The United States Has a Responsibility to Puerto Rico

Imagine a man who says to his doctor, “I want to quit smoking. Can you help me?”

Now imagine that the doctor says, “I think you should get healthy first. When you’re in better health, we’ll talk about giving up smoking.”

This scenario makes no sense, but it is just about the same as Puerto Rico’s demanding statehood and being told, “Get your economy fixed first and then we’ll talk about statehood.” And we are seeing just that conversation — economy first, then statehood —  all over the internet.

There’s another attitude that goes with it. “The U.S. can’t take on Puerto Rico’s problems,” this idea goes. “Once Puerto Rico sorts itself out, we can accept a new state. But we can’t take on a state that has debt and unemployment.”

People who take this position are missing some basic information.

Puerto Rico belongs to the United States.

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. Puerto Rico is not an independent nation. Congress creates laws for Puerto Rico. The U.S. Congress is responsible for Puerto Rico, just as it is for the 50 states and all the territories. There is no other country which is responsible for Puerto Rico. Just the United States.

People who say things like, “Now that Puerto Rico needs a bailout, they want statehood” are misinformed. The U.S. is financially and politically responsible for Puerto Rico whether it’s a territory or a state. And Puerto Rico has been working for statehood for a century.

Puerto Rico doesn’t need a bailout.

Puerto Rico needs a level playing field. The Island needs the kind of influence over public policy that states, since the have senators and voting congresspeople, already have. Puerto Rico needs equal Medicaid coverage, equal investment in roads and other infrastructure, and a stable, permanent political status that will give investors confidence.

Puerto Rico has unequaled natural beauty. World class tourist destinations. The right conditions for renewable energy. An educated, bilingual workforce that is currently underemployed and therefore ready for work. These factors make Puerto Rico a good place to do business.

Statehood will provide the improvements that will allow Puerto Rico to continue to valuable to the United States as a whole.

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