Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Waiving the Jones Act - Sending a message or making a buck?

U.S. Merchant Marine Poster WW II

Oil is spewing into the Gulf at the rate of 60,000 bbl/day, what is that? If you are Florida Senator George LeMieux, Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison or John Cornyn of Texas it is a perfect opportunity to weaken the Jones Act. The story is here Gulf coast senators introduce bill to allow foreign ships to help with BP oil spill clean-up.

The story explains that the Jones Act does not apply to the clean-up outside three miles where the foreign ships would be used, but they want to waiver the law anyway.
Still, Hutchison said in a radio interview Monday that there was no reason why the U.S. should not be as open as possible to foreign aid.
Just in case I suppose.

The argument that maritime labor  was behind the opposition against a blanket waiver ran out of steam. Even Fox New has acknowledged this argument makes no sense:

Some critics have suggested that Obama is protecting the pocketbooks of his union allies by keeping foreign vessels at bay. But several Jones Act experts told me that makes little sense because unions have minimal influence in the Gulf. Foreign competition, therefore, would do little to hurt their bottom line.
They now argue that the Jones Act must be wavered "for the sole purpose of sending a message to our allies". Does anyone else smell a rat?

Here is The Right's Latest Faux Obama Outrage
Shipping companies that rely on foreign vessels have long hoped to amend the act so that they can compete domestically without paying US taxes or complying with domestic labor, environmental, or safety regulations. (Many of these, such as the Virginia-based Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry, are American companies.) Firms that would prefer to save money by using foreign-registered ships have also griped about the Jones Act. In the mid-1990s, a group of such interests calling itself the "Jones Act Reform Coalition" tried—without success—to weaken the law.

The Mother Jones article warns of:
a bunch of leaky Liberian-flagged boats staffed with Somali teenagers earning slave wages.
That might be a little over the top but  the idea the idea that Gulf State senators want to waiver the Jones Act just to "send a message" is nonsense. This fight is about money, not cleaning up oil.


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