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View Diary: Why Armando Is Wrong About Puerto Rico (34 comments)

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  •  Please keep debating both of you (4+ / 0-)
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    NotGeorgeWill, bnasley, Manny, YaNevaNo

    I'm learning.  

    What, in your opinion, happens next?   What should happen on our end?   Would statehood overall be a good thing?   I tend to think so, I don't really see what would make them different citizens than anybody else in this country.  

    Statehood was not all good for Alaskan Natives but the alternative was probably worse.

    •  Next Steps (1+ / 0-)
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      Berkeley Fred

      First, let's differentiate between unincorporated and unincorporated and organized and unorganized territories.

      Puerto Rico's current commonwealth status is an organized but unincorporated territory.  The Puerto Rico commonwealth is considered organized because the US Congress has granted it a measure of self-rule as a result of an Organic Act subject to the plenary powers under the territorial clause of Article IV, sec. 3, of the US Constitution.  But it is unincorporated in that the US Constitution does not apply fully; instead, the commonwealth's affairs can be dispensed of by means of federal regulations and congressional laws that may at times conflict with the guarantees granted by the US constitution or the preferences of the local population.  The 1917 Jones Act organized Puerto Rico, so Puerto Ricans have US citizenship because of that law, citizenship that could be revoked if the US Congress chose to abrogate that law and replace it with something else.

      Should Puerto Rico seek statehood, it would first need to become an organized but incorporated territory.  Every territory that ultimately became a state had to first be incorporated.  With incorporation, the US Congress determines that the US Constitution is to be applied to the territory's local government and inhabitants in its entirety in the same manner as it applies to the local governments and residents of the US states.  Under such a status, the US Congress could not abrogate the extension of US citizenship to Puerto Ricans because Puerto Ricans would have it guaranteed by the US Constitution.

      So if Puerto Rico wanted to seek statehood, it would need to do the following: First, it would have to send a petition to the US Congress asking to be admitted.  Next, the US Congress would have to make Puerto Rico an incorporated territory and pass an Enabling Act to authorize Puerto Rico to draw up a state constitution.  Then, the people of Puerto Rico would have to ratify it via an election and submit the document to the US Congress.  Finally, the US Congress would then pass statehood legislation, and the US President would have to sign it.

      Would statehood overall be a good thing?  It's hard to answer that question with a simple "yes" or "no."  The best way to approach it would be to compare and contrast the current commonwealth status from statehood in some areas:

      - Full representation for Puerto Rico in federal affairs.  As a state, Puerto Rico would have similar representation as Oklahoma or Connecticut.  This means 2 US Senators and about 5 US Representatives and a vote for US President.  Currently, Puerto Rico lacks such representation.  Puerto Ricans can vote in the party primaries, and the resident commissioner can vote in congressional committees, but only if the parties and the US Congress decide to extend that right.  For example, when Puerto Rico wanted to halt the US Navy's bombing of Vieques, it had to ask the US President and the US Congress to do it.  But it had no political representation by itself to initiate a process to stop it.  Thus, under the current status, the US government can pass laws to govern Puerto Rico, without Puerto Rico being able to directly influence the process, outside of political donations.

      - Full taxation.  Puerto Rico would be subject to all federal tax laws by default.  This is a big cost, right?  The answer is that it depends.  While Puerto Rico does not pay federal income tax, the US Congress could pass a law requiring that it do so at any time.  But, while Puerto Rico does not pay federal income tax, it must pay for import/export taxes.  For example, Puerto Rico pays an export rum tax to the US that was once almost as high as 15%!  In a way, the rum tax plays the role of the federal income tax, as the US government assesses the tax and then returns most of the revenues back to Puerto Rico at the end of the year to pay for public works and social services on the islands.  Similarly, Puerto Rico pays nearly 7% on all imports, and all products must be transported by US ships only.  These are taxes that Puerto Rico would not have to pay as a state.  

      Where Puerto Rico had had an advantage is in having its own special tax exemptions.  If Puerto Rico were a state, it would be subject to the same federal taxes as other US states.  By virtue of its not being a state, it has been able to have special tax exemptions such as Section 936, which allowed US companies to benefit from a tax exemption on all of its profits by simply moving their operations to Puerto Rico.  While the Republican-led US Congress in the 1990s moved to remove this special provision, there is no reason why Puerto Rico could not have others.  But again, it would have to do so by lobbying via political contributions because the US government would be unlikely to create them on their own.

      - Equal participation in federal programs.  Currently, Puerto Rico does not participate fully in federal programs.  Federal programs are extended to Puerto Rico on a case-by-case basis, as deemed necessary by the US government.  For example, Puerto Rico would receive more medicare than it currently does, where it to be a state.

      - Cultural matters.  Whether Puerto Rico is a state or not, it would only be able to have its own official language be Spanish as long as there were not a US congressional law to the contrary.  But, whereas Puerto Rico can have its own international representation under commonwealth, it would not be able to do so under statehood.  This means no Olympic team, no Miss Universe contestants, and so on.  This may seem as a small disadvantage, but it is not.  Never underestimate nationalist sentiments.  Pro-statehood Puerto Ricans feel that they are treated as 2nd class citizens by virtue of their being a commonwealth, so the extent that that's a widely shared sentiment, statehood would be advantageous in that regard.

      Legally-speaking, Puerto Rico probably benefits the most from independence, with the caveat that its Spanish-speaking neighbors like Cuba and the Dominican Republic have not been able to translate these advantages into economic competitiveness.  This is why support for independence hovers at no more than 5% in Puerto Rico but increases substantially when you include free association.  Under free association, Puerto Rico would benefit from guaranteed financial assistance for a 15-year period, the idea being that this provides time for the newly independent nation to transition its economy away from the United States.

      •  statehood would cost taxpayers a fortune, (1+ / 0-)
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        so I'll go out on a limb and say its a bad thing.  PR should be an independent nation, full stop.

        •  This is why people like the current situation. (1+ / 0-)
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          Basically, Puerto Rico already enjoys a pretty nice deal as their current status, which is why statehood votes have generally foundered.

          Independence would be very expensive for them.

          I'll take the opposite view:  In a world where you basically can't buy sovereign territory for love or money, the idea of getting an additional state is simply too good to pass up, even a relatively poor state.

          •  Interesting view (0+ / 0-)
            In a world where you basically can't buy sovereign territory for love or money, the idea of getting an additional state is simply too good to pass up, even a relatively poor state.
            Pretty novel way of thinking about the issue.
        •  I agree - let's give PR independence (0+ / 0-)

          rather than statehood.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 11:28:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Force it on them? (0+ / 0-)

            So...would you strip citizenship from all Puerto Ricans, or only those who aren't resident on the island? What about Puerto Ricans in the military - should they be sent home as soon as the island is granted independence, or should they be required to finish the years they had signed up for?

            How would you handle social security and medicare payments? Should current beneficiaries continue to receive the benefits? What about people who have paid into the system for decades, but haven't reached retirement age? What about people who have paid into the system for, say, 9 years (i.e., too short a time to be vested)?

            Any way you put it, I find the "let's give PR independence" to be an awfully paternalistic attitude to your fellow Americans - people who have served their country in disproportionate numbers ever since they've been eligible.

            •  RLF - I agee that it would have to be a staged (0+ / 0-)

              event. All the current residents are US citizens and that could not be changed. The political independence could come quickly, but the economic ties would be in place for several generations.

              "let's talk about that"

              by VClib on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 01:53:16 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  And that would save money? (0+ / 0-)

          Why would statehood be more expensive than independence? For Puerto Ricans, independence would require them to take over expenses currently handled by the federal government. Statehood, on the other hand, would add federal taxes, but it would also add additional federal spending.

          Curious why you think independence would cost the Puerto Rican taxpayers less money than statehood.

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