Scramble underway for tax dollars that will subsidize imported consumer goods

TAF Consultants forecasts that container traffic at North American ports will more than double from 2010 to 2030 – from 48 million twenty foot equivalent containers in 2010 to 106 million in 2030.

Source: TAF Consultants

Source: TAF Consultants

This anticipated growth has generated a battle within the freight industry and the halls of Congress to get tax subsidies to fund more massive infrastructure investments to allow ports, highways, and rail lines to carry ever-increasing amounts of freight.

Import container traffic (primarily consumer goods) is about 50 percent higher than export container traffic (Facts About Serving U.S. Export Commerce), so most of these funds will subsidize imports.

Unfortunately, there is very little discussion of the damaging effects of subsidizing imports, which include driving American manufacturers out of business, hampering the emergence of domestic competition for consumer goods, and costing American jobs.

Similarly, the trade press is virtually silent on the health risks of the increasing concentration of freight hubs and warehousing into massive ports, inland ports and warehouse complexes, which often subject overburdened communities to high levels of diesel exhaust air pollution.

It is a fact that the U.S. is lagging most of the developed world in terms of transportation infrastructure investments.  But, wouldn’t we be better off if freight, particularly imported freight, paid its own way, including the costs of eliminating the uncosted externalities of diesel exhaust air pollution and negative health impacts?

This would increase the competitiveness of US manufacturers who sell to the domestic market. Wouldn’t the U.S. be better off if there was a level playing field for American manufacturers and workers, and more of what we consume domestically is produced domestically?

For good insight into the funding battle, check out:

US Transport Infrastructure Debacle Continues as Global Road Haulage and Freight Interests Look On, Shipping Guide

US ports face funding and capacity crunch in Automotive Logistics

U.S. Ports, Transportation System Unprepared for What’s Ahead, Manzella Report