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Stop Beating Up on the Jones Act

Yes, it’s an obscure maritime law that you might not have heard of before this week. It’s also helping to protect the lives of U.S. sailors.
A cargo barge outside the port of San Juan in Puerto Rico.
A cargo barge outside the port of San Juan in Puerto Rico. Carlos Giusti/AP

Over the past several days, opponents of President Trump’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico zeroed in on his unwillingness to lift the Jones Act, a 1920 maritime law that regulates U.S. shipping. After some hurried Googling of the Wilson Administration, the media joined in this chorus. Called variously ”obscure,” “anachronistic,”and “archaic,” the Jones Act has been blamed for hindering hurricane recovery by preventing foreign vessels from joining in relief efforts, jacking up the cost of desperately needed essentials on the island, and benefiting large American shipping companies at the expense of citizens, an impression Trump did nothing to dispel when he told reporters on Wednesday that there were “a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted.”

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