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Before Maria, Forcing Puerto Rico to Pay Its Debt Was Odious. Now It’s Pure Cruelty


#1

Before Maria, Forcing Puerto Rico to Pay Its Debt Was Odious. Now It’s Pure Cruelty.

Stan Cox, Paul Cox

Demanding the cancellation of the island's debt is a matter of human rights.


#2

Welcome to the wonderful world of capitalism.


#3

I guess the Cox Bros did not hear, or read Professor Dr. Yarimer Bonilla of Rutgers University on Democracy Now, or her interview with Bill Moyer. When the white man capitalist pigs viciously first came to Puerto Rico, there was no odious about it, just 100% viciousness beyond belief, and the viciousness never stopped, one second.


#4

The Jones Act (the innocuously named law of which almost all of us on the mainland were totally ignorant until last month) helped raise prices of everyday goods to unaffordable levels.

This is nonsense. The Jones Act merely requires that domestic US sea traffic be performed by US flagged and US crewed ships. It raises prices a bit since slave labor from third world countries sailing rustbuckets flagged in Liberia or Panama can’t be used. But there is nothing stopping these rustbuckets from bringing freight from foreign ports directly to Puerto Rico. Only the freight coming directly from US ports to Puerto Rico is subject to the Jones Act. Alaska, Hawaii and other interstate sea freight is also subject to the Jones Act as well. The Jones Act ensures that the US maintains a sealift capability and provides well paying union jobs to US residents.

It has been a long time objective of the Heritage Institute and the Cato Institute and other Libertarian and right wing entities to get rid of the Jones Act, and they have been trying ways to chip away at support for it for years. It is disheartening to see these repeated denigrations in progressive websites about it. There were recent comments that it was responsible for the lack of supplies getting to Puerto Rico, despite the fact that there were literally thousands of containers of supplies in San Juan harbor that hadn’t been unloaded due to logistical snags in unloading and transporting the containers to where they are needed. It had nothing to do with the Jones Act.

Think of the Jones Act in terms of domestic aviation or trucking. Do we want foreign aircrews and aircraft flying passengers between Dallas and Chicago taking away domestic jobs from American aviation workers and not subject to FAA regulation, do we want truck drivers from Mexico and Canada competing with US truckers hauling freight from New York to Nashville? Right now, foreign airlines can bring passengers from overseas to US airports and return home with passengers, but they can’t fly domestic US routes…that would be cabotage. Mexican truck drivers can deliver freight to the US and return freight to Mexico. (This is a result of NAFTA and there was a huge outcry at the time that we would have unsafe trucks and drivers on US roads and we would be losing jobs to foreign workers.) Why does everyone have such a hard time understanding the equivalence with the Jones Act? Again, there is nothing stopping foreign freight from going from overseas directly to Puerto Rico on foreign flagged ships.


#5

Also requires that the ships be U.S. built.

“It raises prices a bit since slave labor from third world countries sailing rustbuckets flagged in Liberia or Panama can’t be used.”

The Jones Act shippers are also not competitive against modern high-efficiency bulk cargo carriers, and they don’t have any incentive to be competitive. As for raising prices “a bit”, I’ve seen multiple studies which put the surplus charges into the hundreds of millions of dollars per year, closing on a billion in some years. Cumulatively, the amount extracted by the Jones Act very likely exceeds the entire government debt of Puerto Rico.

If the Jones Act is really so important to U.S. national interest, and if we think it is worth a few hundred million per year to keep applying it to Puerto Rico, then we should be picking up the tab for the difference instead of saddling Puerto Rico with what, for them, is a heavy burden.

“But there is nothing stopping these rustbuckets from bringing freight from foreign ports directly to Puerto Rico.”

Which is why U.S. manufacturers and agricultural suppliers are often placed at a competitive disadvantage against foreign suppliers when it comes to selling to Puerto Rico.

“Only the freight coming directly from US ports to Puerto Rico is subject to the Jones Act.”

No, it is also the freight coming to US ports from Puerto Rico, even if that freight did not originate in Puerto Rico. This means that a high-volume cargo ship with containers bound for both Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland will bypass Puerto Rico whenever the amount of cargo headed for the mainland is greater than the amount bound for Puerto Rico. That means Puerto Rico has to pay the extra for unloading in the U.S., for reloading on Jones carrier ships, plus the higher conveyance rates–made even higher by the fact that most return runs are made nearly empty.

“Alaska, Hawaii and other interstate sea freight is also subject to the Jones Act as well.”

Alaska and Hawaii are states, with full rights of representation. They aren’t a disenfranchised colonial possession. The U.S. Virgin Islands aren’t subject to the Jones Act, so why should it apply to Puerto Rico?

“The Jones Act ensures that the US maintains a sealift capability”

It was originally meant to maintain a merchant marine fleet which could be commandeered and pressed into military service during war. That purpose is now entirely obsolete.

“and provides well paying union jobs to US residents.”

Not all well-paying jobs are inherently good. Some well-paying jobs are built on the exploitation of others. (Who here thinks we need to preserve having insurance companies as the gatekeepers to medical care just because they provide many well-paying jobs.) In this case, it is patently colonial exploitation of people treated as U.S. property with costs borne disproportionately by the Puerto Ricans and the benefits accruing disproportionately to mainland companies (with some of those benefits trickling down to mainland workers).

“It has been a long time objective of the Heritage Institute and the Cato Institute and other Libertarian and right wing entities to get rid of the Jones Act,”

It has also been a long time objective of liberal and progressive supporters of Puerto Rico to at least exempt it from the law.

“It is disheartening to see these repeated denigrations in progressive websites about it.”

I see nothing disheartening about progressive opposition to the colonialist exploitation of a disenfranchised people which primarily benefits a small number of companies (predominately three) which have long operated as a cartel and only occasionally been convicted and penalized for it.

“There were recent comments that it was responsible for the lack of supplies getting to Puerto Rico, despite the fact that there were literally thousands of containers of supplies in San Juan harbor that hadn’t been unloaded due to logistical snags in unloading and transporting the containers to where they are needed. It had nothing to do with the Jones Act.”

A rather large logistical snag in transporting the containers was that there was hardly any fuel–which has to be shipped in. But even without the transport snarl, leaving the Jones Act in place for aid shipments means the carriers are skimming off aid money to line their own pockets–money that should have gone to benefit the far more needy and deserving people of Puerto Rico for whom it was intended.

“Think of the Jones Act in terms of domestic aviation or trucking.”

If the states collectively decide they want to continue applying the Jones Act to themselves, that’s their prerogative as full participants in a sovereign power. This has nothing to do with inflicting the Jones Act on Puerto Rico.


#6

I agree with some of your points, but not all. Certainly Puerto Rico was screwed in the debt settlement by not being able to declare bankruptcy since they aren’t a state. On the other hand everything is not good with the V.I. being outside the US customs zone:
http://www.maritimelawcenter.com/Virgin_Islands_and_the_Jones_Act.pdf


#7

Are these problems stemming from not being included in the Jones Act serious enough that the Virgin Islands would like to be included?

I don’t see an ideal solution here, but I think a principal goal should be to achieve a more equitable distribution of both the benefits and the costs. If the U.S. derives most of the benefit, then it should also bear most of the cost.


#8

Got to agree with that.