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September 27, 2017


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We should be clear that the removal of the Jones Act would likely mean a near or total elimination of that remnant of the US merchant fleet, by vessels crewed by people with lower wages and fewer labor and safety protections than at present (possibly far fewer), with more difficult recourse by firms using the foreign-flagged lines.

There would be negative effects: those American crew members, the shipbuilders, a downtick in steel orders. A few thousand people would be out of work, and most of them in industries in severe decline: they would have difficulty finding similar work. But it would be a substantial consumer benefit to six million plus people, on top of the immediate humanitarian usefulness to Puerto Rico.

Of course, we have a leader who would rather protect a handful of symbolic jobs at the expense of millions already.

Great point on the costs. You could link repeal to substantial payments to the current workers at the shipyards and on the vessels. Somehow I don't think that is on the cards.

The benefit would be to more than just the six million in the insular areas, however: moving more cargo to coastal shipping (a la Europe) would provide substantial benefits to people living on the coasts as well. How much truck traffic would you displace along I-95?

But what would the truckers have to say about that? I'm sure once they realized that repealing the Jones Act would reduce the need for trucking t people living along the coasts they would fight it tooth and nail.

Efficiency at the price of blue collar labor may have political repercussions that dwarf the economic benefits.

If the U.S. fleet weren't down to 93 ships, I'd agree with you! Sadly, we don't live in the world where the Jones Act produced a large-but-expensive domestic industry.

That said, truckers are a rather more substantial group. Sadly, though, technology threatens them more than a repeal of the Jones Act.

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