Politics, North America
So far, the Jones Act has survived all attempts to bury it at sea.
Amid the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico, Sen. John McCain is renewing his call to scrap the Jones Act, a Progressive era act of protectionism designed to bolster U.S. shipping interests that arose out of national security concerns. In 1920, only two years after the end of World War I, German submarines remained fresh in lawmakers’ minds. Today, however, critics are complaining that the law is exacerbating the plight of Puerto Rico by slowing the delivery of relief supplies, not to mention increasing their cost. President Trump temporarily lifted the law Thursday morning.
But for former White House chief strategist and Breitbart chief Steve Bannon a permanent repeal would not sit well. When I asked Bannon on Thursday if the act is an example of economic nationalism, he delivered an emphatic answer: “Big league.”
Economic nationalism is an, as-yet, loosely-defined set of sentiments and policy inclinations that helped propel Trump to power. The Jones Act is near and dear to the shipping industry, and it is clearly close to Bannon’s heart. “I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan,” Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter, in a different time, shortly after Trump’s victory last November. “Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”
“As exciting as the 1930’s” is not the kind of phrase you routinely hear from Republicans, but these are no ordinary times. And the Los Angeles Times in 1920, when the Jones Act was still making its way through Congress, reported it as an “America First” piece of legislation.