Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Washington does a heck of a job on Puerto Rico’s Brownies

co·lo·ni·al·ism
kəˈlōnēəˌlizəm
noun
the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

Any way you cut it, the United States is practicing colonialism to the detriment of Puerto Ricans. The Jones act, now nearly 100 years old, forces Puerto Rico to pay more - double - for goods imported from the US than the cost of those goods on the mainland.

The Huffington Post reports that The Jones Act Waiver For Puerto Rico Just Expired And Won’t Be Renewed. That means the U.S. island decimated by Hurricane Maria will go back to paying double the shipping costs for food and supplies.

The Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico expired Sunday night, and “it is not being extended at this time,” Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan told HuffPost on Monday.

DHS had temporarily waived the Jones Act ― an arguably outdated law that imposes exorbitant shipping costs on the U.S. island ― on Sept. 28. The waiver has meant that Puerto Rico has been able to import food, fuel and supplies more quickly, and for half the cost, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

With the 1920 law back in effect, the island will go back to paying much higher shipping costs to import supplies. The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by U.S.-owned and operated ships, which are more expensive vessels than others in the global marketplace. That’s meant that Puerto Rico pays double the costs for goods from the U.S. mainland compared with neighboring islands ― and that U.S. vessels are making bank.

The return to higher shipping costs won’t help Puerto Rico as it tries to climb out of economic devastation. Nearly half of the 3.4 million Americans on the island still don’t have drinking water since Maria hit nearly three weeks ago. Just 15 percent have electricity. Many people still haven’t heard from loved ones, and at least 39 deaths have been attributed to the storm.

Despite the DHS position, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Monday night that he wants another extension of the Jones Act waiver.

“I think we should have it,” Rossello told CBS News’ David Begnaud. “In this emergency phase, while we’re looking to sustain and save lives, we should have all of the assets at hand.”

Lapan said DHS is “always prepared to review requests on a case-by-case basis and respond quickly” to possible waivers of the Jones Act. But those decisions have to be related to national defense, he said, and are not driven by cost-related matters.

“We believe that extending the waiver is unnecessary to support the humanitarian relief efforts” on Puerto Rico, Lapan said. “There is an ample supply of Jones Act-qualified vessels to ensure that cargo is able to reach” the island.

President Donald Trump, who is spending Monday golfing, had originally hedged on waiving the Jones Act for Puerto Rico at all, saying “a lot of shippers” didn’t want him to do it. He eventually caved to pressure from lawmakers including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

McCain has been pushing to get rid of the Jones Act altogether. It costs Puerto Rico hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and he recently introduced legislation to nix the law.

“Now that the temporary Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico has expired, it is more important than ever for Congress to pass my bill to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from this archaic and burdensome law,” McCain said in a statement to HuffPost. “Until we provide Puerto Rico with long-term relief, the Jones Act will continue to hinder much-needed efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria.”

Let me ask you this. Suppose the US had acquired an island, Port Rich, populated by 98% Caucasians, mostly monolingual speaking English as their first language. Do you think what is described here about Puerto Rico getting hit by Hurricane Maria would have happened in Port Rich when it got hit by Hurricane Mary? Would the president in effect say to the residents of Port Rich that their plight is their own fault? Would we force them to pay double for their imported goods so that US shippers could make their profits? Would we let millions of our white-skinned brothers and sisters do without drinking water and electric power for three weeks?

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