend big money on dining.

And all of that without paying taxes.

Let them go bust. Almost nobody is missing them.

You also forget to mention the magic pipes that let ships dump water polluted with oil directly into the sea so they don’t have to pay at ports for proper disposal.

Outlaw ocean is an eye opening book (and a great read) about how lawless the sea is, how slavery is still very very real out there, and how it’s virtually impossible to keep eating fish once you know what’s going on (both in terms of human trafficking and in terms of quotas violation/fishing in U.N. “protected” natural reserves)



I have a friend who used to be a purser for one of the big cruise lines. They had a leak which ruined a huge amount of carpet in a dining room. They carried spare carpet on board and replaced it... and then dumped the old carpet off the side of the ship.

These days it’s basically impossible to “ethically” eat anything, unless you have your own patch of land and can be bothered to grow vegetables.

Only if eating ethically is defined binary, not on a gradient.

A huge portion of harm can be reduced/prevented with only a little effort. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.

> "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. "

Battle cry of the conservative party lately. This quote has its place but not in the context of this conversation.

It beats doing nothing. Vegetables are harder to avoid eating at all, but fish? You can totally do without eating any ever again and be fine. And almost all salt you can buy in stores has iode added so you won’t miss that nutrient.

There's no known dietary replacement for some essential nutrients that come from eating fish. Even fish oil pills aren't as effective.

Fish oil pills don’t solve the issue anyway, they’re made out of fish.

Be that as it may, by not eating fish you’re also not absorbing as much heavy metals which fish is rather rich in these days.

Not entirely true. Buy produce from your local organic farmer at the farmers market and you'll probably be fine ethically.

I find it strange that ships mix water runoff, antifreeze, hydraulic oil, engine oil seepage etc etc into a huge big mixed bilge tank and then try to separate it with an oil separator.


It's more like the bilge is a central place where any fluid that leaks out of whatever system normally handles it winds up. On small vessels you just have a straight bilge pump that dumps out the side. At cruise ship scale you can afford to stick an oil/water separator filter on it.

Yes I can understand how it could end up like that, it’s just that I think there must be a better way by now.

Just to quantify your first sentence, one single cruise ship emits the same amount of pollution as 1 million cars [0]. And, one cruise line emits more pollution every year than ALL the cars in Europe [1]. They should not just be allowed to go bust; they should be forced out of business.


[0]: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday...

[1]: https://www.transportenvironment.org/press/luxury-cruise-gia...

This is often quoted and misleading. It doesn’t emit a million times more pollution than a car across the board, it emits a million times more sulphur oxide than a car.

Now sulphur oxide is nasty stuff, and regulated out of vehicle emissions for good reason. Fuel conditioning and catalytic convertors take care of this. But those things add cost, and why would a cruise ship company do it if they are not compelled legally and their customers don’t mind?

I don’t feel bad for giving my friends who go on cruises a hard time over this. Most will say they simply do not care about the environment. They are not immediately threatening their own immediate habitat. These are the people who go on cruises. The fact that the cruise industry exists is a sad mark on humanity.


Not only sulphur oxides, particulates as well (see my first quoted link). Particulate matter from combustion is extremely nasty. These floating petri dishes choke everything in their path.

> But those things add cost, and why would a cruise ship company do it if they are not compelled legally and their customers don’t mind?

Because their owners give a shit about the world they're leaving to their children?

Oh, well, I suppose they don't, then, do they?


> ...legally beholden to maximize profits.

This is a myth. The business judgement rule gives corporate directors extremely wide latitude on how they run their business.

Point taken regarding "pollution," though. I will note that all the links quoted in this thread clearly state SOx or particulates, not specifically "pollution," so that misstatement falls on me in this case.

With respect to CO2, they are still pretty bad; one voyage is roughly equivalent to transporting the same number of passengers on a flight from Tokyo to London [0].


[0]: https://www.tourismdashboard.org/explore-the-data/cruise-shi...

To list a few positives.

Europe maybe not, but places like Honduras would be worse off without them.

The industry and shipyards are advancing technology in ways that other industries do not. New ships use LNG, batteries and renewables. A carbon neutral cruise ship is not too far away.

The intensive childcare offered allows parents who cannot otherwise get such services to relax.

Pixar's Wall-e was prescient in that most people would choose to live this way.

The demand for cruises is not going to go away.

> The demand for cruises is not going to go away.

In that case why the need for a bailout? If they are viable businesses either as is or after reorganization in bankruptcy, then what’s the issue that needs solving by the government? That the very rich owners and lenders lost money and wish they hadn’t?

You could say the same thing about airlines, but no one is arguing about whether airlines are a necessary component of the economy.

I don't support a bailout for cruise lines, but I also don't support a bailout for airlines or any industry.

This pandemic crisis is being exploited on all fronts, and the first thing that everyone is going for is money. There is a lot of FUD being spread around as cause to bailout special interests, and that's a short term solution for a long term problem. It will only make things worse and more difficult in the end to correct the current problems at hand.

The focus shouldn't be on where to be spending money right now. The focus should be on developing proper procedures that at best prevents the next pandemic or at worst controls and minimizes its effect.

>You could say the same thing about airlines, but no one is arguing about whether airlines are a necessary component of the economy.

I don't understand - do you mean that airlines are not necessary components of the economy or that they are. And do you mean that cruise ships are or are not necessary components of the economy.

If airlines are necessary and cruise ships are not then it might follow that you should bail out one without bailing out the other.

Like a saying, don't bail out corporations so shareholders learn. Bail out people so they can can quickly start new businesses.

> Like a saying, don't bail out corporations so shareholders learn.

I agree with you for self-inflicted problems (such as the financial crisis, or a lack of general funds).

Requiring all corporations to hold enough cash for 6 months of runway with 0 income however? That's an extreme requirement on which most if not all companies would fail.

The current situation implies that not holding cash for 6 months and using loans for day-to-day operations was a premature optimization. Essentially corporations assumed that in the time of prolonged crises they would be bailed out by taxpayers and optimized for an extra profit for shareholders. The profit that was extracted from all taxpayers.

That’s not necessarily the case. They’d have to either have that cash on hand or be able to raise it in the debt or equity markets. If these are long term viable businesses, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to do just that. Doesn’t seem like any are trying because they’d rather get a government handout.

Fair weather capitalists.

> or be able to raise it in the debt or equity markets

The debt/equity markets are beyond fucked at the moment. Relying on them is what led the financial industry to the 2008 crisis and it certainly won't be a good idea to rely on them in future pandemics.

> Fair weather capitalists.

The entire point of governments in a capitalist system is to deal with stuff that is too big for companies and individual people to handle - which a pandemic certainly is.

The markets are liquid, the government is making sure of that. They might not have the pricing that companies think they deserve, but such is life.

I don't know much about this, but I assume the advances in renewables and carbon neutral ships is driven mostly by regulation aimed to reduce pollution. Can we really give the cruise companies a lot of credit for that?

> The demand for cruises is not going to go away.

Good, then there will still be cruise ships after the industry felt the consequences, and perhaps they will have learned something.

> A carbon neutral cruise ship is not too far away.

Have you got some good links? This would be amazing, but sounds extremely unlikely.

>Pixar's Wall-e. This is such a great way to describe the cruise crowds - really captures the commercialised, tacky, pseudo-luxury essence of cruises and their bovine patrons.

Then maybe Honduras should bail out them?

I think you're being a bit naive. All the ships will still exist. All that will happen is that investors will snap up the ships and 'brands' at bargain prices, set up new cruise companies and the ships will be back in business in a matter of a few months, probably with the same crews and the same company names. The only thing that will change is the ownership.

Hopefully if the shareholders loose a lot of money this way, they will demand better governance of the next company that is set up. This, at least, is how it _should_ work.

How would better governance help? This is a once in 50 years event minimum and losing all your custom for three months is enough to wipe out the accumulated profit of a decade for all but the most well capitalized businesses, with no shareholders clamoring “Where are my goddamned dividends?” It’s not like you can take insure for a risk like this either. There’s a substantial risk your insurance company and their reinsurance company will go bust.

All the more reason not to bail them out. Let the market do its thing.

You mean kill efficient businesses on a random basis? I don't see how that benefits anybody. To be clear I don't care about cruise lines particularly, but I'm not sure I agree with the general point that businesses hit by freak events should in general just be allowed to die.

I think the counter point was that if they are actually efficient businesses, then they will return more or less the same, as soon as there is economic capacity for them. I think an argument that it would actually be cheaper for the economy to mandate that taxpayers keep them afloat is interesting, but would argue the burden of proof should be on that side.

It's a tricky issue. In general I'm a free markets believer, tending towards the view that markets need to be regulated to be efficient and effective, but the problem we have here is not to do with market forces. It's to do with markets temporarily ceasing to exist.

On burden of proof, there's not going to be any relevant historical metrics for effectively a unique event. Politicians are simply going to need to make their best estimate of what services and capabilities are strategic and which aren't. If we only intervene where there is solid prior evidence for capabilities being needed to be preserved after a global pandemic in the modern era, we're just going to let everything burn. I don't think it's clear to me that is in the public interest.

Sure. By burden of proof I mean just for he sake of argument. Politicians should do what they think is best. So, for the sake of argument, I think there is a wide gap between "Do not prop up the cruise industry" and "let everything burn".

I never got it but I also never went on a cruise ship. But, for the life of me, I can't figure out the attraction of the cruise ship. You are siting in this big hotel complex, you are not enjoying much of the scenery, cities, or anything. You are just in a hotel and they even have pools? What's the point of being in the ocean anyway if you are staying inside?

> I never got it but I also never went on a cruise ship.

Well I have been on one. A friend thought it would be a good idea to hold his 60th birthday on a cruise ship.

It is exactly as you say - a hotel, laid sideways. But unlike a hotel there no way to out, and in my case no internet worth using.

The primary ways people seemed to keep themselves occupied were drinking alcohol, eating food and watching other people in various ways. None of those thinks work for me. Exercise consisted doing the same brisk walk around and around the ship every day. There were other options, but you had to pay for them.

Reflects my thoughts exactly. Also, all the amenities are overcrowded. I've seen photos (while doing research before writing GP) and I can't imagine having to stay in such an invested place for longer than a day or two.

> They are blocking perfect vistas of the sea.

Counterpoint: they absorb a lot of tourist demand for visiting particular places, while taking up a minimum of space. Building the equivalent hotel capacity in the same places would be far more intrusive.

No, it's the opposite. Places which are already at capacity (like Venice, Mallorca, Santorini, etc) then receive multiple cruise ships a day which dump thousands more people into the system.

There are cruises which are "just looking" but the ones which visit heavily touristic areas tend to stop and let passengers off. Also these ships are enormous, loud and polluting. I think most locals would prefer hotels which at least contribute to the economy.

How much tourism would there be contributing to the economy without those cruise ships bringing the tourists in the first place?

If you ever get the chance to visit Venice - a city which is relatively well designed for tourists (you walk in a one way loop) - they're not struggling for customers. On a hot day even in spring it's absolutely heaving and full of places to rip you off. Also plenty of places to eat reasonably, I should add.

Most tourists are not coming by cruise. They're Italians (train to Rome is cheap and takes three hours), Europeans (dirt cheap flights) and other airborne visitors. Since it's easy to get to, lots of people go to Rome and then do a day or a night in Venice.

Santorini is tiny. It's set up as a luxury island for couples (and it's beautiful, so you see why). I guess cruising there is cheaper than ferry and hotel.

Mallorca is somewhere in the middle. Relatively cheap to fly there, cheap to stay and cheap to eat. But again, not designed for a thousand person instantaneous load who thunder through, buy trinkets and leave.

Remember you get a bed, breakfast and dinner onboard so why waste money on land if you only have say six hours to visit? (unless the ship docks overnight)

Still too much

>> No, it's the opposite. Places which are already at capacity (like Venice, Mallorca, Santorini, etc) then receive multiple cruise ships a day which dump thousands more people into the system.

I'm sure the host country has a say in this...they can receive cruises or not so the "dumping" might be a different thing for them. Like tourism cash. At least they decide for themselves, not us.

You shouldn't be downvoted for high quality posts like this.

You're absolutely right that most locals would prefer hotels - the economic contributions alone answer for the externalities that the OP was concerned about.

As a local living in such a hotspot: this exactly is a concern our municipal council is trying to balance.

Cruise ships unload hordes of tourists who are then shepherded through the commercial center of town for a couple of hours. You'd think that's a good thing. It's not.

They don't go to restaurants for a full meal, they don't visit venues or do any activities. It's literally drop 'n shop. Meanwhile, they crowd the streets, not to mention the surplus of garbage. Commercial activity changes to low quality souvenir shops and fast food.

Local economy earns very little, but the costs of having them are very much for the locals.

As someone who spent a great deal of my life living and working in a tourism economy I am not shedding a single tear over cruise ships undercutting local providers of food/shelter.

With traditional brick'n'mortar tourism the people who fleece the tourists make bank. Then the people who fleece the people who fleece the tourists take their cut. The landlord, the plumber, the garbage collection company, everything including even the municipal government basically charges what the market will bear in order to get their slice of the pie.

Cruise ships piss off everyone who isn't running a tourist trap, T-shirt shop or cafe because they handle all the supporting industry so the people who normally fleece the people who fleece the tourists don't get their cut because the tourists don't have to stay in a hotel, visit a liquor store, etc, etc. in order to visit the beaches, the cafe's the shops, etc. because the cruise ship handles that.

If we take that the liquor store that tourists shop in is the same liquor store/cafe/plumber that the locals use, then aren't those several layers of "fleecing" just..the regular economic activity for the area?

I can't imagine anyone ever thinking, "gee, good thing the cruise ships dock in Barcelona, otherwise the prices at Carrefour and the supermercados would go back to being astronomical and the garbage collection services would be able to take full advantage of us again"

>If we take that the liquor store that tourists shop in is the same liquor store/cafe/plumber that the locals use,

You can't make that assumption. There are a minority of businesses that are open in the off season that are used by locals. The majority of businesses are targeted at tourists only and any use by locals is incidental and immaterial to their balance sheets. Many of the business owners actually have other locations that they'll run in the off season (e.g. florida for the winter, nantucket for the summer).

Depending on the location (i.e. less true on an island where you have to incur a $100 ferry ticket to leave) many locals spend huge amounts of time traveling in order to buy goods at reasonable prices. Ecommerce (which doesn't generally change prices by location) and big box stores (which have rules about prices that franchise owners must follow) tend to be the places locals shop for goods in where possible. The further you get from pure tourism (e.g restaurant = 0 steps, restaurant's landlord = 1 step, landlords plumber = 2 steps) the more likely a business is to be open year round.

>I can't imagine anyone ever thinking, "gee, good thing the cruise ships dock in Barcelona,

Barcelona (or Miami for that matter) is lucky that it's a big enough city with enough other industry that normal economic competition keeps prices reasonable. Pretty much any city tourism destination will have reasonable prices there's other industry going on even if tourism is the big one. The quaint little towns with nothing but tourism are what I'm talking about. Sure, the locals who make their money close to the tourists would be angry if you parked a cruise ship there but there's also be a huge number hoping that the hotels and rentals lower their prices to compete with the cruises causing the restaurants to lower their prices, etc, etc so that they can actually justify the cost of going out to eat once in awhile.

>supermercados would go back to being astronomical and the garbage collection services would be able to take full advantage of us again"

The supermarkets where my parents live (they still live in the tourist town I left) fought tooth and nail to keep the chain known for low prices from setting up shop just barely within a reasonable driving distance. Many, dare I say most locals love outside competition because they can get more for their dollar.

I could tell you similar stories about damn near every type of business up to and including a scrap metal recycler.

> No, it's the opposite. Places which are already at capacity (like Venice, Mallorca, Santorini, etc) then receive multiple cruise ships a day which dump thousands more people into the system.

Right, so if the cruises weren't there they would look to increase that "capacity" to accommodate that demand - which would likely mean building giant hotels.

> I think most locals would prefer hotels which at least contribute to the economy.

The kind of person who wants a cruise would probably favour a resort-style hotel, so it would be the same thing in terms of not eating at local restaurants, crowding into the same places, and the like. Hotels provide some employment but not particularly high quality employment (it's mostly precarious minimum wage jobs, no?), and meanwhile their existence pushes up land/building prices. Hotels might pay direct taxes, but cruise ships can be made to do the same.

In some places there's literally no space - Venice for example, land is expensive and it's such a historic city that you can't just build a skyscraper (nobody would give you permission). This is the point about them being at capacity. In summer everywhere is booked. The argument is that lack of beds stifles demand, but then you can barely walk round Venice in high season. It's not about hotel capacity, it's the capacity of the city infrastructure itself. Venice has no land for hotels, or anything else!

Resort style hotels tend to be sited elsewhere with space for pools and recreation, and people don't leave (or they do so on a couple of tour coaches a day). Though look at Oxford or Cambridge in summer to understand how busy "the odd coach" can make a city centre.

Cruise ships are also full of mostly low-paid, high-turnover jobs (often seasonal). Hotels confine people which means they then go and spend time (and money) in the city. They might go for an early breakfast, eat out, see some museums.

> In some places there's literally no space - Venice for example, land is expensive and it's such a historic city that you can't just build a skyscraper (nobody would give you permission). This is the point about them being at capacity. In summer everywhere is booked. The argument is that lack of beds stifles demand, but then you can barely walk round Venice in high season. It's not about hotel capacity, it's the capacity of the city infrastructure itself. Venice has no land for hotels, or anything else!

In an efficient market everything operates at capacity. That doesn't mean there's no ability to adjust. In the absence of the cruise ships there'd be more demand for hotels, driving up prices; land values would go up, pricing more of the locals out. Restaurants and homes would be converted into tourist accommodation. Pressure would mount to relax the building regulations - not around the unique tourist attractions, but in the backstreets where it could be argued that there wasn't such unique architectural merit. And most important of all, fewer people would get to see Venice.

That's only a net positive if you think that more tourism (which is a form of consumerism) is always a good thing.

I’ve always been curious about that, why do cruise ships always get hit with gastro? I rarely hear about it but when I do it’s on a cruise ship.

> why do cruise ships always get hit with gastro?

Everybody uses the same touch points, all day long. Most get their food from the same buffet line, touch the same food, the same drink dispensers, sit down at the same tables (which aren't cleaned often enough), sit on the same deck chairs at the pool, hold on to the same railings on the stairways (especially since the boat is moving), etc., etc.

They're all packed into the same space, making the same movements every day (room, to the stairs/elevator, to the buffet, to the stairs/elevator again, to the pool, to the stairs/elevator, etc.) Any virus that makes it to any common touch point is going to infect everybody in a matter of hours.

-Thousands of passengers from all over the world, (comparatively) cramped quarters, HVAC systems push air from cabin to cabin without sterilisation, buffets where hundreds handle the same serving utensils...

> "HVAC systems push air from cabin to cabin without sterilisation"

I suspect this is actually a bigger part of it than people realise.

I've been in very modern hotels that clearly had issues with their HVAC design as smells (bathroom smells... yuck!) from other rooms infiltrated through the ventilation ducts. I imagine this issue could be worse in a cruise ship given the small size of the cabins.

Given how often cruise ships end up spreading infections between passengers, it's odd how popular they are with the elderly. Not only are they increasing their odds of catching something, the medical facilities on the ship and many of the ports of call are inferior to what's available in most average sized cities back home.

I’ve heard it’s the rugs repelling sanitizers. HVAC don’t look great as well and feels a bit like overall hygiene standards is as good as they were in their heyday.

They're likely not going to go bust though; they have a fuckton of money, at worst the ships are going to be docked for a while until this blows over.

They won't make money, but they're not going to go bust.

I think this is a major problem with a lot of businesses; they consider time not spent earning money as loss, instead of just a period with less income. And I think it's the responsibility of ALL businesses to keep a savings account so they can weather economic downturns for a few months (at least 6), while paying their staff in full.

I mean it's only been a few months and they're already asking for handouts? Besides, whatever happened to pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and how communism and the state is evil?

I’ve looked at their finances. A few very well may go bust. It’s incredible how many publicly traded companies are living paycheck to paycheck.

I don’t like the idea of bailing out debt-laden, mismanaged companies. Let them go into bankruptcy and let a more competent group of people buy them and run them. This is doubly true for Boeing. Get those monkeys out of the executive positions.

Well I don't know why we're surprised when the federal government does what they can to make sure companies don't retain earrings. The Accumulated Earnings Tax

The ships aren't going to disappear, someone else will buy them and operate them.

Exactly. These companies will go bankrupt, but some savvy investors will snap up their assets on the cheap or bring them through bankruptcy and be back up and running on the other side.

Edit: My point being, we should let this happen. I see no reason to bail them out.

>They're likely not going to go bust though; they have a fuckton of money, at worst the ships are going to be docked for a while until this blows over.

Why do people get this impression a pandemic, combined with an unprecedented economic drawdown, combined with one of the most vitriolic political climates we've ever seen is just going to "blow over", and in 6 months we'll be going along like nothing ever happened?

Covid19 might go away (or it might not, there's always that). But many things are going to change. Who's to say we don't now decide that cruise ships are a stupid idea, because they spread disease, pollute like crazy, don't pay taxes and need bailouts? Many industries disappear.

Cruise lines can borrow money at rock bottom interest rates. We do not need to bail them out. They don't even pay US taxes.

Royal Caribbean is borrowing at 6-7% according to a quick Google. And that is in good times.

No reason to believe they could attract better terms at a time like this

> I think this is a major problem with a lot of businesses; they consider time not spent earning money as loss, instead of just a period with less income.

It depends if you still have expenses, like e.g. rent.

Or employees.

The top has absolute power over the workers. This is the result of greed and extreme capitalism.

The reason to justify employers/share holders getting paid so much more than workers should be that they take so much more and higher risks.

Now we have it backwards. When business is profitable the top takes all the bonus and dividends. During downtime however, workers get to swallow all the loss.

AKA "Capitalism on the way up, Socialism on the way down".

Better idea. They want a bailout? Sure. Turn all your ships to hospital ships for the next year. You won't miss them anyway.

One of these ships is basically a 10 floor high city block that can sustain itself off grid for over two weeks. Surely we have a good use for that.

"Turn all your ships to hospital ships"

Dear God no. Please don't create a covid19 death ship. Covid19 has proven to be a ruthless killer on recycled air systems. It would be impossible to screen for the virus - it would certainly find it's way on board.

There are numerous non-covid medical conditions which could benefit.

Though whether or not recreational cruise ships could be reasonably repurposed, and staffed, in time is a bit of a stretch.

In that case, the best use might be the "isolate mild cases" approach: everyone who tests positive goes on the ship, even (especially) if they don't have symptoms. If they deteriorate to severe, move them to a real hospital. This has been a big part of the Wuhan campaign.

Repeated exposure makes covid-19 cases worse.

I doubt that. It’s more likely to depend on the viral load you’re exposed to. Being a nurse with inadequate PPE intubating someone and being exposed to large quantities of COVID once will give the virus a head start, whereas running through a cough cloud and just barely getting enough to infect you five times over the course of an hour will give your immune system a head start.

Many medical procedures have been pushed back, a bunch of surgeons twiddling their thumbs somewhere. Might be useful to have them operate out of retrofitted cruise medical ships.

The army core of engineers would have to heavily modify them. We do have hospital ships. I am not sure it'd be possible though to get negative pressure in the HVAC.. maybe.

This didn't go so well with the Diamond Princess. Cruise ships seem like terrible sanitary environments at the best of times. Motels on the other hand are great, they have separate rooms each with its own windows & AC, and really simple plumbing.

Where do you take the doctors, nurses and paramdics to staff those ships? There is already a massive shortage in competent medical personal.

Add to this that cruise ships are notoriously bad in containing viruses. Before we had this massive mess there were regular noro virus outbreaks on cruise ships.

ASo no, I don't think that's a good idea.

I had a thought earlier today that might fix the economic situation, but it's extremely bold.

If the world congregates and places blame on the CCP for asking us to keep our borders open while knowing all along how contagious and deadly this virus was, that's criminally negligent. Maybe even malicious.

The behavior of the CCP after the virus spread internationally is equally alarming. They threatened to shut off access to medicines manufactured in China, placed blame on Italy and the US for the virus' origin, and shut down European and US travel to China.

Defaulting on debt is bad. But what if every nation collectively "cancelled" their debt to China? China would protest, but given the circumstance it doesn't seem like a credit downgrade would be necessary if this were taken as repayment for damages caused.

If we owe zero to China, we can then lend all of that money to businesses and individuals impacted. Pay off domestic debts.

I really like the idea of "cancelling Chinese debt". Now someone please tell me how this couldn't work. Would they retaliate? Would they consider it an act of war?

(I shouldn't have to say this, but I harbor no ill will towards the Chinese people. I love Chinese culture and studied Mandarin in college. I dislike the CCP and their actions.)

Assuming you don't want to start a war, it relies on them not 'protesting' too much.

It also relies on not needing to borrow again in the foreseable future, and probably not on good terms when you do (decades down the line).

Trying to arrange 'every nation collectively' doing so sounds like a risky exercise in getting everybody to agree to your plan, and not side with China instead and make your (and anybody who did agree's) situation even worse.

Strictly worse than just firing up the printers, IMO.

remember that time we fucked over Germany after world war 1?

How much of the US debt owned by China is held by the Chinese government rather than Chinese citizens?

The huge majority of it. The Chinese Central Bank has to buy a lot of T-bills to keep the ¥/$ exchange rate where they want it. And the domestic finance market in China is very highly regulated to maintain capital controls; I’d be surprised if you can even buy T-bills outside Hong Kong and Macau.

I don’t think we should bail out any bigger industry without requiring them to create buffers for the next crisis. We bailed them out in 2008, that’s fair, but if they sent all their profit to their shareholders instead of preparing for the next crisis then let their share holders bail them out.

I’m European though, so I may be more of a social democrat than most Americans.

Bailing them out is OK, but it should be through the government buying equity in those companies (essentially partial or complete nationalization).

> Bailing them out is OK, but it should be through the government buying equity in those companies (essentially partial or complete nationalization).

Additionally, I think the government should be buying equity at a steep discount - something reasonable but not disastrous like 67%.

> buying equity at a steep discount

the gov't "loans" should be the same as the amount of equity obtained. For example, if the book value of the company is $100 , and the debt is $80 (so they need a loan of $80 to cover their debts), then the bailout will dilute all existing shareholders 80%.

If the company is on the brink of bankruptcy, its stock is going to be close to worthless anyway.

There are different kinds of bail outs.

The US bail outs that bought the bad stuff from the banks and slowly sold them off as the market allowed made a nominal profit.

(TARP recovered funds totalling $441.7 billion from $426.4 billion invested, earning a $15.3 billion profit or an annualized rate of return of 0.6% and perhaps a loss when adjusted for inflation.)

The other kind is what the central bank does, basically quantitative easing, just providing low interest loans to financial institutions - and basically to the government too (by buying US Treasury bonds on the open market). And then it becomes the banks' job to determine who to give loans to, and if they make bad calls eventually they will lose a lot of equity, so there market forces usually help separating the worse from the less bad.

The other option is to have the bank in question issue more equity for the state to buy.

The Norwegian government for example still owns more than a third of the biggest Norwegian bank as a holdover from a much earlier financial crisis (1990), and decided not to sell down further as a strategic decision to prevent future meltdowns.

The UK similarly bought a lot of bank assets during the 2008 crisis.

The cruise ships send millions of dollars of US tourists' money every year to countries in the US sphere of influence that they would otherwise never fly and visit.

It's not a bailout for the cruise industry. It's a bailout for nearly every island nation in this hemisphere. We keep the tourism money flowing and they'll keep flowing exported raw materials and food.

Are there really critical raw materials and food coming from, say, Caribbean islands that we couldn't get somewhere else?

Even if there are, if their economy were hurt by the lack of cruises, why would they hurt it further by refusing to sell anything?

That's only true if you believe that there isn't some fundamental part of this business that is profitable and market forces won't eventually lead to new cruise companies popping back up in the future

In times of crisis, that's not what we care about, we care about uninterrupted supply chain.

Yes, I agree the system should not be that fragile, but for now it is.

In this case, I'd say we'd be better off letting that fragility run its course.

Very few (if any) Americans depend on the existence of the cruise industry to make a living or otherwise survive in our society. For the ones who do, it'd be cheaper to give them individual "bailouts". Cruise ships contribute jack all to the national or global supply chain except as consumers of it; letting cruise lines fail means more capacity on that supply chain for things that actually do matter (especially in times of crisis).

Even bank bailouts have a better value proposition, and that's saying something.

Tourism is an import/export like any other.

Trade imbalances aren't good for economies and eventually lead to wars 100% of the time. Read about the Opium Wars if you want a textbook example of this.

The article is also missing the point that the majority of cruise ship consumers are from the US. A lot of these folks live for going on a cruise. I've met people who have been on cruise every single year since over a decade and the people who work hard to save money to go on cruise. It's easy to say all these other people shouldn't need X when you don't need X. My only objection against cruise company is massive pollution they do. Government should definitely make fixing this a pre-condition of any bailout.

> I've met people who have been on cruise every single year since over a decade and the people who work hard to save money to go on cruise

I mean, so what? If there's so much demand, presumably new cruise lines will show up at some point when the current ones collapse. In general, "[a small minority of] people like it" is not a sufficient reason to bail something out; government bailouts are inherently limited and should be targeted at where they will do the most good. Realistically, where they will do the most good, by _any_ metric, is not cruise lines.

The thing is, they don't actually send that much. Most of the money is captured by the ship itself. They only leave the scraps of daily excursions etc to the natives

I think there should be a much bigger discussion about bailouts. There currently seems to be a feeling that an industry that struggles deserves a bailout by default.

Why don't we have a discussion about which industry provides important services to society? And particularly how helpful it is likely to be in the larger crisis we have looming over us - climate change - and which won't go away? It seems like the absolute worst idea to bail out high carbon industries, and that's not just true for cruise ships, but also for airlines and many others.

I went on a cruise ship once. Was very bored. I was so bored I tried to wangle a tour of the engine room (after all, I'm an engineer) but no way said the captain. The food was nice. The captain avoided a big storm. I figured if I ever went on a cruise again it would be an a much smaller boat. After all, who doesn't want an oar thrust in their hands and have someone yell "ramming speed!" at them? "We keep you alive to serve this ship! Row well, and live!" and all. Much more fun than the gift shops and roulette wheels.

When I was a kid we crossed the Atlantic in the SS United States. For a kid, that was a blast, especially when we steamed through a huge storm. Wowsa! I'm sad to see the rusty hulk it has become.

The Hurtigruten is a coastal freighter cum cruise line traversing the Norwegian coast between Bergen in the south and Kirkenes near Murmansk up north, making loads of stops underway to on- and offload cargo and passengers.

The Norwegian coast can be quite rough in the wintertime - a friend of mine is the steward on one of the ships, and she assures me every winter there are numerous passengers who insist on being dressed up in full survival kit and quite literally being tied to the mast - to experience the full wrath of a winter storm from a safe position.

To each his own. It probably isn't boring, at least. :)

Do they make the passengers walk the oars, too? https://youtu.be/8SW6a1z_hUk?t=112

Must say your comment sounds quite poetic to me.

Sorry for OT/meta.

Bailouts are very unfair and undemocratic. I can understand for Boeing where the military absolutely depends on them and if a war were to start, being able to build planes is essential.

But Carnival cruises, who cares if they go under? another one will prop up with a better business model that is sustainable.

Every company should be able to weather a couple of months if they rode the bull for the best 11 years of stock rise in history. If your executives fucked it up, too bad. You can get a low interest loan, but no free bailout money.

I'm bemused that anyone would even _consider_ bailing out the cruise industry, of all things. Like, what is the "in favour of" argument?

The campaign donations those companies gave you last election.

I guess allowing them to fail could lead to their large derelict vessels littering up the ocean?

Crony capitalism?

A market based solution would be investors buying struggling companies at a discount, or companies using their reserves that they have built based on normal risk management.

Bailout money should be used to help people during unemployment.

I mainly agree with this. Companies living paycheck to paycheck should sell equity. The US government should set aside money to buy into these new equity offerings.

For non-public and small business there can be funds set aside to help them.

And then yes, simply increase unemployment distributions for the time bring to 80% previous income for a couple months.

What do you call a cruise ship full of lawyers at the bottom of the sea?

A start


The article missed another point: they're competing with US based tourism. Every person who chose to go on a cruise didn't visit a US city and spend money there.

On the Caribbean and Mexico cruises we've taken, we spent a few days before and after in the US ports Fort Lauderdale and San Diego, so it is common for both same-day flyers and short term stay visitors to embark.

Not really it means they spent time on a boat not a plane. If anything a boat to some nearby island beats flying to somewhere geographically remote because the money will be less likely to flow back via tourists visiting from the opposite direction.

Why do bailouts at all instead of letting them go bankrupt? Bankruptcy doesn't mean that people lose their jobs, it means that investors / lenders lose money.

bankruptcy does mean the people who worked there would lose their jobs. They will have to be re-employed, if the new buyer of the assets sold to cover the debts, decides to continue running a cruise liner. This certainly takes some time, and in the interim, all the employees will be fired (or at least, not paid).

If the gov't bails out the cruise liners, they may be able to force them to continue paying the employees in the intrim, and so "save" them from being unemployed and "save" welfare. The gov't can also end up owning equity in the business (which is not a bad thing - it's basically extra income for the state/treasury in the future).

Because apparently we want to make sure investors don't suffer at the expense of the taxpayer / rest of the population.

Tourists from cruise ships destroy nice vacactions.

Many hundreds of people come on the streets in groups, go throught the streets loudly and fast to take photos, than go back to the ship.

People who really go to these places and spend money for staying and try to blend in to have a peaceful vacation can't.

Interestingly, the city of Amsterdam is trying to reduce the amount of tourists they get; one measure they've taken is closing the cruise ship port close to the city center.

That's great!

I have seen videos of how they're also reducing the usage of cars to make it a walkable/bicyclable city, I would love to see Amsterdam some time (probably not this year due to coronavirus though :( )

And municipalities let them come because volume, volume, volume. Those tourist destinations cater to them more than they cater to you.

This isn't true, specifically of places like Venice, where they are actively trying to curtail cruise ship traffic.


Venice a prime example of this problem.

>People who really go to these places

did you just no true scottsman vacations?

Your comment seems like the statement of someone with an axe to grind rather and lacks factual evidence.

-I used to live in a small town (Aalesund, Norway, pop. of town centre - 10,000 or so).

It is a popular port for cruise ships doing the Norwegian coast. I assure you, during summer season one could have 2-4 vessels in port - effectively a DoS attack on town.

Getting from A to B on foot was nearly impossible, forget any shopping or café visits - a town built for 10,000 suddenly had twice as many people in the streets. Go figure.

While the cruise tourists leave a little cash behind, it is much less per head than, say, camper van tourists do.

I didn't mind all that much - but I can see valid reasons for not wishing to have a cruise entourage come crashing down on your hometown on a regular basis.

That's true. But the number of upvotes are evidence that I'm not the only person experiencing this.

I love to travel, but I try to stay at least 10 days on any place I go to and learn a bit of the local language and customs.

For that I really need the airlines to work, but if they get more expensive, I understand, and will just make longer vacations at less places.

Of all the really bad things that can be said about cruise ships you have chosen one that is 100% identical with airlines. Moreover, it has a certain air of "gatekeeping" that is fairly ridiculous.

It is impossible to "blend" somewhere in vacation. You have to live many years somewhere to blend. You are exactly like the cruise ship tourists if you stay for a few weeks.

Few people fly in and flood the streets of tourist hotspot cities for just a couple of hours and then disappear again without spending any money on hotels, and often not even restaurants.

You can do that as a plane tourist too, but it's far less common.

As soon as you stay even one night you are NOT like cruise tourists. You probably had at least one dinner and one hotel stay. Good tourist.

Why are the hotels a worthy way to spend the money? They push up the house prices for those who actually live there. Someone who isn't taking up a bed that a local could sleep in is being a better tourist IMO.

Yours is an argument against tourism. Sure a lot of people dislike tourism but it’s a major source of income in many places where there are few other industries. When people pay local businesses then at least money stays where they are spent, helping locals who don’t work in the tourist industry by providing funding for services etc. Thats why hotels and restaurants are a good way to spend money.

Cruise tourism usually pays very little to local business but the crowds and pollution is there anyway.

I believe in the greatest happiness of the greatest number, so I'm in favour of making sure as many people as possible get to experience these places - Venice, Everest, Jamaica, wherever people want to go - with the minimum disruption to others. Cruises seem like the best way to minimise the per-person "footprint" of visiting a place - just as container ships are the most efficient way of transporting goods.

I went on a Caribbean cruise once (the trip was bought for me, I would never have paid for it). The thing I found most striking was the same-ness of every stop. We stopped in Jamaica, but it felt the same as every single other stop: Busy "shopping area" right near the cruise terminal, with many of the exact same stores as the last stop. A variety of the same tired cruise-approved "activities" ("touch a dolphin", "ride a zipline through the forest", "snorkel adventure!") available with just a 1-2 hour cramped bus ride. And, in my experience, not enough time at each stop to actually see much or any of the place we'd landed. The boat stopped in Belize, so I guess I can stick that pin up on my big world-map. Except the "island" we stopped at was wholly-owned by the cruise line and we were only there for four hours, so we mostly gained the experience of buying the same overpriced drinks they had available on the boat, but out of a coconut.

I disagree that cruises are an effective way to visit a place at all, let alone on a low footprint.

In my experience you can find sameness anywhere if you look for it, or you can find the interesting differences. Four hours is pretty short, true, but it's time enough to wander around a place and experience something unique (I had around that long in Vienna on one trip, but I ate a lovely "sushi burrito" for lunch, saw some amazing paintings, and drank in a wonderfully traditional cafe). I'd argue that a cruise can be worthwhile precisely because long bus rides suck; I've done similar trips around Eastern Europe as a road trip, sleeper train trip and river cruise, and the cruise was when I spent the least time moving luggage around or staring out of a window and the most time actually in the cities I was visiting.

Here is a map of the island [0]. There was a $20 ferry to Placencia [1], but the ferry ride was a 30 minute trip and they recommended coming back 2 hours before cruise departure.

The other stops were a little better, but were all still clearly "cruise towns" with hour+ long bus rides to the next nearest populated place.

I'm not saying there weren't interesting differences. The entire experience was, in fact, extremely novel to me. I don't feel like I've "visited" any of the countries we stopped in, however, any more than I feel like I've visited changeover cities where I never left the airport.

[0] https://1ypfazc0twx431e6w2jik5nw-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placencia

in reality is the opposite, the footprint is huge in terms of environmental impact, the cruises pollute the air of the city. Also, cruise visitors use the city's facilities (roads, trash collection, beaches, etc) but don't leave much money behind to compensate. Sure we maximize the amount of people that get to visit the place, but they leave locals worse off as they have to foot the bill

> the cruises pollute the air of the city

Per-person? Surely anyone arriving by car, aeroplane or even bus is causing a lot more pollution, just on the sheer physics of how much more efficient sea transport is.

> Also, cruise visitors use the city's facilities (roads, trash collection, beaches, etc) but don't leave much money behind to compensate.

Surely that can be balanced with appropriate taxation - I believe a lot of places already levy a per-passenger tax for cruise ships berthing there.

Are you sure about that? A quick search for carbon per passenger cruise ship vs airplane returned several results[0][1][2] suggesting that the airplane is in fact a more eco-friendly way to travel.

[0] https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/ask-mr-green/which-better-...

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2006/dec/20/cruises.green

[2] https://grist.org/living/you-thought-planes-burned-a-lot-of-...

I can believe those numbers saying that a transatlantic cruise would be 3-4x the emissions of a transatlantic flight. But the per-passenger-km figure isn't a realistic basis for comparison; tourists aren't trying to travel x kilometres, they're trying to see places x, y and z. The substitute for taking a 1000km cruise 5000km away from where you live is not 11000km of flying, it's more likely making two or three 10000km round-trips. And if you did replicate a cruise by flying between successive ports of call then the efficiency figures for those short-haul flights are going to be an order of magnitude worse than for a transatlantic flight.

If the aim of supporting tourism is to "bring money into the local economy" then hotel rooms are one of the biggest ticket items when booking a holiday. Almost always the biggest when you ignore flights, which don't contribute directly to the local economy anyway.

If you look at Santorini for example, all of the revenue of locals is from tourism. Actually many of the people don't have jobs during winter, so they have to close the restaurants and the hotels when they are out of season.

That's a bit unfair, when you fly somehwere you sleep there, you eat there, you spend there. Whereas on a cruise ship the tourist is spending 99% of their money on the ship, and 1% in the city that they're flooding

Not true. Cruise passengers practically run the economy of many cities around the world including US. For example, a lot of towns in Alaska basically live off of cruise ship docking there. If they stop, many of them flat out collapse. I don't have actual data but my anecdata from several cruise ship regulars is that they spend at least as much on "excursions" and touring the ports as on cruise ship ticket.

Sorry maybe that's true, I was thinking of European/Mediterranean cruises, and the impact they have on Venice, Dubrovnik etc

Other threads debate the merits of cruises and/or bailouts, but this specific idea has a unique challenge: there may not be a viable market for cruises until COVID is at least treatable, if not preventable. The CDC’s guidance is to “defer all cruise travel worldwide”[1] and that may not change until treatment exists - particularly for those over 50-60. 51% of 2019 passengers were over 50[2].

Cruise ships manage to contain norovirus[3], but we’ve seen how different the consequences are when NCoV is present on a cruise ship.

[1]: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/warning/coronavirus-cru... [2]: https://www.cruise1st.co.uk/blog/cruise-holidays/how-old-is-... [3]: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/pub/norovirus/norovirus.htm

Fuck em, they flag in other countries so they don't pay taxes, but also because they can treat employees like slaves, pollute using bunker fuel, and generally fuck over the world.

Fuck em.

Airlines also pollute and dodge taxes. But love them or hate them, it's hard to argue that airlines don't play a critical role. The broader economy would suffer badly if they were to fail.

Cruise ships, however, do not. They are purely recreational and the economy would not fall apart if they were to go. They also share some of the blame for spreading Covid-19 in the first place!

> The broader economy would suffer badly if they were to fail

Why? The planes are not going anywhere. If airlines fail, someone will be able to buy them at a discount. They will need to hire pilots and cabin crews. Shareholders in airlines will be hit - as it should be.

That's even more true with cruise ships. That industry will be effectively bailed out one way or the other, the other is banks eating the losses after bankruptcy and new companies starting out with lower debt after taking over the assets at firesale prices.

But that only strengthens the point of the article: the optics of an actual bailout would be so much worse and the outcome would only really differ for shareholders.

It’s not even banks, they don’t lend at those scales, it’s bondholders. Let them take their lumps. If investors wanted government guarantees they could have bought sovereign debt instead.

Are the regular capital markets closed to the airlines? Even after all the turmoil Delta’s market cap is more than $14B. Just as they bought back shares in good times, now that they have a need for cash on hand they can sell new shares.

At least you could argue [citation needed] that the airlines play a bigger role in the US economy than cruise ships. I mean their intent is to ferry people (and their money) away from the US, both in the fare (which goes to tax havens and rich people's pockets) and the money people spend in foreign tourist areas.

The airline equivalent of the cruise lines would be large foreign carriers, which happen to fly to the US. It would be obvious madness for the US Govt. to give anything at all to Emirates or Ethiopian, for instance.

Whereas Delta & friends have a large footprint in the US, lots of jobs, lots of purely US service. Still not obvious whether they deserve help, but they are clearly very different organizations.

it's hard to argue that airlines don't play a critical role.

What critical industry will suffer if air travel suddenly becomes much more rare?


(I'm only pretending to have missed the "critical" before "industry", of course you are completely right)

There's no easy solution to a once in-a-century pandemic. The most important issue is economic continuity.

It's better to prop up companies and industry for the short term if it means thousands of people continue receiving a paycheck and can afford to live.

Suddenly laying off all those people while companies and vendors collapse will lead to major cascading effects that can be far more disastrous.

If you guys are handing out bailouts I'd like one too. I don't pay any taxes in the US and I don't do anything particularly useful. I can guarantee that absolutely zero US jobs will be saved by bailing me out. I am not bankrupt and I don't need the money. I think I'd therefore be an excellent candidate to receive a bailout. Let's say five billion should be sufficient.

In case anyone is not aware, the planned relief for companies in the private sector is in the form of loans, not cash giveaways

You don't think a loan to a company on the brink of bankruptcy is a cash giveaway?

Well, it would be nice if you're right...

A loan at non-market rates is essentially a cash giveaway, though a smaller one than if you just give the cash directly.

Puzzling that the CO2 issue is buried far in the list of grievances. Does this reflect the reporter's priorities or more widely the Verge's or the readerships?

When the cruise industry gets a bailout, it is not to save the cruisers but the financial corporations, which have been financing this madness.

Why would you ever bail out an industry that is not essential to society?

One thing I've had nailed home during this fiasco is that almost all businesses consider themselves essential, even at the possible cost of their employee's lives. We have call centers doing cold call sales trying to call themselves essential.

Bailouts not not won't effect the long term size of the industry.

And of course, they avoid paying taxes by sailing under other countries' flags

Let it die. They provide no useful service to society.

Maybe the replacements will create an ethical, sustainable, and environmentally friendly business instead.

Man, I hate how people have all kinds of "reasons" why industry X shouldn't be bailed out. Uh, no. Nobody should be bailed out, as a general principle.

This is a very short sighted view. Police forces cannot maintain order in the event of massive unrest and the best way to prevent this is to keep people above the poverty line and the death rates low. Desperation leads to upheaval.

I'd say actual people should by all means be bailed out. Anything less just punishes poor people for being poor. I'd be willing to extend that to small businesses, too, for similar reasons.

Multi-million (let alone billion) dollar corporations, however, are not in a comparable situation, and re: them I fully agree with your take. If they accept bailouts, they should be prepared to also accept "We the People" democratically controlling them as publicly-owned cooperatives; the moment you depend on taxpayer money for your existence is the moment you forfeit the "right" to anything but taxpayer ownership.

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