Jones Act Waivers Prove Need for Reform
From Grassroot Institute, September 15, 2017
A week ago, the Trump Administration approved a Jones Act waiver to help with the rescue and relief efforts going on in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The waiver allowed for the use of all options — including the use of non-Jones Act ships — to facilitate distributing fuel to the states devastated by the hurricanes.
Such waivers generally are granted in the case of national emergencies. President George W. Bush granted Jones Act waivers in 2005 after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. President Barack Obama approved a slightly different waiver in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy.
The very fact that such waivers are standard in emergencies reveals something that the Jones Act lobby doesn't want people to understand, which is that the case for reforming this almost-century-old protectionist shipping legislation is correct: The Jones Act promotes inefficiencies and increases costs for American businesses and consumers, and acts like an anchor on our economy.
The costs of the Jones Act may be more obvious during a national emergency, but they never truly disappear. In fact, the need for a waiver in a time of need is an indictment of the Act for its failure to keep American shipping competitive without the help of protectionist laws.
The Jones Act lobby might try to claim that the waivers are an intrinsic part of the Act, and that waivers allow for flexibility in times of crisis. But this is circular reasoning. They are essentially arguing that the Act isn't a problem because when you temporarily get rid of it, the Act ceases to be a problem.
We commend the administration for approving the Jones Act waiver to help Texas and Florida recover from their unfortunate hurricane destruction. In Hawaii, we know from experience how big a job that can be.
We just hope that Congress takes note and starts working to update the Jones Act for the 21st century.
E hana kakou (Let’s work together!),
Keli'i Akina, Ph.D.