Since BP’s oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico began, a favorite right wing talking point has been that the Jones Act — a 1920 law stipulating that commerce between U.S. ports needs to occur on U.S. ships — has been hindering the cleanup effort by forcing the federal government to reject aid from foreign nations. Conservative lawmakers and pundits have been claiming that the Obama administration is refusing to waive the Jones Act out of deference to the will of labor unions.
Earlier this month, McClatchy demolished this meme, reporting that “maritime law experts, government officials and independent researchers say that the claim is false. The Jones Act isn’t an impediment at all, they say, and it hasn’t blocked anything.” But this hasn’t stopped the drumbeat from the right-wing, with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) going so far as to say that aid from 17 countries has been rejected because of the Jones Act. “Due to the Jones Act, these vessels are not permitted in US waters,” he said.
Yesterday, on CNBC, Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute repeated this talking point, claiming that there have been several rejections of foreign aid due to the Jones Act. However, he ran into a host who had done his homework, as CNBC’s Mark Haines noted that 68 different offers of foreign cleanup help have been accepted. Haines challenged Bader to cite examples of the Jones Act causing a problem, with predictable results:
HAINES: How many rejections under the Jones Act?
BADER: I don’t know how many.
HAINES: Excuse me, Senator McCarthy, you can’t tell us how many there are? I want the facts, give us hard facts, give us evidence, not innuendo, not baseless accusations, okay? It’s offensive to intelligence. The fact is sir, you have told us there are examples of rejections and you can not name a single one.
Bader eventually cited one Dutch ship that was supposedly turned back due to the Jones Act. So today, Haines was back on the case, pointing out that the Dutch offer had been made before the federal government even knew there was an oil leak, and the rejection was initiated by the EPA. “It was not because of the Jones act, it was not a conspiracy to protect the unions and sacrifice the environment,” he said.
I’m pretty tough on CNBC’s team for spending most of its time shilling for big bank bonuses, tax cheats, predatory lenders, and the ultra-wealthy, while falsely scaremongering about the effects of the Obama administration agenda. But, credit where credit is due, Haines was prepared to call this nonsense for what it is: an attempt to demagogue unions and score political points off an environmental catastrophe.
(HT: ThinkProgress reader Richard)