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Joseph Kaminski

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October 20, 2019

The 51st State Conundrum: Puerto Rico & Washington D.C.

Earlier this year I wrote an article concerning Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, going as far to question if they would become the 2016 equivalent to Greece in terms of economic downfall. As the year enters its second half, it’s important to realize that Puerto Rico’s debt is still as present as ever.

We as Americans treat Puerto Rico as some colony grabbed in an imperialistic wonder. We treat Puerto Rico, in a sense, much like the British treated us back in the age of Revolution. The problem is that this method of interaction between The States and The Territory is horrifically undermining the actual balance of the small Caribbean island.

A heavily indebted, mismanaged, and overlooked economy entrapped within the deadly headlock of its richer neighbor and asserted “motherland”, Puerto Rico finds itself sinking further into a true crisis. One that the folks in D.C. aren’t concerned about because, frankly, we don’t compare Puerto Rico to “true American soil” regardless of the territory being locked into a forced monetary union.

The folks living in Washington D.C. have been in a tizzy for years over the lack of federal representation for the people living within the capital. It’s very understandable. But, in recent months, the urge to make Washington D.C. our “fifty-first state”, with leaders of the movement wishing to rename it to “New Columbia”, has exceeded previous attempts.

I call incredible bullshit. It is atrocious for American citizens to restructure the capital to become a state on its own when the idea of Washington D.C. was to prevent one state from holding the national capital. It’s a shame that people jump to the immediate conclusion of “make us a state so we have representation in Congress!” when the whole point was to keep Washington D.C. a federal entity.

It is also a shame that some people in Washington D.C. are so entranced by the aspects of becoming the 51st state that they ignore the financial struggles that are literally drowning off of our coasts. That is why I make the case for Puerto Rico, NOT Washington D.C., to become our fifty-first state.

The current “colonial” status that Congress has placed on Puerto Rico prevents inhabitants from voting in general elections, despite their primary holding more delegates than some literal states. Puerto Ricans have absolutely no representation in Congress — neither the House or Senate. In place is a “Resident Commissioner”, a worthless title that cannot vote on any floor. With no say in laws that could apply to their territorial jurisdiction, the people in Puerto Rico are at the same level as Washington D.C.!

Think of it on a historical level as well. The Connecticut-sized island nation participated rationally greater than any of the fifty states in the U.S. Armed Forces. Around 18,000 Puerto Ricans fought in World War I. Over 65,000 fought in World War II. At least 61,000 fought in the Korean War. In all of these battles, they had no say. They had absolutely no legislative or judicial objectification. They were brought into the war by the States that had power, not on their own terms.

Puerto Rico as a territory costs American taxpayers approximately $22 billion a year. Not being dependent on territorial federal grants would allow beneficial relations between the U.S. Treasury and a newly acquired 51st state.

Puerto Rico, being a territory, is exempt from federal income taxes. That in mind, Puerto Ricans have some of the highest locally squired income tax rates in the jurisdiction of the United States. As an actual titled state, the funds that would go to the federal government in income taxes could contribute a much higher percentage rate than as a territory. A symbiotic relationship, too! With federal income rates comes the lowering of local income taxes.

The argument that Puerto Rico is perhaps too poor to become a state is unbalanced, unfair, and misunderstood entirely. Many of Puerto Rico’s financial strains come from this near-colonial treatment implemented on them by the actual states themselves. An energy crisis, skyrocketing inflation rates, and $72+ million in debt collide with poor local mismanagement. All of these factors leading from the non-state interiors controlling the territory.

Studies have also repeatedly shown that Puerto Ricans, would financially benefit with statehood. This completely counteracts any point. The “poor” aspect of Puerto Rico would, after attention being given, dissolve. Much like the incidents with Texas after it was absorbed into the United States.

The reality is that Puerto Rico is ready to become a state. It’s culturally aligned with American idealism and is currently suffering from the lack of care coming from the “motherland” of America. English, along with Spanish, is considered an official language in Puerto Rico — shockingly enough. In fact, the territory has gone down in history by becoming the first jurisdiction of the United States to declare English a national language! This, if implied by a federal government, would be unconstitutional. But it goes to show that locally the Puerto Rican people aren’t that different from the people squawking about misrepresentation in the capital.

How to fix this is rather clear. We need to stop treating Puerto Rico like a third-rate colony and implement statehood as a possibility to create a more symbiotic relationship between federal and local entities. We need to put finances into Puerto Rico to increase possible outcome and one day have it be known as “The Hawaii of The East Coast”, if you will.

As for Washington D.C.? This “New Columbia” garbage isn’t going to cut it. I’m in favor of initializing change in the capital: give them more representation and actual authority, much like a state. But to recognize the capital as a state would be undermining to the original structurally sound concept pushed forth for Washington D.C. in the past.

Gaining representation through either Virginia or Maryland, or possibly making an additional representative DISTRICT for the capital would be a better move for the people residing within. The benefits for bringing D.C. in as a state are much lower than the probably aspects of a Puerto Rican state.

One major reason for D.C. specifically being a district was to avoid having the nation’s capital in one state to begin with. One state should not have that power or recognition in these UNITED States.

That 51st star? It should come from the Puerto Rican flag.

Puerto Rican Flag

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