Getting Into the Jones Act

Oil Spill ShipIn the last couple of days I’ve heard a lot of complaining about the failure of Obama to waive the Jones Act. My initial reaction was, “The Jones what?”

I finally got a chance to do a little homework, and I must admit I’m still scratching my head a little.  The Jones Act is pretty simple.  It’s a 1920’s era protectionist policy that only allows American ships, staffed by US workers, to move goods between US ports.  Apparently Bush waived the Jones Act following Katrina.

Conservative commentators and pundits have been raising a fuss lately, claiming that Obama is refusing to waive the act to preserve his good standing with Labor Unions.  Meanwhile, foreign vessels with lots of badly needed oil cleanup capability are ready to be deployed, but forbidden to help.

This would be horrendous if true, which of course it really isn’t.  It’s true Obama hasn’t waived the act. But somewhat importantly, there are no requests for him to do so.  Further, several government officials are on record saying that if needed, the act will be waived.  No muss, no fuss, no bother.

If you think about it, this doesn’t even pass the sniff test.  The Democrats and Labor are increasingly at odds as demonstrated in Labor’s actions in last Tuesday’s primary.  And the Dems are completely unapologetic about it.  Yes, Labor helped get Obama in office, but they’ve been widely reported as feeling snubbed by him since.  So we’re to believe Obama is finally going to throw them a bone, and the bone he chooses would make him responsible for increasing the devastation and suffering caused by a disaster that threatens to tank his whole term in office?  Really?

This is politics, plain and simple.  But then this isn’t so plain and simple.  This isn’t just spin.  This isn’t just over amplification of the inconsequential.  This is outrage over a manufactured problem.  And that to me, is a problem.

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