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