There are continued protests against PROMESA, but it is now law, so these protests are pointless. The Fiscal Oversight Board has been established. The Task Force on Economic Growth for Puerto Rico has already met, and has received recommendations from many groups and individuals in Puerto Rico and in the States.
Perhaps the last controversy in this area that is a real controversy is this: can Puerto Rico wait until PROMESA’s work is done before deciding on status?
First, economic plans for a state, a territory, and a nation cannot be identical.
Many of the suggestions for the Task Force have called for extending programs from the States to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico should have access to the EITC and equality in Medicaid. Congress can make that happen, even if Puerto Rico remains a territory. Congress can also take those things away again in the future, just as they have in the past.
If Puerto Rico becomes an independent country or a Freely Associated State, history shows that those programs will not continue to be funded by the United States.
If Puerto Rico becomes a State, it will be treated just as the States are. There will be no inequality in federal funding, because States have rights under the U.S. constitution which territories do not have.
It is pointless to pretend that these widely agreed-upon suggestions — suggestions for giving Puerto Rico the same benefits that States have — will be the same in their effects under different status options.
Second, statehood will provide benefits that other options will not.
Puerto Rico, the 51st state, will have all the advantages of being a permanent part of the United States. Tourism and business can be expected to pick up when Puerto Rico has the stability of statehood. Federal programs offered to States will automatically be available to Puerto Rico, too. Puerto Rico will have a voice in the decisions of the legislative branch. The President of the United States will react to Puerto Ricans as voters, people who will be able to reelect him or her.
The history of every one of the 32 previous territories which are now States shows that statehood leads to increased prosperity. The two most recent States, Hawaii and Alaska, show the same pattern. Both were mired in poverty as territories, and both have seen significant increases in prosperity since they became states.
Plans to improve Puerto Rico’s economy which are based on statehood can be more ambitious than plans for a territory. Plans for Puerto Rico’s economic position if she becomes an independent nation will have to be completely different. They will have to be made on the assumption that the United States will no longer be responsible for Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico must settle the status question in order to establish a growth economy. Congress must take action on Puerto Rico’s status in order to reach the goals of PROMESA.