Recently, Puerto Rican voters again backed U.S. statehood in its fifth referendum of the sort. Due to a boycott of the election, voter turnout was at a low of 23 percent. Of this 23 percent, 834,000 voted for U.S. statehood, followed by 7,800 votes for free association and 6,800 to maintain it’s current territorial status. It is clear from these results and other data that Puerto Rico needs a change. United States treatment of Puerto Ricans has been sub-par. After being freed from Spanish Rule more than 100 years ago, Puerto Rico was made a U.S. territory. Ever since then, Puerto Ricans have been given partial citizenship. In many ways, U.S. statehood for Puerto Rico would benefit both the current union and the island itself.
“By sabotaging the free and democratic decision of the electorate, the enemies of statehood in the island and in Washington have unilaterally decided to condemn the people of Puerto Rico to dire economic disadvantages.” -Puerto Rican Vice President, Larry Seilhamer
For those in Puerto Rico, U.S. citizenship is a matter of human rights. Puerto Ricans receive some level of Medicaid and some federal programs apply, but many feel more like a colony. Puerto Rico would receive six representatives and two senators if it was to become a state. The state is as big as 20 other U.S. states, but its economy has taken a fall. this is not just partially due to Puerto Ricans losing their right to free trade. Since Puerto Rico is only a territory, it’s citizens are not subject to income taxes. However, the Fed taxes imports to Puerto Rico Highly. The economy is certainly faltering.GAO facts and figures confirm that the median household income in Puerto Rico, after more than 100 years of the actual territorial/colonial status, is $18,160, compared to $36,919 for the lowest of the states, as opposed to $50,502 which is the median of the 50 states. Lone islands like Puerto Rico may struggle on their own, but it is historically proven that economic activity in Alaska and Hawaii grew exponentially after they became states. What Puerto Rico has is a part of U.S. democracy, without representation and that is a disgrace to the nation.
The United States of America has existed as fifty states for a while. It may be stuck on this number because it is the perfect number, or because every new state means another star has to be added. With this mindset, democracy can never extend to others who desperately want in on it. A GAO study shows that 11 programs would be subject to change if Puerto Rico became a state. It is true that welfare programs would extend to Puerto Rico, but the island would also be subject to income tax. Some hold Puerto Rican statehood as a negative thing, mainly because it would cost the Federal Government extra money to extend its programs. Has the scope of the Fed become that large? Having one more state would be beneficial, if only because it would cause the U.S. to re-examine everything. Every programs necessity and effectivity would be called into question, and that is a healthy thing to have periodically.
The nation of Puerto Rico is 70 billion dollars in debt, some would criticize, but The U.S. itself has nearly 19 trillion dollars of debt. The island has done fairly well, and it would do better as a part of a free trade union with national defense. In 2012, and in 2017, the majority of Puerto Ricans have voted for statehood. The island could certainly benefit from federal protection and the U.S.could certainly benefit from another island economy, as well as a re-examination. Just like India, Australia, and the original 13 colonies, Puerto Rico has been a victim of colonialism. The small island no longer deserves to be treated like a little brother, instead, it should be recognized as a mature entity.