Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Morning Mariner: Who To Vote For

Following my August 15 post, I compiled some questions for the US presidential candidates regarding maritime issues. The truth is, I didn't get much of a response. I emailed the questions to every declared candidate I could find except for Socialist Stewart Alexander: all of his links led back to the Socialist Party website. Messages sent to Libertarian candidate R. Lee Wrights received only "Message Undeliverable" responses.

President Obama's campaign responded with an automatic message that said "We're just getting set up and are receiving a lot of questions and comments...we will do our best to get back to you as soon as we can." Republican Gary Johnson and Libertarian RJ Harris both put me on their emailing list, but did not answer my questions.

Not responding at all were Democrat Randall Terry, Libertarians Roger Gary and Carl Person, and Republicans Michele Bachman, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Fred Karger, Andy Martin, Jimmy McMillan, Tom Miller, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Vern Wuensche.

Independent Danny Woodring and Republican Matt Snyder's answers to the questions below will be prtinted in the next couple of posts. Following that, I'll look at President Obama's rhetoric and record on maritime issues. Finally, I'll look at where the top Republican candidates stand on the issues, based on their previous statements and actions.

Here are the questions I asked each candidate except for President Obama, who I asked to explain his record and current thinking on each of the subjects addressed:
  1. Prior to the Deepwater Horizon disaster last year, President Obama called for expanded exploration and drilling on the US’s continental shelf. But, following the explosion, the Administration placed a temporary ban on drilling. Did you support the President’s call for increased exploration at the time? What, if anything, would you have done differently than the President in response to the spill?
  2. During the Deepwater Horizon incident, many in Washington and elsewhere blamed the Jones Act for slowing down the disaster response. Do you agree with this? Where do you stand on the Jones Act and various attempts to reform it?
  3. The US Navy currently operates more than 280 vessels. Should the current fleet be expanded, kept the same size, or reduced? Should Navy shipbuilding contracts always go to the lowest bidder, or should US shipyards be given preference?
  4. The American Waterways Operators estimates that the nearly 4,000 tug and towboats on the inland waterways transport 20-percent of the nation's coal and 60-percent of its grain each year in the more than 28,000 barges in active service. New England gets most of its heating oil, and the inland Pacific Northwest most of its diesel fuel by barge. The AWO says all this traffic contributes $5 billion a year to the US economy. Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers struggles to keep up with needed repairs to locks, dams, levees and other infrastructure necessary to carry this trade. What should be done to better maintain America’s inland waterways systems?
  5. Many American merchant mariners have found the TSA’s TWIC card program to be an onerous expense and pointless exercise that contributes little to America’s security, yet it is required by law. Do you favor repealing of the TWIC card requirement? What, if anything, should replace the program?
  6. With the US Coast Guard’s expanded security role following the 9/11 attacks, its resources for inspecting vessels and credentialing merchant mariners have been stretched thin. This has lead to safety concerns on one hand, and a sense that the Coast Guard has become more heavy handed and adversarial with American mariners on the other. Should the Coast Guard continue to perform these functions? If so, how? If not, do you favor transferring those functions to another agency, creating a new agency, or privatizing those functions?

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