Puerto Rico can not be free as a territory. To be free it must be a state or a nation.
As a U.S. territory partially integrated into the U.S. social, political, economic and constitutional system of American federalism, Puerto Rico is much more free and even after bankruptcy and hurricanes it is more developed and has greater potential for future prosperity and a U.S. standard of living than most peoples throughout the rest of the world (especially Cuba, Venezuela and now openly socialist Mexico).
But as residents of their homeland within U.S. borders, as long as it is a U.S. territory the 3.5 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico do not have equal rights of citizenship with their fellow Americans living in the states. First and foremost citizens in PR do not have equal voting rights and representation Congress and the Electoral College. The Declaration of Independence we celebrated this week established the universal truth that government and law imposed without consent of the governed is unjust. The citizens of Puerto Rico are living under the flag and supreme law of a nation in which they are not free of the injustice of being denied government by consent.
As a result of that denial of freedom, the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico pay billions annually in federal payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, but receive benefits under the programs at a lower level than citizens in states. The citizens of Puerto Rico also pay federal income tax on any earnings from doing business in the 50 states or overseas while living in Puerto Rico.
In addition, the citizens of Puerto Rico pay income tax on earnings in Puerto Rico to cover the operation of the federally created and controlled “commonwealth” regime of territorial government. Since the “commonwealth” regime was a surrogate for Congress and their local elected government powers are limited to internal matters not otherwise governed by federal law, the local income tax is actually another form of federal tax on local income to fund civil administration of a federal reservation.
That notion was propped up by tax shelters for U.S. corporations. That corporate welfare program was not available to local corporations, making it a modern day version of colonial mercantilism that saved Big Pharma and the Fortune 50 combines and Wall Street investors 1,000% more on federal taxes than they invested in Puerto Rico.
When the local “commonwealth” party junta was in power it promised a state-like standard of living but could not deliver, so it borrowed more money than it could afford to pay back to expand local government benefits. That bankrupted the regime, but not before years of “fiscal autonomy without fiscal accountability” during which the corrupt “commonwealth” regime “robbed Peter to pay Paul” by spending on politicized pay to play social spending. The result was that infrastructure was neglected and instead of a scheduled program to harden emergency and natural disaster capacity.
People died as a result, and Puerto Rico as we knew it was gone. Worse yet, federal recovery efforts did not match emergency programs in states. That again reflects the reality that PR does not participate in democratic self-government at the national level through the give and take of the constitutional process of government by consent.
If anyone thinks that is a political condition that constitutes being FREE they are badly misinformed.