I’ve never been to Puerto Rico. As I was doing my research for this piece I discovered it’s stunningly gorgeous. White sand beaches surround an island rich in history. Modern cities, Caribbean food, snorkeling, hotels and more. The landscape of the island culminates in a massive bluff with a castle of sorts perched atop, overlooking the sea. A guardian of times long past and an invitation to those in search of adventure and escape. Who knew? If you’re an American citizen you can visit Puerto Rico without a passport. They will welcome you with English and Spanish. As a Commonwealth of the USA, they use the American Dollar, boy do they. I think all Americans should hop a jet and check it out. Of course, I’m an easy sell, I’m from Iowa and it’s five degrees outside as I write this.
All kidding aside, Puerto Rico has a lot going for it, so what’s the deal with all this bailout and bankruptcy talk? Well apparently, you can’t sit on the beach all day drinking Mai Tai’s and have a successful state/country. The country is bloated beyond belief. Bribery and pay to play type shenanigans are standard issue. Unemployment is at more than 12%, they have a less than 40% participation rate in the workforce, and more than 5% of the population bailed in the last five years heading to Miami. Also, the folks who left were generally the doctors, lawyers, engineers, and successful businesspeople. Ouch. Generational corruption has left the government the number one employer. Social programs have run amuck, the minimum wage is stunningly high, and regulations have choked the life out of the economy. Debt is through the roof and they are defaulting.
Sounds pretty bad. Well, it is. Time for a cervesa and some Jimmy Buffet. I wish it was that easy. We all wish it was, but it’s not. The leaders who have caused this catastrophe are looking for a way out. That way out looks like a bailout from Washington D.C. You can’t blame them. They’ve seen D.C. bailout some car companies, Wall Street, a major city (Detroit), why not a small country/state? It would sure solve things for them if they could circumvent that Federal law that keeps them from declaring Chapter 9 bankruptcy, right? Wrong! Just Say No to a Puerto Rican bailout.
Now is the time to grow up. Both in D.C. and in Puerto Rico. No bailout and no bankruptcy. Puerto Rico is our Greece. If we bail them out, guess who will be next in line? Illinois, California, New Jersey, and maybe Connecticut. We don’t want to set this kind of precedent. The states where you find too many social programs, regulations, and bloated governments will be right in line. They will be next with an outstretched hand and beleaguered face claiming they are too big to fail. Some claim Puerto Rico is beyond repair. I say, no it is not. It’s going to be ugly for a time, but they can make it. We can stand with them, and not keep them down by throwing money at them or allowing them to break our bankruptcy rules.
It’s time to rip the band aid off fast. They need to do what our government won’t, yet. They need to slash spending by cutting government in half. Call up the creditors and make payment deals with them. Destroy the regulations that have crippled the economy and driven out businesses. Put in place the necessary reforms and oversight to assure corruption is minimized. Do it overnight. Yes, people will howl. The markets may take a hit, but then something will happen. Investment money will flow to Puerto Rico like a tsunami. Where else can you invest in the Caribbean and have all the benefits of it being part of America.
No one wants to go to Mexico. It’s too dangerous. Puerto Rico needs a new marketing team. They need to partner with every major airline in the US and create direct flights to the Puerto Rican Paradise. Did you know it has a rain forest? Most American’s don’t even know the difference between Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, or Puerto Vallarta. Educate the American people and invite them down. Run commercials during the Super Bowl and American Idol. Hire Jimmy Buffet and Alan Jackson as a spokesmen and the flood of tourists and dollars would begin. Maybe even get Trump to build a YUGE new hotel!
Bailing out Puerto Rico is bad for everyone. Helping Puerto Rico succeed is the only way to keep this from happening year after year. Congressional Republicans need to have a spine and say no to any more bailouts. That might go a long way to restoring some confidence that they even have spines. Then take it one step further. After saying no to the bailout and bankruptcy, offer to help turn Puerto Rico around. Maybe send Rick Perry down to run things for a while. I can see Rick on the beach in a cowboy hat setting things right for Puerto Rico.
It’s time to act like grown-ups. Make Puerto Rico fix its mess with new ideas, not with taxpayer money. With all the natural resources and the distinct advantage of being an American Commonwealth, they can be the dominant island in the Caribbean for years to come…if they can do the hard things now.
Will our leaders in D.C. enable them and reward bad behavior or help them grow into America’s own bucket-list destination spot? We shall see.