Biden Administration Deflects Blame on America’s Self-Inflicted Ocean Shipping Problems
Tonight in his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden is planning to discuss the skyrocketing prices of transporting goods to the U.S. across the ocean via shipping and what his administration is going to do about it.
Here’s how the White House has framed it in a memo sent out to the press this morning:
The President will explain that most traded goods—everything from the housewares you buy online to the agricultural products that American farmers market overseas—are transported by oceangoing vessels. However, the ocean shipping industry is now dominated by just a small number of giant, foreign-owned companies. Three global alliances—groups of ocean carriers that work together—now control 80% of global container ship capacity and 95% on the critical East-West trade lines. And, since the beginning of the pandemic, these carriers have been increasing shipping costs through higher rates and fees. The President will note that the foreign carriers are now seeing record profits, while prices for American consumers and businesses have risen.
Subsequently, the White House posted a much longer memo announcing that they’re getting the Department of Justice involved in antitrust enforcement actions with the intent of “lowering prices, improving quality of service, and strengthening the resilience of supply chains.”
While these memos are quick to point out how much money these shipping companies have been making off this crisis and to deem it unfair (during the pandemic, these shipping companies’ operating margins have jumped from 3.7 percent to 56 percent), the memos flat out refuse to consider how the federal government’s own protectionist laws have created a shipping marketplace that’s far from competitive.
Nowhere in these memos do the words Jones Act appear. The Jones Act, more formally known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, places extremely strict, deliberately protectionist rules in place that can help exp
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