The White House Sunday released reports on the impacts of budget cuts to take effect Friday on each State and on the District of Columbia — but failed to do a report on Puerto Rico. The territory was left out even though Puerto Rico has 1.2% of the national population and would be affected almost exactly like the States and the Nation’s capital.
When the omission was pointed out, aides in President Obama’s office rushed to issue a report on the impacts on Puerto Rico. But the first report issued Monday did not cover most of the reductions in assistance to the islands that were calculated for the States and DC.
Later, a second corrected version was released. It covered most — but not all — of the program cuts identified for the States.
It is not unusual for Puerto Rico to be left out of Federal reports. The reason is its territory status.
In this case, Puerto Rico was initially probably just simply forgotten. A clear purpose of the White House State-by-State impact reports was to put pressure on members of Congress to replace the March 1 spending cuts with a mix of tax increases and program reductions or, at least, delay the March 1 “sequestration” of program funds.
The 3.7 million people in the U.S. territory do not have voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives — controlled by Republicans who are the main target of Obama’s request to replace or delay the “sequester” — even though individuals born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. Instead of five voting representatives, they have a sole “resident commissioner” who can only vote in the House committees of which he or she is a member. The islands also have no representation in the U.S. Senate, which is comprised of two members from every State, many home to far fewer Americans than Puerto Rico.
Because it is not a State, Puerto Rico is off the ‘radar screen’ of most policy-makers on a day-to-day basis.
Territories can be treated differently than the States in Federal programs. States are treated uniformly, and the District of Columbia is treated as a State in almost all cases. Puerto Rico, however, is treated differently — generally less well — in some major programs.
Because it represents a small portion of national programs as well as can be treated uniquely, if at all, it is left out of national debates over programs. Further, sometimes top Federal officials are unsure of its treatment. The territory is included in the programs covered in the White House sequestration impact reports but the presidential staff working on the State-by-State and DC reports may not have known this and certainly did not ask Federal agencies for the data regarding Puerto Rico.
In many cases, Puerto Rico is left out of Federal studies that cost money. In some instances, such as some reports done by the U.S. Census Bureau, this is because Puerto Rico has been deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be an unincorporated territory. It is considered to be a possession rather than a part of the United States. In other studies, agencies simply save study costs by excluding Puerto Rico.
The exclusion of Puerto Rico from Federal studies and reports worsens the economic situation of the territory and its U.S. citizens. It is forgotten in policies and programs designed to address problems — or its situation is not properly considered and the policies or programs are crafted. Sometimes, it is addressed as an afterthought as a policy is made or afterwards, when budgets make it difficult to treat equally. And businesses relying on Federal statistics do not have the same information for Puerto Rico that they have for the rest of the country, hindering investment in the islands.
EMBARGOED FOR FEBRUARY 24, 2013 AT 8:00PM ET
February 24, 2013
EMBARGOED FOR 8:00PM ET: White House Releases New State-by-State Reports on the Impacts of the Sequester
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the White House is releasing new state-by-state reports on the devastating impact the sequester will have on jobs and middle class families across the country if Congressional Republicans fail to compromise to avert the sequester by March 1st.
These reports are EMBARGOED until tonight at 8:00PM ET. The link to each state report can be found below:
30. New Hampshire
31. New Jersey
32. New Mexico
33. New York
34. North Carolina
35. North Dakota
40. Rhode Island
41. South Carolina
42. South Dakota
49. West Virginia