The advantages of statehood for Puerto Rico are obvious:
- The sometimes bizarre legal inequalities between Puerto Rico and the states would end, immediately helping disaster response. For example, Puerto Rico would be eligible for D-SNAP, the special food stamp program for disaster victims. No one can explain why Puerto Rico isn’t eligible for the program now, but this situation would end if Puerto Rico were a state. The same holds true for the inequities in Medicaid, family tax credits, and many more federal programs.
- Like every territory which has become a state, Puerto Rico would be in a stronger economic position. Jobs for local people will come naturally as Puerto Rico rebuilds. Being part of the larger U.S. economy will increase tourism, entrepreneurship, and investment in business in Puerto Rico. Instead of having to rely on self-destructive tax loopholes, Puerto Rico will have the same opportunities for growth the other states have.
- Puerto Rico will have full representation in the U.S. legislature, with the ability to vote on laws that affect Puerto Rico.
- Residents of Puerto Rico will be able to vote in presidential elections, as well as in elections for senators and congresspeople. Full participation in the democratic process will be available to all residents of Puerto Rico.
- With increased power and prosperity, Puerto Rico will bring greater benefits to the United States as a whole, as every territory has done when it has become a state.
What are the disadvantages of statehood for Puerto Rico? We’ve researched this question, examining the disadvantages others have listed.
- Puerto Rico could lose its place in the Olympics or the Miss Universe Pageant. A complaint from the United States could remove Puerto Rico from the Olympics at any time, and the same is true for the international pageants. For example, Guadeloup and French Guyana used to participate separately in beauty pageants as Puerto Rico does, but since 1984 they have been included in the Miss France competition. This happened with no change in status for Guadeloup or French Guyana. Miss France 2017 is the contestant from French Guyana, as it happens, and Puerto Ricans have won medals for the U.S. in the Olympics. The point is that this participation is not an automatic consequence of being a territory, and loss of this participation would not be an automatic consequence of statehood. This issue is independent of political status.
- Puerto Rico could become an English-speaking state. While it is not true that states must be English only or even English mostly, it is true that states like Louisiana and New Mexico, which didn’t have English as their majority language before statehood, are now English speaking states. Puerto Rico would not be the only state with more than one official language, and it would not be the state with the largest number of Spanish speakers. With 47% Spanish speakers, New Mexico has the largest percentage of Spanish speakers, followed by California and Texas with 38% each. Eight states have more than 1,000,000 Spanish speakers, and the U.S. has more Spanish speakers than Spain. Spanish is clearly the second language of the United States. Nonetheless, it is likely that more people would speak English in the state of Puerto Rico.
- Residents of Puerto Rico would pay federal income tax. Actually, with a higher poverty level and higher unemployment than any of the 50 states even before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s residents would not pay income tax. Like nearly half of their fellow citizens in the states, most of the residents of Puerto Rico don’t earn enough to pay income taxes. Instead, they would be eligible for family tax credits. As Puerto Rico rebuilds and becomes more prosperous, the Island will see a better quality of life and the United States will see more tax revenue from the Island.
- U.S. statistics will falter. Some national statistics are calculated without including Puerto Rico. If those numbers are recalculated with Puerto Rico’s information included, the United States could suddenly have a higher poverty rate, a higher crime rate, and a larger number of hours of sunshine. People who worry about this downside to statehood don’t usually mention the sunshine. They shouldn’t worry about the crime rate, either. Unless data is being sorted out by state, all statistics about the United States should include the states and the territories. If more accurate crime rate figures embarrass the U.S., they might also motivate the federal government to take action to reduce crime and poverty in Puerto Rico.
- The United States would become responsible for Puerto Rico’s financial troubles. We see this claim as a reason for the United States to refuse statehood to Puerto Rico. This shows ignorance. There has never been a requirement for territories to be solvent before they become states. One good reason for this is that the United States is responsible for the territories she owns. She is in fact more responsible for the territories than for the states. Congress has complete power over territories, according to the U.S. Constitution. States have rights and powers of their own. Unless Congress is prepared to force independence on Puerto Rico — and we don’t think they are — the buck stops in Washington.
Are there any real disadvantages to statehood? On closer examination, we don’t see any. Join us. Now more than ever, we can’t go backwards. We can only go forward, and statehood is our future.