A new future for Puerto Rico includes making it our 51st state
Over the last few decades, Puerto Rico has been decimated by a mounting debt crisis, failed economic policies and mismanagement, a closed naval base that has left deep environmental and health scars, and a series of devastating storms and hurricanes.
This month, a series of earthquakes have damaged buildings, knocked out the island’s largest power plant for up to a year, and left many people terrified about the structural integrity of their homes — and fearing the worst.
To make matters worse, we have a president who doesn’t seem to believe Puerto Rico is his responsibility — or understand that its residents are Americans.
Well, Puerto Ricans are American citizens. And on the mainland, we should see their challenges as our challenges, because a strong Puerto Rico strengthens America. Instead, President Trump just points fingers and tosses paper towels.
For decades, Puerto Ricans and their interests have been ignored by Washington. And there’s a simple reason why: They don’t have a vote in Congress. And so politicians don’t have to care how they feel.
That’s why they don’t have the same funding as other Americans for essential programs, including Medicaid, even though Puerto Rico’s poverty rate, at almost 43%, is more than double that of the highest-poverty U.S. state. And it’s why, when the island faces a natural disaster, Washington is often slow to respond.
Ignoring the island’s needs has come at a substantial cost to U.S. taxpayers. It’s akin to bailing out a bank every year or so, instead of adopting smart regulations that prevent banks from acting recklessly. Or paying for emergency room visits for those without health care insurance, instead of extending coverage that would allow people to see a doctor and prevent costly and deadly illnesses.
There’s a clear solution to this challenge that a majority of Puerto Ricans support. And it’s a solution that, polls show, two-thirds of all Americans also support: statehood. But most candidates for president have been too afraid to back it. They tip-toe around it, to avoid alienating any voters.
Not me. I’ll state it clearly: I support statehood for Puerto Rico. And as president, I will work to pass a bill making it a reality, subject to approval by the people of Puerto Rico — who will make the ultimate decision.
I believe statehood would be good not only for Puerto Rico, but for our whole country.
Here’s why: Until Puerto Rico becomes a state, it will continue to lack the tools and resources needed to build a stronger economy and recover from disasters — and Congress will continue sending just enough money to put Band-Aids on problems, without actually fixing them.
Helping Puerto Rico move from a state of constant crisis to a state of stable and steady growth is a big management challenge — but by combining statehood with a robust economic and rebuilding plan, I know we can get it done.
In consultation with leaders from the island, our campaign has put together a detailed plan that will deal with the island’s debt crisis, alleviate the devastating spending cuts, overhaul the disaster recovery process and put Puerto Rico on the path to growth and stability.
It’s a strong, ambitious and achievable plan — and I believe Puerto Rico’s future should be an important part of the presidential debate. But my fellow presidential candidates, who have been campaigning for a year, haven’t invested any substantial time or resources there, even though Puerto Rico will award more delegates in the Democratic primary than either Iowa or New Hampshire.
Our campaign is different. We believe taking Puerto Rican voters seriously starts in the Democratic primary, and that’s why I’m opening up an office in San Juan and building a ground operation — because the best way to stop Puerto Rico from being ignored in the future is to stop ignoring it right now.
The citizens of Puerto Rico deserve to have their voices heard — not only in the presidential primary election, but in the general election, too. They deserve real representation in Washington that reflects their interests. And they deserve the same federal funding for disaster relief and reconstruction that all other Americans would expect.
The best way to make that happen is through statehood. And it’s the only way for Washington to stop ignoring the island and applying Band-Aids — and start forming a true partnership with elected leaders there who are on the same footing as other representatives around the country.
The time has come to sew Puerto Rico’s star into our national flag. As president, when voters there are ready to begin the stitching, I’ll bring Congress and the whole country together to get it done.
Read the op-ed by Mike Bloomberg for the Orlando Sentinel: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/guest-commentary/os-op-michael-bloomberg-grant-puerto-rico-statehood-20200127-hxzgiutzincopdzqidkovxok7q-story.html
Read about Mike Bloomberg’s support of Statehood for Puerto Rico in El Nuevo Dia: https://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/estados-unidos/notas/mike-bloomberg-apoya-la-estadidad-para-puerto-rico/