Empty Christmas stockings? Don't blame COVID; blame California

The conventional wisdom from the left is that COVID is the reason that shipping containers are in the waters off California with no stevedores or truckers available to take care of them.  The implication is that if people would stop being selfish and take the vaccines, the whole problem would magically vanish.  That's nonsense.  As a couple of astute articles explain, the problem is that California has passed two laws — one for "climate change" and the other as a sop to the unions — that destroyed much of California's trucking industry.  Add in woes unique to the industry and COVID payments that discourage people from working and...voilà!...empty Christmas stockings.

Stephen Green, at PJ Media, explains some of what's going on.  As a preliminary matter, truckers are aging out of the job, and new ones aren't coming along.  Because federal law requires that truckers be at least 21, kids who leave school at 17 or 18 get involved in other careers, leaving trucker shortfalls.  Women don't offset this problem because, as is typical for most physically difficult jobs, it's not their thing.  Those are long-term problems.

The short-term problem, though, is that California has passed laws taking trucks off the road:

Twitter user Jerry Oakley reminds us that "Carriers domiciled in California with trucks older than 2011 model, or using engines manufactured before 2010, will need to meet the Board's new Truck and Bus Regulation beginning in 2020." Otherwise, "Their vehicles will be blocked from registration with the state's DMV," according to California law.

"The requirement is to purchase electric trucks which do not exist."

Sundance, at Conservative Treehouse, expands on this, explaining that the EPA reached an agreement with the California Air Resource Board

to shut down semi tractor rigs that were non-compliant with new California emission standards. [snip] In effect, what this 2020 determination and settlement created was an inability of half the nation's truckers from picking up anything from the Port of LA or Port of Long Beach. Virtually all private owner operator trucks and half of the fleet trucks that are used for moving containers across the nation were shut out.

In an effort to offset the problem, transportation companies started using compliant trucks (low emission) to take the products to the California state line, where they could be transferred to non-compliant trucks who cannot enter California.   However, the scale of the problem creates an immediate bottleneck that builds over time. It doesn't matter if the ports start working 24/7, they are only going to end up with even more containers waiting on a limited amount of available trucks.

That's Problem No. 1.

Problem No. 2, again according to Green, is California's infamous AB-5, the law that, as a sop to the Democrats' beloved unions, killed the gig economy:

"Traditionally the ports have been served by Owner Operators," Oakley says, who are non-union. But under AB-5, "California has now banned Owner Operators."

Just like the union longshoremen, union truckers work under a whole host of work rules that simply can't accommodate crisis conditions like the ones in Los Angeles.

(Incidentally, Green says AB-5's language is included in the "Build Back Better" bill in Congress.)

All of this means that Biden's grandstanding about having the ports operate 24/7 won't make a difference.  The greenies and the unions killed the infrastructure to unload those ships, with COVID restrictions, trucking restrictions, and free money landing the coup de grâce that led to this situation.  Biden does have the emergency power to order those California laws in abeyance, but you know he's not going to do so.

But the more serious underlying problem is that, in a distant, wonderful past, America didn't need to rely on containers from Asia to fill her store shelves and Christmas stockings.  America was a manufacturing dynamo that fulfilled American needs and still had enough left over for the rest of the world.  Those things were well made, too.

Thanks to our Devil's bargain with communist China, we have no manufacturing sector and are utterly dependent on China, both for things we like and things we need.  Biden's inflationary politics and crackdown on fossil fuels mean that it will be virtually impossible for a renaissance in American manufacturing.  Trump tried to stop this situation, but China owns so much of America's political and industrial class that the pushback shackled his presidency and pushed him straight out of the White House.

It's a depressing scenario, but the rosy side is that China's got a problem if America can't open the door to its products.  Add to this the disastrous collapse in China's real property sector, and China may be hurting as badly as we are.

Image: Container ships off of California’s coast.  YouTube screen grab.

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