Puerto Rico statehood is becoming the victim of US negligence

by Jan 10, 2022Opinion, Puerto Rico1 comment

As the idea of Puerto Rican statehood is discussed more and more, it is first important to see what has almost been like a plot to prevent Puerto Rico’s ascension into the union. Puerto Rico has been abandoned by the US government as it attempts to leave its indebted colony in the past. Despite this abandonment, some mainland politicians have fought back with the idea of statehood and better development for the archipelago. 

A common argument against Puerto Rico’s proposed statehood has been the territory’s somewhat lackluster economy. Many believe that if Puerto Rico became a state, then it would become a drain on resources. However, Puerto Rico did not always have nearly $74 billion in debt. This debt and the failing economy were created by policies enacted by Congress over the past few decades. One solution to this economic problem would be to provide more aid and adjust fiscal policies to help facilitate economic growth. However, the United States has consistently done the opposite. Puerto Rico’s social expenditures and safety nets are the lowest in the nation with Puerto Rico having to resort to earmarks to snatch up whatever scraps of funding the territory can get. 

Puerto Rico had once been a hub for technology and service-oriented companies as Congress established corporate tax exemptions in Puerto Rico with the tax reform act of 1976, making Puerto Rico extremely attractive for corporations to relocate to. However, Congress eventually fully did away with the corporate tax breaks, leading to an exodus of pharmaceutical companies, the largest beneficiaries of the tax breaks, and thus a decline in jobs. The United States started to get its pharmaceuticals from India and China, abandoning its own citizens to economic ruin.

Another argument is that Puerto Rico is underdeveloped and does not have the potential to become a state due to its infrastructure and overall development not being up to par with the rest of the country. A report by the Office of Housing and Urban Development recently concluded that actions by the US government under the Trump administration created several procedural obstructions to the process of supplying aid to Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. These obstructions consisted of new regulations being put in place shortly after Hurricane Maria that required the Department of Housing and Urban Development to send grant notices to an outside agency for review and clearance. This severely delayed funds directed for relief efforts and led to prolonged suffering in the territory. 

The United States has politicized the residents of Puerto Rico, with the territory becoming a pawn in the game of partisan politics. The idea of Puerto Rico’s admission to the union as a 51st state scares many Republican politicians as it has the potential to become a liberal stronghold. This fear of a new blue state is evidenced by senator Mitch McConnell exclaiming that Puerto Rican statehood would bring “full-bore socialism” to the rest of the country. Other more radical people are most likely scared of more non-white voters in the country. However, it is obvious that Puerto Rico is being inhibited in order to keep it underdeveloped and stagnated, and in an indefinite state of “not ready enough to become a state.”