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  September 26, 2017

Trump Blames Puerto Rico for the Economic Crisis the US Created

TRNN explores the roots of Puerto Rico's financial woes with economist Mark Weisbrot
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Jaisal Noor: President Donald Trump has again sparked outrage after finally addressing the catastrophic conditions on the island or Puerto Rico. It's been without electricity, safe drinking water, food and fuel since being hit by Hurricane Maria. Trump seemingly blamed the islands for the conditions it's facing, saying its billions of dollars of debt to Wall Street and the banks must be dealt with.

Maria, the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century, devastated the Caribbean island when it struck the U.S. territory with ferocious winds and torrential rains last week. Puerto Rico, which is already suffering from broken infrastructure and massive debt is in deep trouble. Trump wrote on Twitter in series of posts.

What the media and politicians haven't addressed are the roots of Puerto Rico's economic crisis, which many, like economist Mark Weisbrot say, results of U.S. policies that have extracted the wealth of Puerto Rico.

Mark Weisbrot: And it would never happen if it weren't for Puerto Rico's colonial status. It's technically an unincorporated territory of the United States. So they don't have control over their most important economic policies. If they were an independent country, for example, this could never happen. They would default on their debt like Argentina did back in the beginning of 2001. And then they would have a chance to return to growth.

This is the kind of thing that only happens when a country just really has no control over its macroeconomic policies and other policies. And of course, part of the reason they're in the mess in the first place, is because they were hit by a number of external shocks since the 90s that were not of their own making. They resulted from decisions that were made by the U.S. government or by the result of international treaties that the U.S. negotiated. Like the WTO, for example, that they didn't have a voice in and they couldn't really adapt to without having, again, control over their economic policies.

Jaisal Noor: The virtual U.S. colony, struggling with $72 billion in debt, filed the biggest government bankruptcy in U.S. history earlier this year.

Mark Weisbrot: It's really terrible. I mean, already they've got 46% poverty, 58% child poverty, which is almost three times the level of the United States. Their unemployment is 11.7%, more than two and a half times what the unemployment is in the United States. Investment has fallen from around 20% in 1999 to about 7.9%. Any indicator you look at, it's horrible.

And they get squeezed also because, and this again a result of their colonial status, even though they pay Medicare taxes, they're not getting the same Medicare funding from the United States government that the states get. They don't get anywhere near the Medicaid support. So they've got a real healthcare crisis because of that.

Jaisal Noor: For all our coverage of Puerto Rico and full interview with Mark Weisbrot, go to This is Jaisal Noor.


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