Puerto Rico Should Seek American Statehood
PRO (4 arguments)
Background you should know: In 1898, after the US won the Spanish-American war, Spain gave the US Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is our largest territory, both in population and land size. Through an act of Congress in 1917, Puerto Rican residents are US Citizens. However, they do not participate in the Presidential elections, although once they establish residency in any of the 50 states they become eligible voters. They’re exempt from many federal taxes, but they are protected by the U.S. armed forces and are part of the mainland judicial system. Puerto Ricans can receive Federal benefits like Social Security and Medicare. Companies doing business there are exempt from many corporate taxes.The question of Puerto Rican statehood will come up again before the Puerto Rican people and then our Congress, this year or next.
Statehood-being a state in the US
Puerto Rico is a US territory, and the people are US citizens, but they are exempt from Presidential elections and federal taxes
The weighing mechanism for this debate is whichever side proves to give the greatest benefits to the people of Puerto Rico, as well as the US.
For years, the Puerto Rican economy has been in decline, and is now on the brink of disaster, with $72 billion of overall debt and an unemployment rate twice that of the mainland. If the country's statehood goes into effect, many more jobs and opportunities would be available to Puerto Ricans, lowering the amount of people in poverty and the amount of money they owe for debt. According to records from CNN, Puerto Rico is costing the US over 22 billion a year, but as a state, it can contribute nearly 2 billion to the US Treasury every year. If Puerto Rico gets statehood, it can get better access to things like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, highway funding, and more. Resident Commissioner Piersluisi said that “statehood would inject an additional $9 to $10 billion into Puerto Rico’s economy each year.”
According to the United States federal government, the US is 19.3 trillion dollars in debt. Although 2 billion may seem insignificant in comparison, any amount of money being generated to help us alleviate our debt is beneficial. Puerto Rico currently has an unemployment rate of 12%. Puerto Rico is also $72 billion in debt, which is nearly 100% of its total annual economic output. The poverty rate is 45%. Not to mention the fact that at least 249 cases of the mosquito-borne virus — which has been linked to paralysis and debilitating birth defects — have been confirmed since December. Puerto Rico doesn't have enough money to look for cures and options. Many people in poverty don't have window screens, so they are subject to almost constant bites. It is also decreasing tourism, leaving Puerto Rico in an even more precarious position. The US would help decrease the amount of people in poverty and unemployment, and increase its total economic output, also benefiting the United States.
The Fiscal Times
Our weighing mechanism is “what’s best for the Puerto Rican people” and who would know what’s best for them but the Puerto Rican people themselves? A 2012 referendum voted on by 80% of the Puerto Rican people showed a majority (54% of the electorate) disagreed with "the present form of territorial status", with full statehood as the preferred option among 61% of those who voted for a change of status. Following the vote, the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico enacted a concurrent resolution to request the President and Congress of the United States to end its current status as an unincorporated U.S. territory and begin the process of admission to the union as a state. In 2012, the US Congress declined to vote on statehood, but the US government is holding a new referendum on statehood this year.
The United States has the final say in everything that occurs in Puerto Rico, but they are still unable to vote in the Presidential elections, despite being formal US citizens. This is extremely unfair to the people, and they recognize that they should be having the same rights as United States citizens on the mainland.
Congressional Research Service
If the tax system was working now, Puerto Rico would not have such a depressed economy. Becoming a state would give Puerto Rico access to an extra $20 billion in federal funds every year. And even though residents would have to begin paying federal income taxes, the hope is that their wages and other assets would rise as companies began to view Puerto Rico as a politically stable place to invest. Meanwhile, the federal government would collect billions in new personal and corporate income taxes. A finance professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Professor Carlos Colon stated that Puerto Rico “should be better off than the 50 states, because its federal taxes are lower. And we are not. We’re not even catching up. Every one of the 50 states is better off economically than Puerto Rico. That’s probably the best argument in favor of statehood as an economic strategy.”
The weighing mechanism of this debate was which sides gives the greatest benefits to the people of Puerto Rico. Clearly, Puerto Rico having access to an extra $20 billion as a state would greatly benefit the people.
University of Puerto Rico
The citizens of Puerto Rico have made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for the American way of life and they should be rewarded with all of the benefits of statehood. The former President of the University of Puerto Rico, Jose Saldana, has spoken in support of statehood, saying “We have significantly contributed in the defense of our Nation at home and abroad in all the major wars and foreign engagements. More than 200,000 of us have honorably served in the U.S. Armed Forces and have fought and died for our democratic way of life. Proportionately we have experienced more war casualties in all U.S. wars than any state of the union. And yet we are deprived of the most basic rights of citizenship in a representative democracy: The right to vote and the right to be represented in the political body that enacts the laws by which we must abide. It would be a very unfair and undemocratic act of prejudice on the part of Congress ,and a national discredit, to ignore the plight for equal rights of 3.7 million of American citizens.
It’s only fair to allow Puerto Rico statehood. The fact that proportionately Puerto Rico has suffered the most deaths as a result of a US war means that we should be granting them statehood.
University of Puerto Rico
CON (3 arguments)
We believe this debate should be weighed on what’s best for both the people of Puerto Rico AND the people of the United States.
If Puerto Rico become a state, then all the unemployed and struggling Puerto Ricans (whom are now US citizens) will be eligible for welfare and other financial aid services. Granting Puerto Rico American statehood, money would have to come OUT of the US treasury, and into the hands of millions of new citizens. In Puerto Rico there are approximately 430,000 unemployed citizens right now. About 12.10 percent of their total population. If Puerto Rico were to become the 51st US state, then all of those people would be entitled to welfare and other forms of financial aid. Furthermore, Puerto Rico's per capita income of $8,509 is less than one third of the US average, and about one half that of Mississippi, the poorest state. The cost of Puerto Rican statehood as $9.4 billion in the first four years, and our weak US economy can't handle that. These costs do not include matters like government and court translation expenses should Puerto Rico declare itself to be a solely Spanish-speaking land. Nor does it include the costs to the U.S. Treasury of as many as seven representatives and two Senators whose continuance in office will depend on their pleasing an impoverished constituency. Overall, the cost of Puerto Rico’s admission as a state is much too high.
If Puerto Rico becomes the 51st American state, our government would potentially have to give 430 THOUSAND people money for financial aid. This money could be used for a variety of things that could benefit the America as it is today. Clearly neither the United States nor Puerto Rico can afford Puerto Rican statehood, and it makes no sense for Puerto Rico to enter into such an unstable relationship where resentment against Puerto Rico (and Puerto Ricans living in the US) will breed fast.
If the US were to make Puerto Rico a state, Puerto Rico would now be allowed equal representation in both the House and the Senate. While their representation would be small, due to the island’s small population, the ramifications of those votes could be huge. Adding two new Senators to the Senate could be especially problematic, since the majority of the Puerto Rican population identify as Conservatives. All making Puerto Rico a state would do is give it much more power as a swing state then it truly deserves. According to Laura Matthews in the International Business Times, due to the political climate in Puerto Rico, the admission of it as a state would shift power in both the House and the Senate. Matthews writes that “Should it get statehood, Puerto Rico could be the next swing state. There are already talks that if the island got two senators and at least one representative, if it becomes a state, the balance of Congress could shift.” Even Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock sees Puerto Rico’s admission into the Union as a serious difference maker in politics. McClintock said that “Unfortunately Puerto Rico will be a swing state. We won't identify with Democrats or Republicans”. This means that there would be a whole new addition to political primaries and elections, forever shifting the outcome of future elections.
The impact here is clear. If Puerto Rico became a state, the balance that currently exists between Democrats and Republicans would be upset. Additionally, with two new Senators who lean conservative on social issues, the US can expect more regressive social policies to be enacted.
Puerto Rico should not become an American state because linguistic and cultural differences continue to divide the other 50 states and Puerto Rico. This would mean that Puerto Rico would either not fit into the union, or it would lose its distinct cultural identity.
Historically the US has pursued 'Americanization' campaigns there, focusing especially around imposing the use of the English language and casting aside 'old values'. This policy was deeply resented and strongly resisted by most Puerto Ricans, and it failed. Thus, after 91 years of intimate association, Puerto Rico remains a separate cultural nationality. A recent study conducted by The University of Puerto Rico proved that less than 10 PERCENT of the Puerto Rican population speak advanced English. Also, another survey found that out of the 5,000 Puerto Ricans surveyed, only 39% of them said they would like to spend time learning English. Furthermore in terms of national identity, Puerto Rico joining the US would result in it losing the semi-independent identity which it currently has in the eyes of much of the world. To name but two examples, Puerto Rico would no longer have its own representative in the Miss Universe Pageant (which Puerto Rico has actually won on three occasions) and they would not be recognized as an individual nation in the Olympic games, as it currently is. These international representations would be curbed under statehood, as Puerto Rico would be required to participate in the same manner as the other 50 states, and to compete to represent the United States collectively, and not Puerto Rico individually.
Changing language policies would also undermine Puerto Rican culture: the territories that became Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma (who all had large and historically rooted non-English-speaking populations) were all admitted to the union by congressional enabling acts that required that “schools shall always be conducted in English” in order to ensure assimilation. This would likely also be the case with Puerto Rico, and could undermine the access of future generations of Puerto Ricans to their Hispanic heritage and culture, subsuming it within the overpowering tide of English-speaking American culture.
Thus the Puerto Rican people are highly independent and have immense pride in their district and rich Latin culture and Spanish language, and they should not be deprived of that culture, which statehood would arguably contribute towards.