If you have anything to do with Puerto Rico it is quite conceivable that you were crying tears of horror, frustration and possibly joy when you saw John Oliver’s incredible 20 minute segment on the Dept Crisis in Puerto Rico. He takes a very complicated issue and manages to summarize the complete and out right catastrophe that is the island’s $70 billion in public dept in a cohesive comic relief.
Puerto Rico’s government has done it ALL, and I mean ALL. Mass governmental lay offs, school closures, pricing hikes in every single public service, heightened sales taxes to 11.5%, and the people are getting SQUEEZED left and right!
Economic crisis is quickly turning into a HEALTH CRISIS because as people are leaving the island, so are the DOCTORS. John says the statistic is one per day, and it’s easy to see WHY!
He brings up the Zika Virus as some sort of super scary horror story, guess what? Zika is coming in on top of dealing with Chinkungunya the last few years. Oh and don’t forget Dengue! Puerto Rico is currently a mosquito DEATH TRAP.
Health authorities estimate that Puerto Rico, which has over 500 confirmed cases of Zika so far, could have hundreds of thousands of infected people. Currently there are over 40 pregnant women in the country who are infected, and that number is expected to rise. No babies have been born with microcephaly so far, but the connection was recently declared definitive. The territory also has a major mosquito problem. More than 80% of adults in Puerto Rico have been infected with dengue, and about a quarter of adults became infected with chikungunya in less than a year.
But you know, we have BIGGER PROBLEMS than mosquitos killing us, because the ACTUAL problem is that our hospitals are running on FUMES. Oliver managed to bring attention to all the tax exemptions happening on the island for business but, unfortunately, IT DOESN’T STOP THERE. There are also exemptions to crucial hospital funding that only apply to Puerto Rico.
The cruel reality is that Puerto Ricans on the island are treated as second class citizens. Their hospitals are getting HALF the funding that their main land brothers and sisters are getting while paying THE SAME amount in tax contributions. And because the local constitution government is committed to paying CREDITORS before it pays out it’s public services, DOCTORS ARE NOT GETTING PAYED for accepting government funded insurance. OF COURSE THEY ARE LEAVING THE ISLAND they are literally working FOR FREE and PRAYING a check comes in the mail!
About 60 percent of people living in Puerto Rico receive Medicare or Medicaid, though the territory receives less than half the federal healthcare dollars of any state.
Without more funding to help sustain the programs, the letter warns it will become even harder for people to receive healthcare in Puerto Rico.
So where does John Oliver go HORRIBLY WRONG in his segment?
He brings up THIS BILL by Republican Wisconsin House Representative Sean Duffy as the “Solution” to the crisis and temporary “relief” to the island.
Let me share the top 3 problems of this 122 page bill, HR4900.
1 It creates a Presidential Appointed Boards of 7 individuals who will be running the entire country and it’s fiscal budget. Completely bypassing the ELECTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT and instead essentially substituting it with a 7 person non-elected board appointed by a president Puerto Ricans DID NOT elect, and PUT IN ACTION by a congress with no Puerto Rican voting representative. We are talking about 3.5 million American Citizens under Government Appointed Federal Rule. But no, Puerto Rico isn’t a “colony”.
Text of Bill
“The President shall appoint the individual members of the Oversight Board, of which two individuals should be selected from a list of individuals submitted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives; two should be selected from a list submitted by the Majority Leader of the Senate; one should be selected from a list submitted by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives; and one should be selected from a list submitted by the Minority Leader of the Senate. Of the two individuals to be selected from a list of individuals submitted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one shall maintain a primary residence in the territory or have a primary place of business in the territory.”
Oh good! Look at that, at least SOMEONE will have a BUSINESS on the island. Sufficient local representation there.
2 This Committee conveniently will be allowed to ACCEPT ANY KIND OF “GIFT“.
Text of Bill
The Oversight Board may accept, use, and dispose of gifts, bequests, or devises of services or property, both real and personal, for the purpose of aiding or facilitating the work of the Oversight Board. Gifts, bequests, or devises of money and proceeds from sales of other property received as gifts, bequests, or devises shall be deposited in such account as the Oversight Board may establish and shall be available for disbursement upon order of the Chair, consistent with the Oversight Board’s bylaws, or rules and procedures. All gifts, bequests or devises and the identities of the donors shall be publicly disclosed by the Oversight Board within 30 days of receipt.”
Well… AT LEAST there’s public disclosure… Nice… No worries, there will be no bribery, none.
3 It REDUCES the current $7.25 minimum wage to $4.25. THANK YOU FOR THAT! It’s not like we need a living wage during a severe financial strain…
Text of Bill
“Governor of Puerto Rico, subject to the approval of the Financial Oversight and Management Board established pursuant to section 101 of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, may designate a time period not to exceed five years during which employers in Puerto Rico may pay employees who are initially employed after the date of enactment of such Act a wage which is not less than $4.25 an hour.”
5 years… Did you read that part too? 5 YEARS!
To summarize… This bill is absolute GARBAGE!
WTF JOHN OLIVER?!
What on EARTH happened to your disgust for COLONIAL RULE?! Did anyone on the show even BOTHER to research OTHER possible current bills on the floor? Because I sure did!
Democrat Senior Senator Robert “Bob” Mendez is working his butt off writing bills with the actual local population’s well being in mind.
BILLS such as THIS ONE S2675 that advocate for reasonable RELIEF for the island’s HEALTH CRISIS. This bill would actually bring in the NECESSARY healthcare funding that Puerto Rican citizens have been so far negated on the island.
Or perhaps John Oliver could have promoted THIS BILL S2676. It sets up a similar government board, but this time… wait for it… The BOARD HAS ACTUAL ELECTED OFFICIALS INCLUDING THOSE OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT! Shocking stuff… I know!
This board would consist of: 9 members: 2 members shall be appointed by the President,
2 members shall be appointed by the Governor of Puerto Rico,
1 member shall be appointed by the chief justice of Puerto Rico,
and 4 members shall be appointed by the legislature of Puerto Rico.
Additionally no less than 6 members must be RESIDENTS of Puerto Rico.
Also, none of this “gift” accepting bull crap!
Text of Bill
“Each member of the Board shall serve without compensation.”
Government officials working for their pay… INSANE!
My point is this.
There ARE other options being put forth, why on EARTH would John Oliver give HR4900 ANY sort of attention as a possible solution for Puerto Rico’s crisis when there are 2 OTHER active bills that don’t immediately turn to colonial rule to fix the issue! We are better than this! John Oliver, YOU are better than this!
What a shame it is that Senator Robert “Bob” Mendez’s bills are being ignored (these bills have COSPONSORS FROM SEVERAL STATES by the way!) and instead we’re looking at House Representative Sean Duffy’s ridiculous colonial rule over Puerto Rico and it’s AMERICAN CITIZENS.
Now, my commentary aside… THANK YOU, JOHN OLIVER!
Thank you for taking up the issue of Puerto Rico to the main media. Your voice helps bring attention to a crisis that is in danger of being swept under the rug. The 3.5 million American Citizens on the Island are begging for mercy from the colonial rule that arrived to our shores 500 years ago with Columbus. 100 years ago the USA took the rains and continued to treat the island as a territory and tax heaven instead of the home of 3.5 million individuals who are currently at the mercy of a congress they did not elect, and a president they did not have the privilege to vote for.
But in the name of Democracy and all the Ideals we hold dear as Americans, HR4900 cannot come to pass! I urge anyone who who holds this island in their heart to instead give Senator Bob the support he needs to get our island out of this crisis without being stripped of it’s dignity.
And as for Lin-Manuel Miranda… No words… How about an encore! Just brilliant!
Thanks for reading.
A very disgruntled Boricua.