Rep. Jose Serrano has sent a letter to the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, the task force set up under PROMESA to help Puerto Rico create sustainable growth in the economy while the Oversight Board helps get the debt crisis cleared up.

The letter includes recommendations for a number of things that Serrano thinks will help Puerto Rico’s economy, including equality in federal program funding and help with renewable energy research and development. But he starts off with Puerto Rico’s political status.

There are some that will argue that we should first concentrate on solving Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis and economic problems before dealing with the political status question.  The two issues cannot be separated.  Because of its colonial status, Puerto Rico is not granted billions of federal dollars a year that it would receive were it a state of the Union.  As a result, in order to provide essential services, the island’s government has had to borrow heavily in order to close the gap.  Since its economy has lagged well behind the states for decades as a result of its colonial status, the island did not have sufficient economic growth to cover its expenses and service its debt.  Therefore, a reasonable person would conclude that Puerto Rico’s problems are a result of its colonial status.  In other words, the economic situation is directly correlated to its political status and until and unless we solve the political status question, we will not solve the economic situation.

Rep. Serrano reminds the task force of the basic issues facing Puerto Rico as a result of the te3rritorial relationship:

Currently, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory subject to congressional authority pursuant to the Territorial Clause of the Constitution which grants Congress “power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.” Art. IV, Sec. 3, cl. 2.  Although those born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens, they are denied basic political rights such as having full representation in Congress, voting in presidential elections, and having the same eligibility for various federal programs as those in the states.  While those residing in Puerto Rico cannot vote for their Commander-in-Chief, they can be sent to war and have fought in every war since World War I.

The Puerto Rican people have been treated unequally for 118 years, and it should surprise no one that the result is that Puerto Rico’s economy is in shambles, its unemployment rate is too high, and hundreds of thousands of island residents have left for the mainland in search of a better quality of life.  It is clear that the current economic and fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico is a direct result of this colonial status- Puerto Rico, as either a state or independent nation, would have had access to the necessary assistance without further congressional action.  Instead, the island was forced to beg Congress for even the most meager aid possible.

Serrano’s specific recommendations beyond the status question include many of the same items recommended by the PRSC.  Many of these are the same as those recommended by the federal government. Status, Health Care, Federal Poverty Programs, and Energy are the areas where Serrano wants to see action for Puerto Rico.

@RepJoseSerrano, thank you for your sensible and compassionate recommendations to the Task Force on Economic Growth in Pueto Rico!



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