02192018What's Hot:

Wait, We’re Doing WHAT To Puerto Rico? WE SHOULD STOP THAT.

Donald Trump knows two things about Puerto Rico:

  1. It’s far away in THE OCEAN, so you can’t drive a truck there. And …
  2. It has a lot of debt.

So Monday night, President Trump took a break from scream-tweeting at the NFL to remind hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico that it needs to get its shit together so it can make its vig.

Let’s put aside for a moment the irony of a guy who declared bankruptcy SIX TIMES lecturing anyone about responsible debt. And let’s not get into that part about “Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well,” when 1.5 million people have no water, and Puerto Ricans are dying because hospitals in Puerto Rico have no power. And let’s not speculate whether Trump actually knows that these are American Citizens. This way, madness lies.

The POS in Chief is an embarrassing ignoramus, and that’s not going to change. But we are NOT A Idiot. So let’s try to wrap our heads around the Jones Act, which is about to be a thing. Perhaps we’ll find that Puerto Ricans are not, in fact, derelict spendthrifts who while away the day eating coconuts. MAYBE their fellow American Citizens bear some of the blame as well!

Spoiler alert: With no congressional votes, Puerto Rico gets royally screwed by the contiguous states. We are FOR SHOCKED.

The Devil and Senator Jones

After WWI, American shipbuilders had a problem. They had a lot of ships and a lot of workers, but no more war to fight in. SAD! So Washington Senator Wesley Jones sponsored the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, better known as the Jones Act, which said:

  • Only American ships can sail between American ports.
  • An American ship must be built in the US and staffed by Americans.
  • Any foreign ship that stops at two US ports will pay a steep tariff on goods unloaded.

By making it illegal for foreign-made boats to sail from port to port along the coast, the Jones Act created a market for its surplus vessels after the war. And in the event of another war, Congress reasoned that our military would be able to tap that fleet and avoid reliance on foreign ships.

Because American shipbuilding and labor costs are relatively high, citizens in the contiguous states each pay a little more for commodities moved between US ports. If your politics swing toward the protectionist side of the spectrum, this might seem like a good idea.

BUT…

Economists. Hate. The Jones Act. Economist Joseph Stieglitz told Planet Money that consumers are ponying up an additional $ 250,000 in shipping costs for every shipbuilding job saved. This makes no sense! But the Army supports it, and shipbuilders lobby hard. So for the past century, each American consumer has paid a negligible surcharge to subsidize the American shipping industry.

Unless that American consumer lived in Hawaii, Guam, or Puerto Rico, in which case she got totally hosed. For her, the cost is not negligible because virtually everything she consumes arrived first at a mainland port before being loaded onto a second, American boat or plane. The cost is then passed on to Puerto Rican consumers, who pay twice as much as mainland Americans for food and gas. For Puerto Ricans, it looks less like a rounding error in support of American military readiness and more like a 100% tax levied on them alone to support the domestic shipbuilding industry.

Hey, remember that time we dumped a bunch of tea in the harbor because someone taxed the shit out of us and didn’t give us a voice in our own government?

The New York Times reports,

Thanks to the law, the price of goods from the United States mainland is at least double that in neighboring islands, including the United States Virgin Islands, which are not covered by the Jones Act. Moreover, the cost of living in Puerto Rico is 13 percent higher than in 325 urban areas elsewhere in the United States, even though per capita income in Puerto Rico is about $ 18,000, close to half that of Mississippi, the poorest of all 50 states.

Puerto Ricans, the people who can least afford it, are being asked to underwrite the US shipbuilding market. A 2012 study estimated the cost to PR’s economy at about $ 1 billion every year, which is part of the reason it racked up $ 70 billion in debt. So maybe Donald Trump could shut the fuck up about dunning Puerto Ricans right now, since they didn’t get into this mess all by themselves.

Can we maybe hold off on this Jones Act thing during a natural disaster?

During Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the Jones Act was suspended for Texas, Louisiana and Florida, enabling them to use cheaper foreign ships and labor to move fuel and supplies along the coast. But the Trump Administration has announced that it will not be suspending the Jones Act for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Via Reuters,

“The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” [Border Patrol spokesman Gregory] Moore said.

The government’s rationale for a waiver after the storms hit Texas, Louisiana and Florida was to ease movement of fuel to places along the U.S. East Coast and make up for temporary outages of high capacity pipelines.

“The situation in Puerto Rico is much different,” Moore said in the statement, adding that most of the humanitarian effort would be carried out with barges, which make up a large portion of the U.S. flagged cargo fleet.

Translation: Well, your port’s in pretty bad shape anyway. And we have a bunch of those smaller, more expensive US vessels that can get in and out right now. So, PR can just continue to pay the mark-up while it tries to dig its way out of a natural disaster. God knows when you guys will be able to restart your tourism and manufacturing industries. But in the meantime, those ship builders gotta get paid, right?

Pardon our skepticism. But if PR were a state, it would have two senators and four congressmen. And there is no damn way that it would still be subject to the Jones Act when the entire island is likely to be without electricity for months! So maybe Donald Trump could stop shit-tweeting at Puerto Rico (and the NFL, and North Korea, and Hillary Clinton, and Facebook) and get serious about helping it dig out of this crisis. How about start by suspending the goddamn Jones Act!

AND BY THE WAY, MR. PRESIDENT! Remember this?

Remember that time in 2008 when you took over management of that failing golf club in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and renamed it the Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico? Remember how it never made any money, but you still went to the Puerto Rican government in 2011 and promised that you had A PLAN to turn everything around? Remember how they took your word for it and issued another $ 22 million in bonds? Remember the club stopped making payments that same year? Remember how you took your management fees, terminated the licensing agreement, and left the Puerto Rican government on the hook for the $ 22 million when the club declared bankruptcy?

Kinda seems like you are the last guy on earth who needs to be telling the Puerto Ricans to get their shit together!

FOR FUCK’S SAKE, AMERICA! Call your representatives and tell them that you’re sick of Puerto Ricans paying corporate welfare for the shipping industry. Do it now!

NYTimes / Business Insider / Planet Money / Reuters / Buzzfeed]

Give us money so we can keep splaining stuff. AND give some to Puerto Rican relief efforts, too.

Source: Politics – Wonkette

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