The Jones Act and Senator McCain – a Bad Mix
By John A. C. Cartner
Recently, Senator John McCain lost his bid to attach an amendment to the Keystone Pipeline bill wherein the amendment would change the cabotage parts of the Jones Act objectionable to the Senator and his party. I have several thoughts.
Senator McCain has historically pandered his constituency and his party by opposing the Jones Act. He places ideology above the national good in his statements and acts. While his approach has mellowed since his failure to obtain the Presidency – we should not forget that his fundamental failures to understand the reasons behind some of the things he opposes flaw his efforts. Further, Senator McCain is known for his sometimes erratic acts which are interesting but not well thought out. What is interesting here is that the quintessential hawk on national security is publicly unmoved by the national security implications of getting rid of cabotage. Yet again, his neocapitalist ideology trumps security reality in Senator McCain’s mind it seems. None of this, I hasten to point out, reduces my admiration for the man who is the quintessential patriot from his family and his experiences. I disagree with his position on the Jones Act.
The Jones Act is a cabotage act. Cabotage is an interesting maritime word. It comes from the Spanish for cape, el cabo. So sailing from cape to cape is coasting. It was Frenchified into cabotage. Cabotage keeps foreign-registered ships from carrying domestically-originated cargo from a domestic port to the next domestic part and discharging it for freight. Most maritime states have cabotage acts. Think about this: what would be the costs on our Coast Guard and naval forces if, say, a Yemeni-flagged vessel were trading between Boston, New York and Philadelphia? The ship might have, for example, Saudi, Indonesian, Yemeni ratings and a stray Englishman or Ukrainian as master or chief engineer. The thought gives me a cold shiver. Now expand that to Syrian, Egyptian, Iranian, Russian, Chinese and any other flag which wants to show up. It takes no rocket scientist to see the national security problem.
It gets worse. Not only would there be terrorist-injection machines plying the coast, with foreign wages as they are, these ships would also take jobs away from US citizen seafarers. Here is a main street pocket-book issue.
Not even airlines can do what Senator McCain proposed. Imagine again the Aeroflot decides to open up the shuttle run from New York to Washington or to fly transcontinentally while fitted with every camera possible. Is this what we want? It could be worse. I think Senator McCain went off half-cocked here with ideology and political zeal for popularistic vote-getting far exceeding his good national security sense. We should recall his bringing Ms. Palin being brought to his campaign when his ratings were flagging. There was a slight rise in the polls before the full understanding of Ms. Palin’s abilities came forth. Unfortunately the Jones Act amendment may have some of the same motivations from an otherwise very good American. This is a fight he cannot win.
The opinions expressed by Dr. John A.C. Cartner in the ‘Conversations with Cartner’ Video Series and accompanying blogs are the opinions of Dr. Cartner and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff and management of Maritime TV, or its parent network, TV Worldwide, Inc.