I’ve never been to Puerto Rico–a fact I hope to have repeated at my eulogy. What little contemplation I spare for the island is mostly in earnest desire to avoid both its annual shitting of NYC and two La Raza senators via statehood. Despite efforts to maintain a salutary ignorance beyond this, the place has breached my consciousness on two recent occasions.
But first some background. PR is a Caribbean US territory. That is to say it is attached to the mainland gibs spigot but can not elect federal representation as tireless advocates for its people’s interests. So no Paul Ryan for them. As an aside, Puerto Ricans are vested with US citizenship at birth–much like Chinese tourist babies.
The place was originally populated by Taino indians who resided in abandoned termite mounds and capered about in nose feathers shooting blow darts at colorful frogs–maybe, I don’t know. Regardless, Columbus claimed the joint for Spain in 1493 and that’s when interesting history began. He called it Isla de San Juan Bautista or Saint John the Baptist Island. Following a few centuries of Spanish stewardship, it was captured by the US during the Spanish American war and subsequently ceded under the Treaty of Paris. In 2012, voters there expressed, in referenda, a preference for statehood. This being a position shared by President Fiat, though one not yet progressed in congress beyond committee (no statehood…in 2016?!).
As for demographics, official figures cite a population three quarters white. But this isn’t Connecticut. Not racially and, as a natural corollary, not economically.
In default, Puerto Rico faces ongoing fiscal pain
Like a homeowner with too big a mortgage, Puerto Rico has finally started falling behind on its payments. And it doesn’t look like there’s an easy way to refinance its huge pile of debt to make it more affordable. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced Wednesday that the Caribbean island territory will be able to make most — but not all — of the nearly $1 billion in interest payments due January 4.
The economic decline also follows a major borrowing spree that has left the island with a debt pile that dwarfs any of the 50 states relative to its ability to pay.
For fiscal 2014, the latest data available for state-by-state comparisons, Puerto Rico’s total public debt outstanding topped $70 billion that outstrips its annual economic output. By comparison, the next most heavily burdened state, Rhode Island, had a debt-to-GSP ratio of 19 percent. Nebraska had the lowest, with a ratio of just 2 percent.
That’s left Puerto Rico with a crushing interest payment — more than 8 cents of every dollar of revenue — that is squeezing out funds for other local services.
That’s narcoleptic news for me. I suppose all those white ‘Ricans will simply have to tighten their belts and…
Commonwealth officials have called on Congress to act, but it’s not clear what form that help would take.
“This increasingly urgent situation demands swift Congressional action to give Puerto Rico access to an orderly restructuring regime paired with independent oversight,” the Treasury Department said Wednesday in a statement.
Ahh yes now I see. Borrow in ludicrous excess to live beyond any sustainable native capacity. And when the bills come due: The situation demands swift congressional action! I’ll surmise one component of that action will involve me subsidizing debt relief for a certain profligate atoll. Though at least it won’t be a novel experience. As I’m already obliged to seven billion and change per year. Did I mention Puerto Ricans don’t pay federal income taxes? At least we may be assured our charity is purchasing warm regards in the azure sea. Or so I’m not told.
Because I was coincidentally at a recent social function where two acquaintances were sharing their experiences of living in Puerto Rico on a months long work project. The older of the pair was circumspect in his descriptions, recognizing obvious constraints of social etiquette. It was from the younger that emerged an exuberant candor that pinched audience faces throughout the telling. I found it auspicious from the outset.
Let me just say this from the start: Puerto Rico is an absolute shithole and they HATE white people! I tucked into a drink and smiled.
He went on to regale the group with tales of persistent and unconcealed racial disdain, crumbling infrastructure, incompetence saturation, and a general milieu of broken, soiled, revanchist hostility. That is to say, a liberal utopia. None of this testimony can I corroborate, though his partner’s silence suggested he hadn’t perjured himself.
That a Caribbean island sullenly nursing from the teat of white taxpayers isn’t actually a travel pamphlet paradise was hardly a surprise. But the subtly pained responses of the audience was probably worth the trip.
As you can imagine, I don’t bear the company of bigots. And this was certainly a group pious in its racial propriety. So as our unrefined young traveler spoke of being demeaned, denied and harassed in starkly racial terms, the room became a riot of barely perceptible flinches and furtive sideway glances. Initially indulgent smiles became eldritch as the tale unraveled. Whites dun wrong is perfectly polite discourse. But whites been wronged is a decorum debacle. And when etiquette had finally been shelled beyond recognition, the awkward silence was broken in the only way it could: So, Susan, how was your family’s Christmas? San Juan Hill had been taken.
And though he’ll never voluntarily suffer Puerto Rico again, I took some bemused pride in our raw rhetorical Rough Rider.
Millennials may have their bull moose.