Nothing against Puerto Ricans, mind you. I’ve vacationed there several times, and even dated a lovely Puerto Rican woman in college. Back then, I didn’t mind picking up the occasional $30 dinner tab.
$70,000,000,000 is a little steep for me, however, unless I’m getting a little something-something in return, if you receive my meaning:
Boxes and wooden crates filled with household items bound for the U.S. mainland are stacked high in the Rosa del Monte moving company’s cavernous warehouse, evidence of the historic rush of people abandoning this beautiful island.
The economy here has been in recession for nearly eight years, crimping tax revenue and pushing the jobless rate to nearly 15 percent. Meanwhile, the government is burdened by staggering debt, spawning comparisons to bankrupt Detroit and forcing lawmakers to severely slash pensions, cut government jobs and raise taxes in a furious effort to avert default.
The implications are serious for Americans outside Puerto Rico both because a taxpayer bailout would be expensive and a default would be far more disruptive than Detroit’s record bankruptcy filing in July. Officials in San Juan and Washington are adamant that a federal bailout is not on the table, but the situation is being closely monitored by the White House, which recently named an advisory team to help Puerto Rican officials navigate the crisis.
Crisis? Catastrophe! We’d be better off encouraging the Puerto Ricans still there to huddle on one side of the island, causing it to capsize—as Congressman Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) once hilariously worried about Guam—and collecting the insurance.
I don’t know what’s Spanish for chutzpah, but they’ve got it a tope:
“Some people might say, ‘This is their problem.’ But Puerto Rico is part of the United States, you own this problem,” said Pedro Pierluisi (D), Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative to Congress. “It is not like you can ignore it.”
Un momentito, Pedrito. Why can’t we ignore it? We didn’t run up your $70 billion debt (twenty thousand dollars for every man, woman, and child left behind). How did you manage that, by the way?
“You cannot pay daily expenses with your credit card, and that’s what Puerto Rico has been doing for years,” said Deepak Lamba-Nieves, research director of the Center for a New Economy, a San Juan think tank. “We borrowed just to keep the lights on.”
Puerto Rico’s expansive web of debt includes standard government bonds as well as those floated by public corporations, including authorities for water and sewer, highways and electric power. Together, those bills have nearly tripled since 2000, as successive administrations turned to the bond market to plug gaping budget deficits. In addition to the $70 billion in government debt, the government also faces $37 billion in unfunded pension obligations, according to Morningstar.
The old-fashioned way: issuing new debt to pay for old; underfunding overgenerous pensions—all the usual Democrat tricks to inflate a leaky lifeboat. (The dominant political party in Puerto Rico is the Popular Democratic Party, which is affiliated with the mainland party of the same name.)
But see, I’m way past tired of assuming the debts for Democratic fiefdoms too reckless and irresponsible to do it themselves—Detroit, California, Puerto Rico. As I said, I didn’t create your debt. If anything—with my visits, and my former infatuation with your native daughter—I’m due a refund.
What’s that? Reckless, irresponsible…and lazy?
“[Previously,] we were lazy and complacent,” said Alberto Baco, Puerto Rico’s secretary of economic development and commerce. “Now we have to act fast.”
You said it, amigo, not me.