Status Quo Bias | Puerto Rico 51st

One of our regular commenters said this in a comment on a recent post:

“Status Quo Bias”:

Is an “emotional bias”, a preference for current affairs and psychological inertia.
This particular bias continues to be exploited in PR by ELA supporters and their alternative reality.

It is a powerful point.

Fear of loss

Psychologists have found that fear of loss is stronger than hope of gain. People will do more to avoid losing $20 than they will do to gain $20. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush — or 100 in flight.

Do you hear the echo of this feeling in these common claims about statehood?

  • “We need to know exactly what statehood would mean.” We know exactly what statehood would mean. We have 50 current states to look at. The U.S. Constitution plainly says that all states are “on an equal footing.” Statehood means we have two senators and four Members of the House in our corner, working for what is best for Puerto Rico. We can also look at the 32 former territories which are now states, and see that they are more prosperous as states than they were as territories, and that they have better human rights records as states than they did as territories. As a state, we will have the full protection of the U.S. constitution.
  • “What about taxes?” Bona fide residents of Puerto Rico do not have to pay federal income taxes on wages earned in Puerto Rico. For roughly half of all the people living in the states, filing a tax return means that they will get money from the government, rather than paying any money to the government. Since the average income in Puerto Rico is lower than the average income in any state, we can assume that more than half of all the residents of Puerto Rico will not have to pay any income tax — and will probably receive money instead. Some wealthy people are able to use Puerto Rico’s special tax dodges to avoid paying federal taxes, and they may have to pay more in taxes when Puerto Rico is a state. However, the average resident will be better off, not worse off. Puerto Rico also has the highest sales taxes, and workers in Puerto Rico pay as much as stateside workers in Social Security taxes, without getting the same benefits.
  • “We’ll lose our identity!” 5.6 million Puerto Ricans live in the states. The enrich the states and communities where they live, and value their cultural heritage, too. When he was Resident Commissioner, Governor Pedro Pierluisi said, “Our history, our traditions, our language, our faith, our food, our music, our dance, our art, our love of family, and our embrace of life—these things constitute the very essence of what it means to be Puerto Rican.  Nothing—least of all equality under statehood—could ever diminish their power or their role in our lives.  Our culture is simply too strong and too resilient.”

The devil you know

Another saying tells us that the evil you know is better than the good you don’t yet know. But being a territory is not better than being a state.

Here’s how we know:

This is not because of anything about Puerto Rico or Puerto Ricans. It is because Puerto Rico is a territory. These things were true of other territories before they became states.

That’s the evil we know.

It is natural, as the commenter said, to avoid change.

But in this case, change of status will be worth the effort. We are closer to statehood than ever before. Please join us for the final push!

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