The Department of Housing and Urban Development, under Ben Carson, had a legally required deadline back in September to make desperately needed hurricane relief funding available to the suffering American island. The housing agency was supposed to issue funding notices to 18 states and territories affected by hurricanes on Sept. 4. They did so with one exception: Puerto Rico.
Donald Trump and Ben Carson are refusing to release the aid in direct opposition to the congressional mandate. HUD officials even told the House Appropriations subcomittee that they just won’t do it. Not only did HUD officials admit that they are willfully defying the law, but they also admitted that they have “no statutory authority” to miss such a deadline.
So why are they doing it? Because laws don’t matter in Trumpland, and Trump hates Puerto Rico.
Just as Trump does with California, another place he hates, where in the past two years raging wildfires have killed 87 people and burned more than 2.15 million acres. Trump is now threatening to withhold federal aid for firefighters for no other reason than his animosity towards the state and its people. The official reason Trump gives is that they wouldn’t listen to his brilliant idea of “raking the forests,” which is along the same lines of his idea of nuking hurricanes. It’s a stupid idea from an uneducated man. Yet the real reason is hatred.
HUD officials are parroting Trump’s ignorant claim that Puerto Rico is too corrupt to receive federal aid. Carson even had the unmitigated gall to claim that HUD isn’t releasing the funds because Puerto Rico is incapable of managing the funds. Yeah, the same guy who spent more than $31,000 of HUD money to buy a dining room table for his office:
The purchase of the custom hardwood table, chairs and hutch came a month after a top agency staff member filed a whistle-blower complaint charging Mr. Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, with pressuring department officials to find money for the expensive redecoration of his offices, even if it meant circumventing the law.
I don’t know what is more outrageous, that a dining room table can cost tens of thousands of dollars or why the f*** anyone needs a “dining table” in their office. Unlike Ben Carson, Trump’s own inspector general report cleared Puerto Rico of corruption charges. He found no evidence of widespread corruption within Puerto Rico’s housing agency. Trump has no legitimate reason to withhold the money, and certainly no legal standing to do so. Yet he’s doing it anyway because screw you.
Trump’s contempt for Puerto Rico is well known. He has mocked the survivors, made fun of their accents, completely lied about relief efforts, and back in March said he didn’t want “another single dollar going to the island.” Unfortunately, congressional Democrats have taken little action. They could threaten to withhold agency funds, or take Trump to court. Instead, they’ve essentially just pleaded with Trump to do the right thing:
These are Americans down on the island. Over 3.1, 3.2 million people who every day face the same indignation from your inaction, your anger against the island. It’s time to finally be Presidential and do the right thing for my brothers and sisters on the island.
—Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL)
If Democrats haven’t learned by now, they never will: Trump cannot be shamed into doing the right thing.
We are talking about a man who has no trouble taking brown children from their parents and putting them in cages. He holds Puerto Rico beneath contempt, and that indifference won’t change unless and until the island gets real political power. Democrats need to be focused on getting Puerto Rico statehood. Without political power, the island colony will continue to suffer at the whims of a bigoted president.