Man alive. How often do you hear a politician *admit* that his policy is crafted to satisfy a particular lobby, let alone in the middle of a natural disaster in which the victims claim they’re being harmed by that policy? This is like asking a Republican congressman why he’s not tougher on the border knowing that some illegals commit crimes after they get here and having him reply, “Because that’s how the Chamber of Commerce wants it.”
Even if it’s true, why on earth would you cop to it?
“Well we’re thinking about [temporarily lifting the Jones Act],” Trump told reporters before stepping aboard Marine One, “but we have a lot of shippers, and a lot of people, and a lot of people who work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted.”
“And we have a lot of ships out there right now,” Trump added.
The Jones Act is a federal law banning foreign-owned, foreign-built, or foreign-manned ships from transporting goods between U.S. ports. If you want to ship things to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, you’re stuck using an American-owned, American-built ship with an American crew even if a foreign vessel would be cheaper. It’s straight-up protectionism and it costs Puerto Ricans big bucks, as protectionism tends to do. By one estimate, keeping the Jones Act in place benefits something like 1,400 shipping workers in and around the island. Meanwhile, 1.5 million Puerto Ricans are without drinking water right now. This is what’s known as bad optics. And Trump’s critics are taking full advantage:
I find myself speculating about the real motive for waiving Jones Act for TX/LA/FL but not PR, where things are dire. I bet I'm not alone. https://t.co/jBGfRQJISx
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) September 27, 2017
Shaub’s correct. The feds did lift the Jones Act a few weeks ago for states affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in order to get fuel to American ports more quickly. Why the special treatment for Puerto Rico?
You don’t need to stoop to Shaub’s racial insinuation for an answer. The truth, according to Customs and Border Protection, is that it’s not the volume of ships bound for PR that’s the problem: “The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability.” Puerto Rican ports are damaged and can’t process shipped goods at normal rates, making extra ships unnecessary. But in that case, why didn’t Trump just say that? And why not lift the Jones Act anyway, just in case it helps at the margins to get water and gas to the island even a bit more quickly? Not doing everything you can to relieve a humanitarian crisis is asking for trouble politically. Not doing everything you can and then pointing to a special interest as the reason why is self-sabotage. Just lift the Act. Easy peasy!
Exit question: Watch the second clip below. Is shipping really the big problem here?
President Trump says he is thinking about lifting the Jones Act to help Puerto Rico https://t.co/FEMwfaBDmp
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 27, 2017
3,000 shipping containers packed with food water & medicene have been sitting at the port in Puerto Rico since Saturday pic.twitter.com/LJ0ETpmnOf
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) September 27, 2017