Monday, September 25, 2017
Puerto Rican Statehood
Gerard N. Magliocca
Sometimes a disaster or a crisis is required to bring about long-overdue change. Whatever people may say about the Federal Government's response to Hurricane Maria so far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Puerto Rico would be getting more (and faster) aid if the island was a state with two senators and at least one voting representative in Congress.
As a state, it would have the delegation of Connecticut size -- five representatives and two senators.
"On Nov. 8, 2016, the -pro-statehood-New Progressive Party (NPP) prevailed in Puerto Rico's general election, winning the governorship and both the Senate and the House of Representatives" http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/318930-a-plebiscite-for-the-immediate-decolonization-of-puerto-rico
A plebiscite was held in June, but apparently there were problems. But, the 2012 was controversial too. Just how truly it reflected the true wishes of the population has been debated. Either way, indefinite non-voting representation is problematic, including for D.C., Guam, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
That platform statement is bullshit. 50 yrs. ago my Republican mother told me she was opposed to statehood for P.R. because it would just be two more liberals in the Senate. I doubt if Republicans would ever admit another state, unless they could break up Texas into several red hell-holes.
Extremely unlikely. The basic problem here is that Puerto Rico is extremely deep in debt, basically bankrupt. No state has ever entered the union in such a condition. It's extremely questionable that Puerto Rico would make a viable state.
That everybody knows in advance the new state's representatives would be of a particular party complicates things, too. You'd have to find another state aligned with the other party to admit at the same time, to make it work politically. Would Democrats be interested in having Texas split into two states at the same time? Probably not, they mostly support statehood exactly because it would give them two more Senators.
Finally, that referendum is a piss poor basis for granting statehood, or even starting the ball rolling. Only those who voted to end territory status were permitted to vote in the second round on whether to go independent or for statehood. So the breakdown was:
46% remain a territory
Remaining a territory actually won by a plurality.
The plebiscite last year came out for statehood, but had an extremely low turnout, as it was boycotted by statehood opponents.
Bottom line, three conditions for statehood:
1. Already economically viable.
2. Admitted together with another territory of the opposing political persuasion.
3. An *unambiguous* vote in favor of statehood.
None of these usual criteria have been satisfied in the case of Puerto Rico.
The basic problem here is that Puerto Rico is extremely deep in debt, basically bankrupt. No state has ever entered the union in such a condition.
Except for every one of the Confederate States readmitted to the Union.
That's hardly a comparable situation. I'd never heard that Puerto Rico was dead set on independence, and then got their economy ruined by us waging a war of conquest.
I'd never heard that Puerto Rico was dead set on independence, and then got their economy ruined by us waging a war of conquest.
Second, from Wikipedia:
"In 1897, Luis Muñoz Rivera and others persuaded the liberal Spanish government to agree to grant limited self-government to the island by royal decree in the Autonomic Charter, including a bicameral legislature. In 1898, Puerto Rico's first, but short-lived, quasi-autonomous government was organized as an "overseas province" of Spain. This bilaterally agreed-upon charter maintained a governor appointed by the King of Spain – who held the power to annul any legislative decision – and a partially elected parliamentary structure. In February, Governor-General Manuel Macías inaugurated the new government under the Autonomic Charter. General elections were held in March and the new government began to function on July 17, 1898."
This ended when the US invaded and took over the island as a colony under military rule. Unlike the Confederate states, Puerto Rico actually did suffer a US invasion which terminated a legitimate independence movement.
A few years back, Puerto Rico did have a Republican governor and maybe it would help politically (though I guess we can take the platform statement on face value; if we are naive enough) if the statehood movement locally had leading Republican voice. Anyway, there was a free state/slave state parity early on when bringing in new states, but don't recall that continually consistently later on by party. Still, politics does factor in here, as it does regarding D.C.
The debt issue is a problem, though we aren't talking a new country here. The original idea was more that when a territory obtained a certain population level, it would be considered for statehood. The original thirteen were already existing entities. The idea Delaware, for instance, could survive on its own doesn't seem likely. States joined together because they needed each other, including economically. This includes land [and slave] rich, cash poor states.
Puerto Rico is already part of this country and a special status was established to provide limited self-rule above and beyond a normal territory. Many states now are heavily subsidized by the federal government and surely wouldn't be able to survive independently. The basic idea here is basic republican principles. Somewhat selective rules shouldn't be used to violate that. We are the new colonists.
I do think there should be a clear support locally and it appears there is some doubt there. But, there can be a better attempt probably by Congress to set up the procedure to provide a clear referendum there. There is from my vantage point a somewhat haphazard effort there. (Maybe those in the know disagree; open to both sides). Still, the basic point holds -- 3.5 million people are disenfranchised, including in Congress. Back in the day, some of us gringos felt virtual representation is a problem. It still is, in a somewhat lesser way also for other territories. A hundred thousand people unable to vote for POTUS is bad too.
For those interested, Sandy Levinson was cited in Michelle Goldberg's first NYT column, which addressed his structural concerns about the Constitution.
" Unlike the Confederate states"
I'm living in the South now, there are these battle fields all over the place from that invasion you're denying happened. Or maybe you're just leaning really hard on "legitimately"?
Anyway, I wouldn't personally be troubled if Puerto Rico got statehood after an unambiguous vote in favor. Or independence. Should be one or the other, frankly, it's a bit much in the 21st century for us to still be playing the "territories" game, even if we thought doing it made us one of the big boys back in the 19th century.
But that huge debt would be a big problem, Puerto Rico would be so massively dependent on ongoing federal support that, even as a 'state', it wouldn't be much more independent than D.C.. It would be like the state equivalent of a 27 year old living in his mother's basement. Nominally an adult, as a practical matter still having to do whatever Mom said.
I'd be a lot happier about bringing them in as a state if they had to carry their own weight. Mind, I'd be a lot happier if all the states had to do that.
Anyway, I stand corrected on Puerto Rican history. They did get invaded. Still doesn't make a good case for making them a state when they'd be dependent on the federal government to such a huge extent that they wouldn't actually be independent.
I'd personally rather see them get independence. Then once they've managed to get by on their own, they can petition for statehood if they like.
Just to comment a bit more directly on statehood, I don't see it as very likely even if I favor it. It would take Dem control of both Houses + President. And even then the people of Puerto Rico would need to apply for it. That's an unlikely confluence of events any time soon.
Then there's the economic issue Brett raised. I don't see that as very significant. Puerto Rico is, as Joe pointed out, about the size of CT. Off memory, its population is larger than something like 20 states. It's true that it's got economic problems, but so do many states. Obvious examples would be AK, KS, and MS.
Longer term, the environmental problems in the Caribbean are severe. That holds true for FL as well, though, so they wouldn't be unique to PR.
"dependent on the federal government to such a huge extent that they wouldn't actually be independent"
So, they would be a state, not a nation?
It seems there is general agreement on the bottom line idea that Puerto Rico statehood is in the short term unlikely. But, as with D.C. statehood, that is just the specific. The wider concern for me is twofold: home rule and representation.
PR has the first, up to a point, though I'm sure they have various complaints as do D.C. (e.g., attempts to interfere with local option abortion policy). As to the second, D.C. finally got a limited form via the 23A without the voting representation it would warrant in the House. But, PR is in a worse position there.
Change there is unlikely in the short term too, especially if it required a constitutional amendment. But, that, not statehood as such, is my ultimate concern.
Gerard: Whatever people may say about the Federal Government's response to Hurricane Maria so far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Puerto Rico would be getting more (and faster) aid if the island was a state with two senators and at least one voting representative in Congress...Maybe Congress will take up this opportunity for bipartisan legislation to start the admission process.
We should admit Puerto Rico as a state so we can more expeditiously bail them out of problems (neglected infrastructure and sovereign insolvency) which are largely caused by their own misgovernance?
Instead, the United States should start the process of Puerto Rican independence. As a territory, PR is an economic drain on the United States with a demonstrated record of misgovernance which makes cess pits like Chicago look good in comparison. If PR is made a state, most of the population would become government dependents because of their comparatively low GDP and earnings.
While admitting PR as a state would make political sense to Democrats because government dependents are one of their most loyal voting blocks, such an admission advances no national interest.
On the issue of state finances, it was quite common for states to be bankrupt in the 19C. IL, for example, became bankrupt as a result of the Panic of 1837 and didn't pay off its debt until, IIRC, the 1870s or later. That happened with other states as well.
States get into financial difficulties for lots of reasons, but part of it is trying to run an economy inside a unified market/currency zone. That requires adjustments from the feds in order to prevent the kind of Germany/Spain situation we've seen with capital flows in the EU. I don't see it as any kind of disqualifying feature; if it were, we'd have to ban R governors and legislators across the country for malfeasance.
Off topic: I thought of SPAM as I read this NYTimes review: "When Corruption and Venality Were the Lifeblood of America
By SEAN WILENTZ SEPT. 19, 2017, of Richard White's "The Republic For Which It Stands The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896."
Back on the subject of Puerto Rico, a long time problem economically has been the lack of employment for its population. In the course of my practice I had occasion to explore for a client the establishment of a subsidiary in PR pursuant to a tax policy providing tax benefits to a corporation for doing, the goal being to create jobs in PR. Drug companies in particular benefited from this policy with non-labor intensive subsidiaries, with the result that the policy failed to provide a significant humber of jobs but did provide significant tax benefits to the parent.
If PR were to become independent, perhaps America owes its population relocation to the mainland to the extent requested. There may be national security reasons to keep PR as is. But it would appear that much of Tump's base might object to aid to PR for recovery from Maria in contrast to recovery from Harvey and Irma.
I'd agree; In the event Puerto Rico opts for independence, we'd of course have to permit any residents who wanted to, to relocate to the US proper. They are, after all, US citizens, they can't be stripped of that involuntarily.
I still remember with disgust what the British did to the residents of Hong Kong. I'd hate for the US to be guilty of anything even vaguely similar.
That could, of course, amount to a pretty large fraction of their current population, something the advocates of independence better keep in mind.
Your cited review overflowed with irony.
Gilded Age fortunes sprang from government subsidies, insider tips and, above all, the corruption required to get these favors. “Corruption suffused government and the economy,” White writes; it was not a distortion of the system but the system’s lifeblood.
This is merely a regurgitation of socialist and progressive propaganda of the age. I would recommend you instead read The Myth of the Robber Barons by Burton Folsom, Jr. which offers in depth biographies of the so called "malefactors of wealth" and their businesses.
As a point of comparison, the laissez faire federal government only took about 3% of GDP and the states about the same amount, while our government at all levels takes almost 40% of our GDP. The laissez faire government did not have anything close to the means necessary to "corruptly" subsidize the Industrial Revolution. Industrial revolution era subsidies like those to the trans-continental railroad are an insignificant fraction of GDP when compared to the ongoing corporate welfare of today's progressive state, nevertheless the extraordinary gifts to big business and unions bestowed by progressives during the Great Depression and the Great Recession.
So SPAM's "Make America Great Again" coattails of Trump is to emulate The Gilded Age of the late 19th century? And SPAM does his
"Marsha" routine with his usual "Progressives, Progressives, Progressives." Why the Bush/Cheney Administration which gave us its 2007/8 Great Recession are now progressives in SPAM's view? The Archives of this Blog clearly demonstrate that SPAM was in virtually obscene lockstep with Bush/Cheney as they led America down the garden path to their Great Recession, not to mention what they did in the Middle East. And the Great Depression was the result of the Harding, Coolidge and Hoover Republican Administrations; apparently they were also progressives?
Who would have predicted that Brett would think about this subject in terms of partisan advantage, or that he'd be ignorant of the history of oppression of, shall we say, browner Americans? Who indeed.
Here's why statehood should be granted: because of the great American principle of the evil of taxation (or rule) without representation. It's fundamentally wrong to rule anyone who has no say in that rule. That in the midst of two supposed libertarians I have to say that, speaks volume.
"The laissez faire government did not have anything close to the means necessary to "corruptly" subsidize the Industrial Revolution."
This is to beg the question. Government favors can come in many very effective forms other than taxation and regulation.
If I decide to build a major highway such that there is an exit right at my donor's gas sale business, I've given him more of a significant advantage than if I taxed his competitors at a higher rate or regulated the more.
BD: "The laissez faire government did not have anything close to the means necessary to "corruptly" subsidize the Industrial Revolution."
Mr. W: This is to beg the question. Government favors can come in many very effective forms other than taxation and regulation. If I decide to build a major highway such that there is an exit right at my donor's gas sale business, I've given him more of a significant advantage than if I taxed his competitors at a higher rate or regulated the more.
In that era, you could make that argument concerning railroads. (There were no freeways) However, no one can make the argument that railway routes corruptly subsidized to any significant extent the successful industrial entrepreneurs back then.
Government corruption is positively correlated to the amount of power and our wealth it has to do favors for the politically connected. The laissez faire government had little power or wealth to sell.
One of the ironies of Shag's book was most of the alleged "corruption" of which Industrial Revolution socialists and progressives complained was successful business petitioning of their representatives NOT to expand government power and wealth the way socialist and progressives demanded.
Get past your partisanship and look at what our elected representatives actually do.
Post-1994 Bill Clinton was the second most conservative post-WWII president after Reagan, while Dick Nixon was the second most progressive after Obama.
The "taxation without representation" principle is an ideal but those who promoted it back in the 18th Century did not quite have a pure version of it all the time. Thus, e.g., property requirements for voting.
But, we have advanced some, up to a point, since then.
SPAM is nonpartisan? Who knew? The Shadow?
"One of the ironies of Shag's book was most of the alleged "corruption" of which Industrial Revolution socialists and progressives complained was successful business petitioning of their representatives NOT to expand government power and wealth the way socialist and progressives demanded."
the Robber Barons did not want regulations to thwart their excesses, resulting in their corrupting influences on governments. Apparently to anarcho-libertarian SPAM all regulation is corruption: Pure Food? Clean Water? Clean Air? Clean Coal? [sarcasm] SPAM is ironic.
Shag: Apparently to anarcho-libertarian SPAM all regulation is corruption: Pure Food? Clean Water? Clean Air? Clean Coal? [sarcasm] SPAM is ironic.
When most of our law is regulation decreed by an unelected mandarin class in the bureaucracy which is unanswerable to the voters but is subject to capture and payoff by politically connected business, then, yes, regulation is generally corrupt as hell.
I assume that SPAM's latest comment applies to the unelected mandarin orange class in the Trump Administration which is unanswerable to the voters but is subject to capture and payoff by politically connected business, resulting in corruption by means of deregulating, e.d., cutting down mountains for easy access to coal with less miners and adding toxins to streams that are sources of drinking water. Maybe the coal is clean, but ....
Shag:Post a Comment
The bureaucracy decreeing new regulations, revisions, reversals, waivers or dispensations to favored people or businesses are all part of the same problem - the executive exercise of absolute power.