Speed Reads

Hurricane Maria

Suspending this 1920 law might help Puerto Rico recover faster. So far, Trump says no.

Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico in ruins. About half the island's 3.4 million residents are without potable water, food and fuel are scarce, hospitals are struggling, and most of the island is without electricity. The devastation "is so broad, and the relief effort so concentrated in San Juan, that many people from outside the capital say they have received little to no help," The Associated Press reports.

"It is hard to avoid the fact that the response looks different than previous ones," AP says. After Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, the Trump administration suspended the Jones Act, a 1920 law limiting shipping between U.S. ports to U.S.-flagged vessels. On Tuesday, the Homeland Security Department said it wouldn't suspend the Jones Act for Puerto Rico. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized that decision. "It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies, and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster," he said. Nelson Denis, a former New York State assemblyman, elaborated in The New York Times:

Under the law, any foreign registry vessel that enters Puerto Rico must pay punitive tariffs, fees, and taxes, which are passed on to the Puerto Rican consumer. ... A 2012 report by two University of Puerto Rico economists found that the Jones Act caused a $17 billion loss to the island's economy from 1990 through 2010. Other studies have estimated the Jones Act's damage to Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska to be $2.8 billion to $9.8 billion per year. According to all these reports, if the Jones Act did not exist, then neither would the public debt of Puerto Rico. [Denis in The New York Times]

You can read his entire argument at The New York Times.