Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Puerto Rican Statehood --
Commenter Thom at MyDD sums things up:

Commonwealthers cherish the separate tradition, language and history of Puerto Rico. Statehooders want to make Puerto Rico more like America. I'm a Commonwealther and a liberal. I recognize the danger to Puerto Rico's heritage posed by statehood. The official name of the relationship is not "commonwealth of the U.S." and certainly not "colony." The current relationship is officially "a free association" between two sovreignties, the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Under Free Association, the status quo, Puerto Ricans are American citizens, get some but not all the benefits of citizenship, and pay no Federal income taxes (paying taxes to Puerto Rico instead). One of the many arguments for Commonwealth on the Island is that statehood would put Puerto Ricans in the position of paying U.S. taxes on a Puerto Rican salary. Puerto Rico's economy is a Caribbean economy--it does not enjoy a fraction of the wealth or income of the poorest state, and statehood would place a crushing burden on individuals on the Island. One of many arguments for mainlanders to support Commonwealth is that the current statehood party is incredibly corrupt. The last statehood administration left office in 2000 under a blizzard of FBI investigations, subpoenas, indictments and convictions reaching into the highest levels of government. The U.S. Attorney at the time said, "The middle name of corruption in the Puerto Rico is [the statehood party]." The former statehood governor fled the Island--got up in the middle of the swearing in ceremony for his Commonwealther successor and was driven to the airport to go to Boston, and later moved to Virginia. Now he is back on the Island, a state Senator, a divisive force in the statehood party, threatening to seek the Governorship again, which would surely re-introduce to government his thieving cronies. By contrast, the current Commonwealther Governor, Anibal Acevedo-Vila is a smart, public-spirited, admirable leader whose 4-year term (prior to his current term as Governor) in the House as Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner (and non-voting House member) won him many admirers and won many friends for Puerto Rico in Congress. The original article to which you linked refered to the frustration of mainlanders trying to line up the Puerto Rican parties to the Dem-Rep split on the mainland. It won't work. The parties in Puerto Rico are defined by their stand on political status--there is a statehood party, a Commonwealth party and an independence party. Those divisions cut across the kinds of divisions that define mainland parties. Finally, Puerto Rico represents the World Series of politics--every day in the paper there are 10-15 pages of political and policy news, turnout approaches 100%, campaigns are incredibly hard-fought. If you love politics, you will love Puerto Rican politics! Interesting Democratic Party side note, not referenced in the original article. While Sen. Ted Kennedy is a leading advocate of Commonwealth in the Senate (and he even cut a TV commercial for the election of Governor Acevedo-Vila), Senator Kennedy's nephew, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, was a leading proponent of statehood when he was chairman of the DCCC.

The original post by Chris Bowers feels to me like a bit of white paternalism, which I am sure is not his intent. Still, there is a sense that he knows what is best for Puerto Ricans. I'm not sure that he really understands why Puerto Ricans might choose commonwealth over statehood or independence, but at least he is asking for more information rather than forming opinions based on what he thinks the Iraqis....I mean, the Puerto Ricans think.
(6:32 PM)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for the record, Rep. Kennedy is Senator Kennedy's son, not his nephew.

1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those who make arguments should check their facts before they make them. US federal tax system for individuals would be more beneficial than the ridicolously higher marginal tax rates imposed by the Puerto Rican government. In Puerto Rico, a person is on the highest tax bracket of 33% (ouch!!!) by making a mere $50,000 of income. Ask any Puerto Rican if they feel wealthy when they make that much? In respect to individuals, there is no crushing blow in relation to the tax system but the opposite is true.

In regards to sovereignty, how is it that Puerto Rico has sovereignty when its citizens cannot vote for the President of the United States and only vote for a "resident commissioner" who has voice but not vote. At the end of the day, the sovereignty of Puerto Rico lies on the Congress and the President, and they can do as they please subject to any constitutional limitations. Puerto Rico is a territory (a euphemism for colony). While Puerto Rico has control over many internal affairs, the Unites States can radically change the nature of its relationship with Puerto Rico in a heartbeat (and thus affect those matters over which Puerto Rico has control).

In regards to the governor that favors the status quo, he has been indicted with 24 charges by the federal government. He is obviously entitled to the presumption of innocence, but that certainly puts into doubt the corruption argument relating to the statehood party. As to whether he is admired, smart and so on, the overwhelming majority agrees that he is an astute political leader. As a governor, a supra majority of the residents of Puerto Rico seem to agree that in terms of policy he is either poorly advised, incompetent, inept or a combination thereof. Puerto Rico has been suffering from an auto inflicted recession since 2006 largely caused by the policies of the governor (before the oil spike!!!). Puerto Rico has a spending problem, and the governor insists in proposing budgets that exceed revenues by a factor of more than 10%. If the governor had a legislature of his party, he would have a blank check. In other words, the situation would be worse.

In regards to the cultural argument, ask Alaskans or Texans whether they have lost their identity because of statehood. The preservation of culture will always be up to the people of Puero Rico in this globalized world.

As to whether PR would lean democratic or republican, I suspect that it would lean democratic in the short term, but there would be more of a balance in the middle to the long run like the United States. Most of the same issues that affect the United States also affect Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans I suspect would have different views. I would not foresee them as a monolithic bloc.

11:52 PM  

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