Why It Takes a Huge Pop Star to Bring Attention to Puerto Rico's Economic Enslavement to America
House Republicans recently circulated a questionable draft awarding a federal control board the legal authority to oversee a reduction of Puerto Rico's debts (now totaling $70 billion), instead of entrusting that power to local officials. Puerto Rico's debt was sold by different issuers and backed by separate revenue streams or legal safeguards.
Meanwhile, federal judge JosÃ© A. FustÃ© declared unconstitutional a special law established to tax companies such as Walmart in Puerto Rico, where Walmart is the territory's "largest private employer." The law, known as Ley 72 (Law 72), would have taxed Walmart 6.5 percent for business-to-business purchases. That money would have gone to the Puerto Rican government.
But instead of paying its fair share, Walmart sued Puerto Rico and asked for this law to be declared unconstitutional. In an ironic twist, Judge FustÃ© admits, "it doesn't give me any pleasure, under these circumstances, (to) block any revenue stream that may contribute directly to Puerto Rico's general budget."
One of the Walmart trial's "expert witnesses" stated: "At the end of the day, the government shouldn't depend on invalid taxes to try to pay for essentials," convincing Judge FustÃ© to rule in favor of the megastore, which claimed its business "suffered discrimination" due to the imposed law. The ruling comes as Walmart prepares to close seven stores in Puerto Rico as part of a plan to shutter 269 stores worldwide.
And that's not all; it takes a pop culture star to raise awareness on many critical issues. Broadway's "Hamilton" writer and lead actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda, penned a plea for relief for Puerto Rico. His New York Times piece asserts:
“According to the census, Puerto Rico has lost 9 percent of its population in the last decade, with 84,000 leaving last year alone. […] If Puerto Rico were an American city, it could declare bankruptcy, as Detroit did in 2013. If it were a state, the federal government would surely have already declared emergency measures to help the most vulnerable. But since it is a territory of the United States, there is no system in place to handle the financial and humanitarian crisis that is happening right now.”
Miranda's activism for his beloved homeland of Puerto Rico didn't fall on deaf ears or blind eyes. Bernie Sanders even responded to his Twitter post, saying:
I agree with @Lin_Manuel. Puerto Rico needs our help and should be able to restructure its debt. https://t.co/q4VcmZ7IDy— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1459174811.0
Watch: Lin-Manuel Miranda had previously pleaded with Congress to take action:
Nowadays, Puerto Rico experiences a massive exodus reminiscent of the 1950s, as Congress and policymakers have done next to nothing to alleviate the over $70 billion deficit crisis.