Puerto Rico Bailout Divides GOP, But Why Not Cut The Island Loose?
Le Current Year Man, otherwise known as John Oliver, dedicated another one of his insufferable extended displays of virtue signaling to the subject of Puerto Rico. With the help of the creator of the musical Hamilton, Oliver demanded America bail out the struggling commonwealth and relieve its crushing debt burden. After all, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens! Their “fate is interwoven with ours,” Oliver claims.
To which there is an easy rejoinder. It shouldn’t be.
Puerto Rico is a nation. It has a different language, culture and history than the United States. It has its own symbols and identity. Its people are conscious of themselves as a people. Whatever piece of paper they hold, Puerto Ricans aren’t Americans. They don’t think of themselves as Americans. Why should we?
Conservatives used to understand dependence ultimately hurts the recipient as much as the person who pays. By keeping Puerto Rico in the American orbit, we are cultivating a culture of dependence as well as saddling our country with liabilities it doesn’t need and can’t afford much longer.
However, Mr. Fiscal Conservative, Paul Ryan, is trying to push through a bailout.
While he can try to pin many of those woes on Boehner, Ryan owns the Puerto Rico problem.
It was Ryan who cut the deal with Democrats last December that kept Puerto Rico out of the sweeping omnibus spending bill. In return, Ryan promised to offer a plan by March 31 to deal with the territory’s $70 billion debt crisis.
The House Natural Resources Committee did produce a discussion draft, HR. 4900, before the deadline, but efforts to agree on some orderly combination of a federal financial oversight board and a framework for debt restructuring have since stalled. Republicans, Democrats and U.S. Treasury Department officials differ on details, including the scope of the board’s powers, how to deal with creditors, and how long creditors should be blocked from suing the island.
This is all playing out amid intense lobbying — not only by Puerto Rico’s government, but also insurers and holders of Puerto Rico bonds, who themselves are split.
[Ryan’s Biggest Test Yet: Saving Puerto Rico From Congress, by Billy House, Bloomberg, April 25, 2016]
It’s important to remember no matter what happens, Republicans will be blamed for any negative effects. Democrats will tell voters of Puerto Rican descent in the United States that the GOP was too tight fisted to do what is necessary to help the island.
Meanwhile, once again, conservative Republican voters will be told they must do their duty to protect the bottom line of Wall Street. While Ryan is willing to bail out Puerto Rico, he won’t show the same kind of enthusiasm for bailing out the American workers whose jobs he wants to ship overseas and whose benefits he wants to cut.
The end result of all of this will be yet more Republican fury at their supposed leaders and a political advantage for the Democrats.
There’s a simple solution. Make Puerto Rico Great Again. Cut it loose.