Puerto Ricans Need to Stop Living Like Kings and Learn to Work in Sweatshops


No, that’s not me speaking! “Puerto Ricans Need to Stop Living Like Kings and Learn to Work in Sweatshops” is Harry Franqui-Rivera’s title for his critique of a recent article published in BloombergView (25 February 2015), “Helping Puerto Rico Prosper.” I have to say that I enjoyed the historian’s humorous commentary and I will make it a point to read other posts on his blog, In cOHERENT Thoughts. For example, for the photo above-left, Franqui-Rivera’s caption reads: “Proud Puerto Rican family grateful that they can keep their competitive edge. Note in the background the Green (and cost effective) housing proposed by BloombergView.” I guess the BloombergView editors had also tried to be “funny”—their caption for a photo of San Juan (by Al Bello/Getty Images) reads “The sunsets, the sand, the lingering debt crisis.” For full posts, see the links below:

An article in BloombergView, condescendingly entitled Helping Puerto Rico Prosper, pretends to offer a solution to the island’s economic maladies. Of course it has gone viral. The article presents a laundry list of what is ailing Puerto Rico while slowly but surely making a nuanced case for right wing economics. Here is the laundry list.

  • Since 2006, Puerto Rico’s economy has contracted every year but one.
  • Its unemployment rate of 13.7 percent is double that of the U.S. mainland.
  • Its poverty rate is twice that of Mississippi.
  • Puerto Rico’s population and tax base have aged and shrunk.
  • Since 2000, public debt has risen from 60 percent of gross domestic product to more than 100 percent.
  • Much of that has been racked up by the island’s inefficient public-sector corporations.

After presenting these well-known facts, the article argues for deregulation- of the worse kind. It calls for Congress and President Obama “to deliver the island from the crushing burden of laws and regulations ill-suited to its circumstances.” What are these laws? “The federal minimum wage, for instance” which the article claims “puts Puerto Rico at a competitive disadvantage to its Caribbean neighbors.”

BloombergView calls for the elimination of the Federal Minimum Wage and too many Puerto Ricans are buying that line. I’m not surprised; I hear that same line whenever I visit the island. Many argue that not only does the FMW stifle the economy but that it makes commodities more expensive for the middle class because the working poor have more money to spend. I’m not kidding you, if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that argument I could help pay Puerto Rico’s public debt. [. . .]

I can see Bloomberg’s editorial staff imagining Puerto Rico as an agrarian society with happy barefoot peasants squatting in shacks and driving their oxcarts to the local market while sipping Tequila and chewing Coca leaves. But luckily, that is not Puerto Rico’s situation—and we can’t go back in time or to Bloomberg’s imaginary island. I’m surprised that the article didn’t recommend sending everyone back to sugarcane fields to live eternally indebted to the plantation owner; or to coffee haciendas to live under the much romanticized señorial (patriarchal) society in which everyone knew their place.

[. . .] Bloomberg neoliberal analysis comes from the top. Their argument boils down to we cannot impose a U.S. standard in a Caribbean third world country, but we can certainly impose a US economic philosophy. How is that? Maybe we should get rid of other federal regulations and programs like OSHA, social security, right to unionize, Medicare, Medicaid, emissions control, etc… And while we are at it let’s take U.S. citizenship back because who wants to see American citizens working in sweatshops? [. . .]

For full post, see https://incoherentthoughtsblog.wordpress.com/

For the BloombergView post, see http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-02-25/let-puerto-rico-go-bankrupt

One thought on “Puerto Ricans Need to Stop Living Like Kings and Learn to Work in Sweatshops

  1. I would suggest one edit. Puerto Rico is not a third world country. Neither is all of the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago have the highest per capita per citizen, except for canada and the USA. Followed 4th by Puerto Rico. Mexico is not considered a third world country but Puerto Ricans are better off. The logic is super flawed and an assumption that all Latin america is desolate which is not the case.

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