Puerto Rico’s debt crisis: A blogger’s plea to save his homeland

Ideally, I’d like you all to believe that I am some type of mythical being. That I landed on Earth one day from a distant planet to fulfill my destiny of enlightening you all with the written word.

Sometimes I even wear a Superman shirt when I blog just to get into character.

OK, that’s not true. I did it one time, and it was because I wore it out the night before and didn’t change for like 36 hours. But that’s neither here nor there.

In truth, I’m a normal human just like you. Except I can probably spell better.

And while I have on a few occasions embraced my Jewish side here, I haven’t really tapped into the nationality I inherited from my mother, who was born outside the mainland United States in the great land of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico.jpg

Not many people talk about Puerto Rico. Lots may not even know it’s an overseas territory of the United States. Puerto Ricans are Americans. They don’t vote for president, for some weird reason, but they’re American.

And the country is also mired in a massive debt crisis.

That debt equals equals more than $72 billion. Almost half its citizens are living in poverty. Schools are closing. Doctors are leaving. 80,000 jobs have been lost, and people are migrating to the states in massive numbers.

While Puerto Rico’s problems have been compounded by extremely poor fiscal decisions by their own officials, plenty of blame also falls on our own government.

In short, we used to offer hefty tax breaks for American businesses to relocate to Puerto Rico. And they did. But in 1996, inexplicably, we lifted those tax breaks. Companies left, and the economy slowed. The late 2000s global recession only worsened it. And here we are.

Weird quirks in U.S. laws and tax codes, including the inability for government institutions in Puerto Rico to file for bankruptcy — like those in the 50 states can — are making it increasingly difficult to solve this problem. Even worse, hedge funds and bond owners who invested in Puerto Rico’s debt are lobbying Congress to not change bankruptcy laws that would otherwise help the overseas territory.

I personally think this is a watershed moment for America. This presidential election hasLin-Manuel Miranda.jpg highlighted how many of our residents distrust outsiders. It’s also instilled a zealous sense of patriotism in many.

Well, this is 3.5 million people who are different than the typical American — about 95 percent of Puerto Ricans speak Spanish — and yet, they are American.

Helping Puerto Rico is not only a national obligation, but it’s the right thing to do. These are people who need our help. And if we want to live up to the principles and ideologies that our country was built on, then Congress will find a way.

Color me skeptical.

And if you don’t want to listen to me, then listen to Puerto Rico’s second most famous son, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Pulitzer Prize winning creator of Hamilton, who was recruited by John Oliver on Sunday night to lyricize about this issue (skip to 19:00 to see it).

In a way, I think this forever intertwines the Weinblog and Hamilton. The two of us are now historically linked for the rest of time.

One of them is sold out until 2017, and the other is … well, my mom tells me she enjoys reading it.

Us Puerto Ricans gotta stick together.

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