What Ails Us

Congestion, diesel pollution, container scanning … these are problems that should have been solved a long time ago. But the solutions happen to be simple, and that isn’t good. Officials are looking for something that’s “make-work”. Something with persistent, or at least recurring, problems. Those kinds of situations make one look and feel important and call for ever-increasing salaries. Let’s look at what ails us.

• The mess at the LA/Long Beach complex isn’t news, but it fills pages and pages of newsprint every day. Officials at those ports have two common aims … first of all, to import as many west-bound containers as possible, and secondly, to pretend they’re working night and day to solve the problems that those terrible truckers are causing.
• Not only did they entangle us in a very unpopular war five years ago, but our (s)elected leaders, using fear tactics, have since caused us to become overly concerned with “security”. Indeed, the Gestapo intruded less than the DHS does. Our security officials are now insisting that foreign countries must now scan all U.S.-bound cargo … and bear the cost as well.

In the first instance, that mess at the LA/Long Beach complex could be cleared up “with the stroke of a pen”, but it’s common knowledge that there are unrevealed constraints on politicians. They’re just puppets. We, and others, have been advising authorities to limit the growth of those Southern California ports instead of wasting billions and billions of taxpayers dollars upgrading the infrastructure in order to accommodate foreign-owned 10,000 TEU goliaths. The massive influx of cargo headed westward from Asia in the coming years should be directed to newer, smaller container ports on the West Coast. Secretary Norman Mineta alerted us to the opportunity a half-dozen years ago, but California port officials are wearing blinders. Right under their noses, Canadian and Mexican officials are developing competing ports and are already attracting precious cargo and creating … no, diverting … much needed employment opportunities. If anyone had paid attention to Secretary Mineta, congestion and pollution would now be history.

Now the scanning issue. Our (s)elected chief executive signed a law last year requiring all seaborne containers to be scanned for radiation by the year 2012. The legislation would require foreign ports to make massive new investments if they wished to keep goods flowing to the U.S.

“There’s no reciprocity here,” complained the European Commission’s ambassador to the U.S. “Our exporters are being asked to bear costs for the benefit of the United States, which the United States is not prepared to bear for others.” [With friends like US, who needs enemies?]

Remember our patented container ship we’ve described in past commentaries? Our shipyard workers should be building those ships in U.S. shipyards right now (employment opportunities, right?) … and these U.S.-owned vessels (guaranteed profits, right?) could be scanning 100% of all incoming containers while the ship is underway (guaranteed security, right?)

[But if they weren’t smart enough to heed Secretary Mineta’s advice, they’ll surely ignore ours.]