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The facts are clear: The U.S. needs the Jones Act

As the calendar flips towards hurricane season, communities along the coasts are getting ready to tackle dangerous storms and surging flood waters. Yet while many are thinking of ways to make their community safer and stronger, the usual suspects are preparing to use these natural disasters as an excuse to trot out the same tired, false and unsubstantiated attacks on the Jones Act.

In fact, the Cato Institute has already rolled out the first in its series of reports alleging a need to do away with the Act. As always, the report is heavy on rhetoric and anecdotes, but light on evidence.

Opponents of the legislation will claim, as they have in the past, that the law increases the price of goods in places like Puerto Rico, prevents the delivery of aid during relief efforts, and requires shippers to take unnecessarily circuitous routes. The truth is, these arguments are misleading at best, if not entirely disingenuous. We know that the Jones Act directly and indirectly supports 500,000 jobs in the shipbuilding and maritime industries, produces approximately $100 billion in annual economic output, and protects workers from an increasingly exploitative international shipping paradigm.

Unlike those who so badly wish to see the evisceration of the American maritime industry, supporters of this key law continue to make our case rooted in facts and thoughtful analysis.

Recently, the American Maritime Partnership (AMP), a broad coalition of maritime stakeholders, released a report on the Jones Act’s impact in Puerto Rico. What did they find? Exactly what supporters of U.S. flag shipping have known all along – that the Jones Act causes little to no effect on consumer prices, and that wild estimates of economic damage due to the Jones Act are no more than creative fiction.

Not only have rumors of Jones Act-engendered economic demise been greatly exaggerated, but as AMP compellingly demonstrates, the impacts of the Act are overwhelmingly positive. In Puerto Rico alone, the Jones Act provides over 1,000 jobs and $250M in economic contribution to local communities.

AMP’s report was presented to the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee at a roundtable hosted by Chairman Duncan Hunter and Ranking Member John Garamendi. The report’s rigorous findings received an overwhelmingly positive response from the bipartisan audience. It is our hope that this can be the start of a more truthful and honest conversation about the Jones Act and the U.S. flag fleet.

In the upcoming months, the Act will weather the usual attacks. But thanks to the work of AMP, maritime labor and the many others who have tirelessly defended it time and time again, we know that we, and maritime workers across the country, stand on solid ground. It has never been clearer – the Jones Act is a force for good, and U.S. flag ships crewed with skilled mariners will continue to deliver goods and aid where they are needed – efficiently and effectively.

It’s time that Jones Act critics listen to the maritime community and follow the facts.

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