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Old June 6th, 2018, 10:46 AM   #1
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Steel versus Steal

February 26, 2018 / 12:23 PM / 3 months ago
Trump says wants to revive steel jobs even if it takes import tariffs
Reuters Staff

When Trump said he wanted to bring jobs back to the steel industry he never mentioned merchant ships made of steel.

On Wednesday, DHS officials said that the administration was considering lifting the law, which bans foreign-flagged ships from carrying freight between U.S. ports.

As a reminder, The 1920 Jones Act requires shipments of goods between two U.S. ports to be made with American-flagged vessels, limiting the amount of shipping and driving up its cost, and had been holding up shipments of much needed support equipment and supplies for Puerto Rico.
President Trump Waives Jones Act, Enables Rescue Shipments For Puerto Rico
by Tyler Durden
Sep 28, 2017 8:25 AM

The Jones Act stipulates that cargo traveling from one American port to another had to go on American bottoms. Big deal! Aside from the Hawaii and Alaska trade — they were not even states at the time 50/50 became law —— how much interstate cargo actually traveled on ocean-going vessels?

Now that Trump put steel tariffs in place he should start pushing Congress to repeal The Cargo Preferential Act (50/50). Outsourcing the U.S. Merchant Marine —— and shipbuilding —— was the beginning of outsourcing industries.

NOTE: There used to be private sector shipyards up and down the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, as well as yards in Gulf of Mexico ports. What 50/50 contributed to the decease in American steel production is obvious as any displaced steelworker will tell you. As far as I know, there are no shipyards operating in the United States that build or repair oceangoing merchant ships. The few yards remaining in the business build military vessels. There are still one or two American yards that build smaller commercial vessels like fishing boats, tow boats, barges, etc.

Before WWII there were dozens of American steamship companies. Many of those companies had only a few ships —— also a number of large American companies in the business. The last time I looked there were only two American companies plying international waters that could actually be called respectable steamship companies; American President Lines and Lykes Lines. (Oil company tanker fleets do not count because tankers are not ships. The two are defined as ships and tankers.)

NOTE: There is not one passenger ship flying the American flag.

Aside from the obvious differences in design and purpose, merchant ships are not simply “ships.” Ocean-going vessels are political animals with significant political distinctions. For instance: The petroleum tanker lobby will always have more clout in Congress than does the bulk carrier lobby, coal, grain, etc. Now that President Trump claims “America First” let us hope that somebody in Washington takes a look at bringing two vital industries back to the United States irrespective of the type of vessel involved, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of American families those two industries will support.

The demise of the American merchant fleet can be attributed to the 50/50 law President Truman signed —— combined with the greed of steamship owners: cheap labor, inferior food, unsafe working conditions for the crews, no medical or pension plans, etc.

During the years the American Merchant Marine was shrinking, the argument that was always used to justify the reduction said that American companies could not compete with cheap foreign labor. The truth is that crew salaries never bankrupted any American steamship company; whereas, mismanagement and political corruption destroyed quite a few. During my career at sea, Japan, Denmark, Canada, and one or two other maritime nations paid their unionized crews higher salaries than American seaman were earning, with more fringe benefits, and their merchant fleets did extremely well.

The United States is practically surrounded by water, yet it has no merchant marine worth speaking about. So it is time lawmakers consider repealing 50/50. As much as I admire the last good Democrat, Harry Truman signing that bill was not one of his better moves. That law came about after the end of WWII. The U.S. was the only country that had anything at the time; so giving away the American Merchant Marine, and the American shipbuilding industry, was considered good touchy-feely policy in addition to a major step toward a global government.

The 50/50 law says that NOT MORE THAN fifty percent of American cargo leaving American ports can go on American bottoms. In other words, the U.S. said that it would give foreign countries fifty percent of America’s oceangoing exports.

This is what actually happened under 50/50. Financial wizards immediately saw that if they put only one percent of American cargo going foreign on American ships they would not violate the law. Ergo, the race for the lowest percentage of export cargo put on American bottoms began, and down went the American Merchant Marine along with the American shipbuilding industry. That was stealing in every universe except on Wall Street and in the Washington swamp.

The U.S. could have helped war-torn countries and still guaranteed a substantial American maritime industry, including shipbuilding, had the law said NOT LESS THAN fifty percent of all cargo going foreign MUST go on American bottoms. Unfortunately for the country, the global villagers were sneaks from day one and would not hear of it.

NOTE: President Wilson’s disciples began lobbying for federal legislation similar to 50/50 thirty years before Truman signed that destructive policy into law.

Then there is the threat to national security made possible by a seaman’s politically incorrect joke —— monkey flags.

“The search has been hampered by the controversial 'flags of convenience' system, under which many ships are registered as Panamanian, Liberian or Cypriot to avoid stringent checks on their crews and cargoes.

News of the hunt broke as British anti-terrorist officers continue to search the London-bound MV Nisha, seized off the south coast of England on Friday in a dramatic raid by Royal Navy units, including the Special Boat Service (SBS). The ship, which lay off Sandown Bay in the Isle of Wight last night, was flying the flag of St Vincent and the Grenadines, in the West Indies. The tiny Caribbean nation has a population of just 111,000, but 1,336 vessels fly its flag.”
Hunt for 20 terror ships
Martin Bright, Paul Harrisand and Nick Paton Walsh
Saturday 22 December 2001 22.14 EST

WWII ended 73 years ago. The war-torn countries have been rebuilt. Now rebuild the American merchant fleet with American steel. Then crew those ships with American born seamen. If President Trump and the members of Congress are serious about an economy that works for the American people a revitalized maritime industry is staring them right in the face.

NOTE: If the American maritime industry is not going to be rebuilt, the government should take a long look at shutting down the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. It makes no sense to continue training people to work on ships this country does not have.

Finally, I am all for trade agreements on a level playing field because they are good for everyone. I am not for giving away American jobs for any reason. Outsourcing jobs would NOT automatically accompany a trade agreement if the people in Washington negotiating trade deals would abandon their global village tendencies once and for all. Naturally, that means grabbing crooks by the scruff of their necks and jerking them out of the public feed tub. Nobody can steal as much as a tax dollar parasite and get away with it.
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