Tribulations of the Ignorant

The latest Jones Act diatribe is an embarrassing faux pas

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By Tony Munoz 01-23-2019 02:47:00

They come in all forms, the ignorant and misinformed, who attack the Jones Act because it’s perceived to be an easy target. And while it takes courage to enter the political arena, when an inexperienced commentator does so and then stumbles with the basics of her argument, it’s much like listening to a violinist screeching through a classic concerto.

In “Defending Jones Act Is Path to Disaster” (https://bit.ly/2ASUAAi), Malia Hill, Policy Director for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, pens an essay filled with cheap metaphors devoid of relevant facts to support her attacks on the Jones Act. In Hill’s very first sentence she says that, “Arguing with Jones Act supporters is like talking to someone who believes in alien abductions.” Huh? Did I read that right?

She continues in the same mode with senseless statements like, “It’s a classic racket. We’re like a shop owner who has been paying for protection so nothing happens to our store. But once a month, someone breaks in and empties a shelf. When we tell Big Tony that we don’t see the point in paying for protection any more, he sends over a bunch of guys to stand menacingly by the register and explain that things ‘could get worse.’” Oh, I see. We’re like the Mafia now.

And then another doozy: “The Jones Act fleet is shrinking like a naked man in a freezer full of porcupines.” Hello? Where did that come from?

When she finally gets around to citing some facts, she offers a 2010 study by a couple of professors from the University of Puerto Rico, the thesis of which was shown to be totally incorrect and misleading. See “Puerto Rico vs. The Jones Act” (https://bit.ly/2TZ1N93).

Hill goes after the American Maritime Partnership next with another inane attack, claiming that, “Citing them is like citing a study from the American Pizza Makers Guild on the health benefits of extra cheese and pepperoni.” By indulging over and over again in such foolish and childish analogies, Hill totally undermines any credibility her argument may have had.

Her complete ignorance of the U.S. maritime industry is on display when she says the Jones Act fleet, which “is supposed to be an essential part of our national defense…has dropped from 249 vessels in the 1980s to about 96 today.” While technically correct, she mistakenly and misleadingly is referring only to the U.S. Merchant Marine’s deepwater fleet, which is used for the transport of Cargo Preference items like Food Aid and for Military Sealift operations for the Department of Defense.

She needs to learn the difference between the Jones Act Fleet and the U.S. Merchant Marine fleet. The Jones Act fleet has more than 40,000 vessels operating on U.S. waterways including Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico in addition to the Great Lakes and our vast inland waterways system.

It costs the federal government zero dollars. It supports half-a-million jobs and creates billions of dollars in economic impact. It’s a vital part of our economic infrastructure and, among other environmental benefits, helps relieve congestion on our roadways and highways, thereby reducing both air and noise pollution.

Moreover and perhaps most importantly, the domestic fleet with its trained mariners and vast network of ship and repair yards, terminals and intermodal facilities is available to the U.S. government at a moment’s notice in time of war or national emergencies.

As the representative of a nonprofit organization based in Hawaii, Hill should know better. Like Puerto Rico, Hawaii is heavily dependent on the Jones Act for essential supplies like food, clothing, gasoline, cars – you name it. Are these items more expensive in Hawaii than they are in southern California, where most of these shipments originate? You tell me.

Meanwhile, let’s not bash a law that has served America well for nearly 100 years and continues to do so through good times and bad. Let’s not act like a screeching violinist! – MarEx

Tony Munoz is Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of The Maritime Executive.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.