Perry interviews Akina about new Jones Act study

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii released its groundbreaking study on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, regarding how much the Jones Act costs Hawaii, and the next day institute president Keli’i Akina was interviewed by radio personality Michael W. Perry, about the report’s findings. Perry is host of Hawaii’s No. 1 daily morning radio program, “Perry & the Posse,” on KSSK AM and FM.

Listen to the interview below. A transcript of the conversation follows.


Michael W. Perry: There’s something I’m going to say, two words: Jones Act. And you’re going to go, “I’ve heard about this. I don’t care.” 

Yes, you do. Just trust me on this. The Jones Act costs you money every single month. We’ve been talking about this, fewer and fewer people are even trying to defend the Jones Act. I think it’s a hundred years old now or something.

Congress did this years ago for reasons that have since become lost in the dust, but it’s been a killer week for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Dr. Keli’i Akina is the president of Grassroot. The Grassroot Institute sponsored a new study. They got the gold standard for people talking about the Jones Act. John Dunham & Associates in New York, they did a study for Puerto Rico last year and found about the same thing, if not worse, for us. 

Dr. Akina, welcome this morning.

Keli’i Akina: Good morning to you, Michael, and to all the listeners. It’s just great to be with you and talking about something that affects everybody’s lifestyle, everybody’s cost of living.

Perry: Sure it does, and you went all out. A great week for you because you had a little meeting the other day. Grassroot Institute has this new study; what does it reveal?

Akina: The big takeaway is we found that the medium annual cost of the Jones Act to our economy here in the state of Hawaii is a whopping $1.2 billion. That’s a huge amount when you add that to the already exorbitant cost of living in our state.

Perry: That’s for a year?

Akina: Yes. Thanks to the Jones Act, Hawaii has approximately 9,100 fewer jobs, and that represents $404 million in lost wages. Now we know this information for sure.

Perry: This is not just something you picked up out of the air. Dunham & Associates, this is what they do. They’re nationally respected and all this was peer-reviewed and all that, right?

Akina: Absolutely, a first-rate study that does for the first time what we had never done before, measure exactly how much the Jones Act costs the economy and individuals in our state.

Perry: Fantastic. Everybody knows the cost of living is high. For a family out there, for just somebody listening in their car or at home right now, how much does the Jones Act, this 100-year-old archaic act, affect us every year in our wallets?

Akina: It affects everybody every day here. On average, the family in Hawaii pays an additional $389 for housing costs, … $248 for groceries and restaurants, $200 for vehicles and parts, $61 for gas. If we add this and about 50 other sectors up, every family in Hawaii pays on average, $1,793 more per year than our mainland counterparts do, thanks to the Jones Act.

Perry: Almost $1,800 a year. Amazing. OK, you unveiled the study and it was a big deal. You had some heavy hitters with you. You had [U.S. Rep.] Ed Case there, and [U.S.] Senator [Mike] Lee from Utah, who’s been very interested, I guess, in revising the Jones Act or getting rid of it altogether. What do they say?

Akina: They were both in agreement that the Jones Act raises costs in Hawaii beyond what they should. More than that, they were both in agreement that this issue isn’t a partisan issue. It’s not a Democrat issue or a Republican issue, because Mike Lee is a Republican and Ed Case is a Democrat. They looked at each other and said they were both in total agreement with each other and have colleagues in Congress who also think it’s time to change the rules about the Jones Act.

Perry: It’s been around a hundred years. Is it likely to disappear? Can anything be done to make it more hospitable to us? Puerto Rico, by the way, has exactly the same problem. Anything?

Akina: We’re not arguing that we should completely repeal the Jones Act. It has served various purposes over the last hundred years, from national security to ensuring employment conditions and so forth. We’re just suggesting that even a small tweak to the Jones Act, now that it’s a hundred years old, would update it in a way that would help people and bring prices down.

One thing that could be done, for example, is to let our commercial shippers do what our military does, which is buy our ships through our allies. That alone could add $531 million in economic activity to Hawaii, and bring down the cost of living. It’s worth looking at.

Perry: It’s why, in a place like this, we don’t have a thriving cruise industry. We have one cruise ship that’s based here. That’s a corollary to the Jones Act, but it’s one of the reasons that this hundred-year-old system that they devised just doesn’t work anymore.

Dr. Akina is quite a guy, is president and CEO of Grassroot Institute. He’s the guy that’s been the conscience of OHA [the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs], shaking up them for several years. Congratulations on the Jones Act study. If people want more info, where do they go?

Akina: They can get a complete copy of the study at Grassroot Institute;, that’s grassrootinstitute.org, and you can download it there.

Perry: We really need to get Congress involved in this, and the fact that Ed Case was there is really good. Dr. Akina, thank you very much.

Akina: Michael, I’m glad to be here and aloha to you and the listeners.


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