18 June 2010

US protectionism compounded the Gulf disaster

Rather too many Brits buy into the idea that the USA is a bastion of free market capitalism. In fact the US economy is burdened with a host of special interests regulations, many of them remarkably harmful. Among the latter is the 1920 Jones Act, which requires vessels operating in American waters to be built, owned, and manned by Americans. In conjunction with swinish behaviour by the deeply corrupt (if that is not a redundancy) maritime labour unions, the Jones Act destroyed the once vigorous American merchant marine.

An article by Deroy Murdock in National Review argues that the Jones Act has contributed significantly to the damage done by the oil gusher in the Mexican Gulf:
On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killed eleven oil-rig workers, and began gushing perhaps 60,000 barrels of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico daily. Three days later, the Dutch offered to sail to the rescue on ships bedecked with oil-skimming booms. They also had a plan for erecting protective sand barricades.

“The embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” Dutch consul general Geert Visser told the
Houston Chronicle’s Loren Steffy. “What’s wrong with accepting outside help?” Visser wondered. “If there’s a country that’s experienced with building dikes and managing water, it’s the Netherlands.”

Had those Dutch ships departed nearly two months ago, who knows how much oil they already would have absorbed and how many pelicans now would soar rather than soak in soapy water while wildlife experts clean their wings.

After initially refusing to name them, the State Department on May 5 declared that Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., and the U.N. had also offered skimmer boats and other assets and experts to prevent the oil from destroying dolphins, crabs, oysters, and this disaster’s other defenseless victims.

Alas, they were turned away.

“While there is no need right now that the U.S. cannot meet,” read a State Department statement, “the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing these offers of assistance to see if there will be something which we will need in the near future.”
Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin translated this into plain English: “The current message to foreign governments is: Thanks but no thanks, we’ve got it covered.”

Had Obama instead waived the Jones Act via executive order - as did Pres. George W. Bush three days after Hurricane Katrina - that S.O.S. would have summoned a global armada of mercy. Who knows how many fishing, shrimping, and seafood-processing jobs this would have saved? Instead, thousands of Gulf Coast workers will endure a long march from dormant docks to bustling unemployment lines.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you have noted that when Texas Congressman Burton kept apologizing to the BP Chairman for his government's 'mugging' of a major corporation, one of the principal responses was from the Republican Congressional Representatives from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, all of whom, unlike Texas, had shorelines affected by the oil spill. They seem to have suggested that he should be summarily removed from the Energy Committee. He should only pray to St.Richard of the Beltway.