In the last week, President Trump has been denounced for opposing more taxpayer funds for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Trump has put the blame squarely on the corrupt political leadership of Puerto Rico and highlighted that Puerto Rico has received more relief funding than Florida and Texas combined.
While there is some disagreement over the exact figure that Puerto Rico has received, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has reported $20 billion in hurricane recovery funds, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency has funded an additional $8 billion and the Small Business Administration has approved $2 billion in loans. Yet we are told Puerto Rico needs more of American taxpayers’ money.
Democrats are insisting that American taxpayers continue to further fund Puerto Rican leaders’ additional demands. The fact of the matter is, not one more dime in funding should be sent to Puerto Rico until it gets its political house in order, either of its own accord or by the Trump administration forcing systematic change. Putting more money into a broken system won’t fix anything. Most importantly, it will only continue to hurt our fellow citizens—the people of Puerto Rico.
The real problems facing the people of Puerto Rico have nothing to do with Trump, or the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. It has nothing to do with statehood or continuing its territorial status. It has nothing to do with caring or not caring. It is about rank corruption in which the people of Puerto Rico are the victims and the corrupt Puerto Rican political class are the villains.
For decades, Puerto Rico has been governed by a patronage system centered on the 78 mayors across the island, who are truly the real political power in Puerto Rico. Many of the mayors have been more than happy to cut deals that allow them to stay in power even if it means failing to actually do their jobs, like collecting property taxes, utility bills, and fees for basic services. Current estimates indicate there is a pool of $3 billion in uncollected property taxes.
According to a recent U.S. Treasury report, there are hundreds of thousands of properties on the island that are either unregistered or improperly defined because the Puerto Rican titling system hasn’t been updated in nearly 70 years. Even worse, there is a pool of billions of dollars, by some estimates in the neighborhood of $10 billion, in uncollected water bills, electric bills, and tourism tax dollars.
Who wins in this system? The politicians and the politically powerful who can cut a deal with elected officials.
But what’s a few billion among friends when it allows certain people to stay in power and their patrons to have bigger bank accounts? Everyone walks away happy — except, of course, the average citizen of Puerto Rico, who is then left with decaying infrastructure and fewer basic services because there is no tax revenue to fund these vital projects.
If Puerto Rico would fix its tax system, both with respect to property taxes and basic services, it would result in nearly a billion dollars in annual revenue. That’s a billion dollars annually that their fellow Americans would no longer need to send to prop up Puerto Rico.
Instead, the American taxpayers are expected to be an open checkbook with no strings attached to fund a broken and corrupt system. The answer is not to further abuse taxpayers by sending more federal dollars to Puerto Rico. The answer is “Puerto Rico, heal thyself.”
The press and the Democrats will never acknowledge that Trump is right. It would be nice, for once, to see every Republican in Washington DC support him, truly help the people of Puerto Rico, and protect American taxpayers.