On July 4th, Americans celebrate U.S. independence from the powers of the British King. The U.S. gained its independence from regulations that exploited the colonies while economically benefiting the home country of England. Many of these regulations came in the form of Navigation Acts. The Navigation Acts required all European goods heading to America to be shipped through England first. Through these Acts, the English placed extremely high shipping costs on the colonies. Yet, the colonists had no representatives in Parliament to vote on against these laws.
Like the Navigation Acts imposed by the British, the Jones Act imposed transport costs to benefit Federal interests. It requires all imports and exports on the island to be steered with US vessels and crews. Under this law, Puerto Rico disproportionately suffers from the effect of high transportation costs when compared to other remote islands. Yet, Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the United States Congress.
According to New York Federal Reserve 2012 study, Puerto Rico pays twice as much for shipping as other islands, like the Dominican Republic. A 2010 study at the University of Puerto Rico concluded that the island lost $537 million per year as a result of the Jones Act(1).
While we celebrate American independence from the exploitative laws of colonization, we should consider abolishing the shipping provisions of the Jones Act. These provisions exploit the island's relationship to the mainland and impose high costs of goods to every Patriotic American in Puerto Rico.
In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico will need all the help it can get to rebuild the island and fund efforts to protect its residents from a dysfunctional emergency response. An underfunded local government and limited Federal assistance simply cannot sustain the needs of Puerto Ricans, and each hurricane season, the lives of thousands of American lives are at risk.