Thread Reader

Colin Grabow

@cpgrabow

Jul 12

19 tweets
Twitter

Last month @Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mentioned the Jones Act on her Insta (twitter.com/cpgrabow/statu…), linking to this 2017 @Los Angeles Times piece about the law & Puerto Rico: latimes.com/nation/la-na-j… But that just scratches the surface. Let's do a deep dive into the history of the JA's impact on 🇵🇷 (🧵).

Hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico is asking the White House for any help it can get.

latimes.com/nation/la-na-j…

What is the Jones Act, and why does Puerto Rico want it gone?

Colin Grabow

@cpgrabow

Jun 07View on Twitter

👀

Show this thread

An armistice signed by Spain on August 13, 1898 during the 🇪🇸-🇺🇸 War relinquished control of Puerto Rico. Two days later 🇵🇷 was placed under coastwise laws requiring the use of US vessels for transport b/w the island and US ports as a "military measure": drive.google.com/file/d/1vTAWre…

The war formally ended with the Treaty of Paris (December 1898), Article II of which handed control of Puerto Rico to the US: avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/s… The next month legislation was introduced in Congress making 🇵🇷 subject to US coastwise laws. drive.google.com/file/d/1ghMFus…

Noting a lack of US ships to handle 🇵🇷's trade, a Nov 1898 @The New York Times opinion piece called the decision to apply coastwise laws a "blunder" of "proportions really colossal" while a Jan 1899 piece called it a "ridiculous prohibition". drive.google.com/file/d/1NPvMRS… drive.google.com/file/d/1m0_Qqe…

In May 1899 an executive order was issued in allowing foreign vessels to temporarily engage in coastwise trade between Puerto Rico and other U.S. ports. This is likely indicative of the disruptions caused by subjecting the island to U.S coastwise laws. drive.google.com/file/d/1BFBDuJ…

Disruptions wouldn't have been surprising given 🇵🇷's lack of interest in using 🇺🇸 shipping pre-1898. Writing in July 1899, Worthington C. Ford noted that US ships transported only 16% of PR's imports from the US and 22% of exports to the mainland. drive.google.com/file/d/1Ek_Lrv…

This lack of interest was likely due to US ships' expense. In February 1900 a delegation of Puerto Ricans presented a petition to Congress calling the freight rates on US vessels "well nigh prohibitive" and the coastwise shipping laws "a grievous hardship to Puerto Rico."

A copy of that petition can be found here: drive.google.com/file/d/1iC1n51… The delegation also made the same point in a @The New York Times op-ed that same month: drive.google.com/file/d/13H9J5Y…

Among those in the delegation: Luis Sánchez Morales (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_S%C3…) who would later become the second president of the Puerto Rico Senate and Tulio Larrínaga, (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulio_Lar…) a future Resident Commissioner (non-voting member of Congress from Puerto Rico).

The petitioner's pleas for relief from U.S. coastwise laws were ignored. Section 9 of the Foraker Act—passed in April 1900 to establish a civilian government in Puerto Rico—affirmed that the island was subject to U.S. coastwise laws: loveman.sdsu.edu/docs/1900Forak…

In June 1920 the Jones Act was passed. The law didn't change much for Puerto Rico as it has long been subject to U.S. coastwise laws. Indeed, the principal target of the Jones Act was Alaska: alaskapolicyforum.org/2021/12/alaska…

Ten years later a book entitled "Porto Rico and its Problems" published by @The Brookings Institution identified U.S. coastwise laws (i.e. the Jones Act) as a hindrance to the island: quod.lib.umich.edu/p/philamer/agd…

The 1931 book "Porto Rico: a Broken Pledge" went into greater detail, noting many of the high shipping rates paid by Puerto Rico compared to elsewhere. But it also pointed out some disadvantages not captured by published shipping rates: drive.google.com/file/d/1pZU2gE…

In 1941 the US entered World War II and the Jones Act—which some supporters today claim helps keep enemy spies and saboteurs out of critical U.S. waterways—was suspended in September 1942 for transportation between Puerto Rico and the rest of the US: govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR…

At the war's conclusion, the Jones Act was reimposed. In 1951 legislation was introduced to try to alleviate the law's burden by allowing subsidized U.S. ships engaged in foreign trade to also transport goods to and from Puerto Rico: drive.google.com/file/d/1o8IVgS… It did not pass.

Such was the Jones Act's burden on Puerto Rico that a 1956 thesis paper noted that the law's revision or cancellation was a goal of all political groups on the island: drive.google.com/file/d/1F1v9fx…

In 1961 hearings were held on "The Problems of the Noncontiguous Areas Shipping Industry and the Economic Impact on the Offshore Areas Served." Puerto Rico's Governor Luis Muñoz Marín testified via a letter to Congress. drive.google.com/file/d/1K5G5xf…

"There is no single problem of greater economic consequence to the people of Puerto Rico than the problem which you have determined to investigate and remedy: the deepening crisis of our offshore shipping services," Gov. Muñoz wrote.

"...the law restricting our vital services to U.S. vessels imposes a very heavy and inequitable cost burden on the people of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a burden which we calculate at more than $10 million per year," he added. That's almost $100 million in 2022 dollars.

Colin Grabow

@cpgrabow

Research Fellow, @CatoInstitute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies #EndTheJonesAct https://t.co/PumxFjaPQE

Follow on Twitter