A comment on our Facebook page asked, “Explain please why you feel we need to be a state governed by … America’s laws. Why can’t we stay the way we are?”

This is a lot like the questions asking, “Why should the U.S. accept Puerto Rico as a state and pay its debts?”

In both cases, the answer is in the current relationship of the United States and Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is a territory belonging to the United States. Federal laws apply in Puerto Rico. The United States is responsible for Puerto Rico. Those things are true whether Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States or a state of the United States.

The “commonwealth” party has declared that Puerto Rico shouldn’t be subject to the laws of the United States. They’ve announced that they will accept some laws and not others. But every time Puerto Rico’s government has tried to change a federal law, the federal courts have blocked the change.

Puerto Rico is already governed by America’s laws. And the U.S. is already responsible for Puerto Rico’s debts, jut as much as if Puerto Rico were already a state.

The real question

The real question is, “Why do Puerto Rico’s “commonwealth” supporters keep pretending that Puerto Rico is not a territory?”

  • As a territory, Puerto Rico is governed by the President of the United States and is under the plenary power of Congress.
  • As a state, Puerto Rico will be governed by the President of the United States and will have seven voting representatives in Congress.
  • As a territory, Puerto Rico pays taxes to the federal government in the form of Social Security and payroll taxes. Most residents of Puerto Rico don’t have to pay federal income tax.
  • As a state, Puerto Rico will still pay federal taxes, and most people still won’t have to pay income tax. Many will receive tax credits.
  • As a territory, Puerto Rico is under federal law, but Congress is allowed to treat Puerto Rico unequally with states.
  • As a state, Puerto Rico will have all the rights and sovereignty of a state, and Congress will not be able to treat Puerto Rico unequally.

Puerto Rico has nothing to lose by becoming a state. For 65 years, the “commonwealth” party has pretended that Puerto Rico has a special “best of both worlds” relationship with the United States. If that were true, Puerto Rico would not be in the predicament it’s now in, with a crushing debt burden and no sovereignty.

It’s time to move on.



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