Puerto Rico is the more famous territory under the domain of the United States of America. Won after the Spanish-American War, it has served as a paradise for people across the world, rivaled only by the likes of Hawaii or the Bahamas. However, it isn’t perfect, especially as of recent. The recent economic issues plaguing Puerto Rico, along with its other withstanding problems, are evidence that statehood is within its best interest.
Earlier this May, we learned the shocking news that Puerto Rico would be declaring bankruptcy. This should not be taken lightly, as this is the first time in the history of the United States that a territory (or a state for that matter) has taken that measure. It’s an unprecedented act that helps bring the issue into perspective. Puerto Rico’s currently owes 120 billion dollars in debt and liabilities. This debt is only dwarfed by the likes of California and New York (156 billion and 130 billion respectively). What’s Important to note, however, is the debt per capita in Puerto Rico. The current per capita debt in the territory lies at a whopping $15,637 (per Bloomberg), in comparison to California and New York’s $4,209.16 and $7,040.97 respectively. This implies that California and New York can both maintain their debt as they have a high population and better means of production, Puerto Rico, however, has an immensely smaller population, and produces far less. This means that at the current rate of government spending, the debt is only going to rise.
So what are the solutions? Yes, bankruptcy is obviously a good first step to a long term solution, but why let this happen ever again? Puerto Rico becoming a state would help it in a number of areas. The amount of money received in federal funding would be a major bonus. Recently Puerto Rico received about $5,500 per capita in federal funds. This is miniscule in comparison to that of what states get in funding, even those with smaller populations than the territory. For example, Vermont, with its population of around 600,000 people, received $11,836 per capita of federal funds. What’s Puerto Rico’s population in comparison? 3.4 million. If it became a state, other important changes would be seen, such as Puerto Rico’s representation on Congress. The territory has no amount of senators or congressmen representing it in Washington. This means decisions are made that often times leave it behind in favor for the recognized states. If in Congress, Puerto Rico could ask for further federal funding, increase social programs, and overall let their voice be heard and respected.
It is time for the territory to assimilate into the Union. At this point, it is for the very good of the people within it. Schools and medical programs are suffering. Gangs are on the rise. With over 3.4 million people to represent, isn’t it the responsible decision to do what is best for the best the most people? It is time to add a 51st star to the flag of the United States.