Two of Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) former chiefs of staff, Cesar Conda and Alberto Martinez, make the case as to “Why Washington should finally make Puerto Rico a state” as first reported in POLITICO. The former senior staffers to one of only only a few Hispanic Senators reiterate the moral grounds: civil rights, support of the democratic principles espoused by the U.S. before the world, the responsibility to provide a permanent status for Puerto Rico after 118 years of possession.
But Conda and Martinez also make the case for the United States’ financial benefit from doing the right thing.
“Given the staggering sums of money involved [perhaps $100 billion],” they write, “the recent hurricanes have made clear more than ever that the United States has a direct stake in Puerto Rico’s success, ensuring that the island has a robust economy and can withstand future hurricanes or other emergencies. As long as Puerto Rico remains vulnerable, the U.S.-and American taxpayers-will ultimately be on the hook when the next storm inevitably strikes. An economically strong Puerto Rico is thus critical to the mainland United States.”
The authors lay out the inequity between tthe 50 states and the position of the territory of Puerto Rico. The Island is not treated equally in federal programs, in tax credits which have been shown to lift working families out of poverty, or in government investments. The result: economic crisis on the Island.
“Without a strong recovery—both from the hurricanes and from its economic malaise—Washington will be spending money for years to repeatedly prop up and rebuild the island, as thousands of Puerto Ricans give up their hopes for statehood and move to the mainland,” Conda and Martinez say. “That’s a bad situation for Puerto Rico—and for the rest of America.”
The authors list the economic benefits of statehood: “Statehood would mean more reliable rule of law, uniform policies on taxes, trade and commercial regulation and equal footing in national interstate markets, providing certainty and stability essential for private investment.” Citing a Government Accountability Office study, “statehood could eliminate any risk associated with Puerto Rico’s uncertain political status and any related deterrent to business investment.” Indeed,Conda and Martinez explain,
“the most recent territories to become states—Hawaii and Alaska—averaged double-digit economic growth for more than a decade after admission.”
The article also points out that statehood would benefits the fifty states as well as the United States’ most populous territory. “Puerto Rico’s substandard energy, transportation, communications, healthcare and other basic infrastructure systems make state-like recovery we see in Texas and Florida unattainable in the territory,” the authors explain. They also note that “the exodus of people from the island—900,000 people to the states over the last decade alone—could double, putting additional strain on the budgets and healthcare systems of Florida and other states.”
In conclusion, the authors note that “[w]ithout a strong recovery—both from the hurricanes and from its economic malaise—Washington will be spending money for years to repeatedly prop up and rebuild the island, as thousands of Puerto Rico give up their hopes for statehood and move to the mainland.”
“That’s a bad situation for Puerto Rico—and for the rest of America.. Hurricane Maria presents Congress with a duty to choose, as it has 32 times before, whether an undemocratic dependency populated by U.S. citizens or a state with common rights and responsibilities will better strengthen our nation in the 21stcentury. The choice is clear.”