Puerto Rico’s Congressman Is Right: Statehood is the Answer for Economic Recovery

The lesson of Puerto Rico is clear: Congress cannot turn its back on U.S. citizens in a territory which is able to become a state. Once the Congress confers U.S. national citizenship on a large and populous territory because it is deemed to be in the national interest, the national interest requires empowerment of the U.S. citizen population in the territory with state citizenship.

In the American system of constitutional federalism, the full rights of national citizenship can be enjoyed only through the exercise of the rights of state citizenship, including voting rights in federal elections, through which the governed consent to the government under which they live. National citizenship without state citizenship is new age serfdom, neo-colonial feudalism, which is why our fellow citizens are leaving PR in droves for equal rights and opportunity in the states.

The current fiscal and economic crisis in PR has been a long time coming, but it was inevitable. We integrated the territory into the nation politically, creating the expectation and presumption of eventual equal rights of citizenship under the Constitution. But we failed to follow historic precedents also integrating the territory into the national fiscal and economic systems. That is why taxpayers have had to subsidize the failed client state regime for decades.

Historically, every territory that became a state converged with the national economy and became able to pay its own way in the union. Puerto Rico will do the same once it becomes a statehood economy. Hawaii and Alaska would be bankrupt too if they were still territories partially integrated into the national economy.

Unless temporary and tied to transition to statehood, more experiments with special federal government economic stimulus will only perpetuate dependency and make market conditions worse. The New Deal and Great Society programs based on command economics, social engineering and corporate welfare tax sparing policies were given a chance and failed.

We have a model for success: it is called statehood. Unless we are prepared to strip 3.5 million Americans of citizenship we need to stop discriminating against citizens in Puerto Rico and begin the transition to statehood. We agree with the recent op-ed by the elected representative from Puerto Rico; Statehood Is the Only Antidote for What Ails Puerto Rico.

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