Puerto Rico’s Economic Demise is the Fault of the U.S. Federal Gov.
06 January 2017
Puerto Rico is experiencing a huge economic crisis. The population is declining in response as people leave the archipelago in a financial exodus. Eric Platt reported in the Financial Times that the $110 billion debt suffered by the commonwealth “has prompted one of the largest migratory movements within the U.S. in decades.” In the last 10 years, the population of Puerto Rico has dropped by 9 percent.
On Monday, Puerto Rico’s new governor was sworn into office. Governor Ricardo Rosello announced that he would hold an immediate referendum to finally push the island towards either statehood or independence. It’s not a new concern, but with the devastating economic crisis entering its second decade, the statehood movement has a new sense of urgency.
The federal government has a fallback plan for states that fall into dire economic straits: bankruptcy. Chapter 9 bankruptcy is an option for all 50 states and their respective municipalities. Chapter 9 protects municipalities from creditors, prevents the liquidation of their assets and aids in the implementation of a plan to resolve the outstanding debt. In 1984, Congress made changes to the federal bankruptcy code to bar Puerto Rico’s access to these financial safety measures.
Without access to federal bankruptcy protections, Puerto Rico attempted to implement their own. In 2016, the United States Supreme Court told Puerto Rico that it does not have sovereignty. Sovereignty is what gives individual states their right to self-governance, it allows for the political division between federal and state governments, and is protected under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
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