After Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico floundering, and the U.S. lent billions of dollars to help Puerto Ricans recuperate from the damage, an age old question arose: Should Puerto Rico be granted statehood?
Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory for over 100 years, and was granted a self-government with their own constitution, and governor by Congress in 1952. Since Puerto Rico is a territory, they are not allowed to participate in the national economy, or the international markets as the states can. Constitutionally, territorial status is temporary, and doesn’t lead to economic self-sufficiency.
Sadly, Puerto Rico has been in an economic recession for a decade, and had a debt of a whopping $72 billion, leading to a large exodus the past decades. While liberal policies worsened Puerto Rico’s economic problems, second-class citizenship treatment, and competitive disadvantages due to territorial status made it harder for individuals, and businesses that won’t be found in the states.
Puerto Rico once weren’t subject to federal, state, or municipal taxes, labeling the island as an attractive spot for investment. However, Congress discontinued the law over 10 years starting in 1996. Combining this closure of tax loopholes with the military base closures, it instigated Puerto Rico’s current economic struggles. Also, without voting representation in Congress, or electoral votes for the presidency, Puerto Rico had no choice nor voice in the matter.
The government also discriminates against Puerto Rico in a variety of ways. Working citizens of Puerto Rico must have three or more children, when those in the mainland only need a minimum of two, to qualify for the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit. Moreover, residents of Puerto Rico pay more than $3 billion in federal payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Puerto Rico also doesn’t have the same bankruptcy protections as states, an oversight that became a big problem.
However, if Puerto Rico is granted statehood, its debt will be substantially reduced, and would provide stability. It would mean uniform policies on taxes, trade, and commercial regulation, and equal footing in national interstate markets. According to the Government Accountability Office, “statehood could eliminate any risk associated with Puerto Rico’s uncertain political status and any related deterrent to business investment.” That very same thing applied to Hawaii and Alaska who had an averaged double-digit economic growth for more than a decade after admission.
It would also give Puerto Ricans equal rights, duties, and opportunities of national citizenship, and state citizenship, starting with representation in Congress and the Electoral College, giving Puerto Ricans the opportunity to vote.
Puerto Rican citizens voted in 1967, 1991,1993, 1998, and 2012, and the 2012 vote (where 77.5% of the population voted) was the first time the popular vote swung in statehood’s favor.
With these doors opening, there is little doubt as to why Puerto Rico should become a state. Life won’t immediately change after gaining statehood, but it would be a great change in the long-run.
Source:: The Harbinger