opinion

COLUMN: Puerto Rico relief



Something rare happened in Washington, D.C. this week: bipartisanship 
occurred.

According to theHIll.com, legislation to help Puerto Rico during its current debt crisis may soon be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives, thanks to cooperation from Speaker Paul Ryan and both his Republican and Democratic colleagues.

Playwright and creator of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, called on the United States Congress to take action and resolve Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, which is currently devastating the territory, at a news conference and through a moving musical plea on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.”

The debt crisis facing the island is complicated to explain, mainly because it required me to look up several articles with way too many numbers and complicated words like “taxes” in them for me to comprehend at first.

According to Money Morning, the bill is called the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act. Its goal is to restructure Puerto Rico’s debt.

The territory currently has almost $70 billion in public debt, which is affecting its ability to operate its public schools and reduce its poverty levels.

According to Bloomberg, one reason the territory has so much debt is because the territory “relied on tax breaks to drive economic development, attracting pharmaceutical, textile and electronics companies.” However, the U.S. government eventually ended these breaks, which resulted in more widespread unemployment on the island.

Because there is more unemployment, according to Investopedia, this drives a spike in emigration, as more people leave the island to look for better economic prospects elsewhere.

Investopedia states: “this emigration hurts the economy; citizens who leave are not spending their money in Puerto Rico, nor are they working in Puerto Rico, which would raise taxes and revenue for the government.”

So, in short, Puerto Rico is facing a vicious cycle of debt, unemployment and emigration that is severely harming its economy.

Money Morning reports the PROMESA bill is also going to make a Financial Oversight and Management Board that will be responsible for restructuring the territory’s debt and the president will appoint its members on recommendations made by Congress.

It’s this portion of the bill that has led Sen. Bernie Sanders to oppose it, as Sanders argues that “we must never give an unelected control board the power to make life and death decisions for the people of Puerto Rico without any meaningful input from them at all.”

Despite Sander’s reservations, the time is long overdue for help to come to Puerto Rico. And the fact that a piece of bipartisanship lawmaking can provide some relief for the inhabitants of Puerto Rico means that the bill should be passed as quickly as possible to begin resolving the debt crisis.

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