Jeb spent part of his trip to Puerto Rico reminiscing about drinking rum, but he’s looking punch-drunk after adding two more positions to his growing list of problems with the Republican base.
If Puerto Rico became a state, its economy and culture would be incredible outliers: It is twice as poor as the poorest of the 50 states, and it would of course be the first Spanish-speaking one. Statehood would remove some of the competitive benefits the island currently enjoys — protection of the United States and its laws without paying income taxes, for instance — in exchange for an inordinately generous welfare state. (One important economic policy exported from the mainland, the federal minimum wage, is believed to have had devastating effects.) The territory is currently stuck in a deep economic malaise, driving large numbers of residents to emigrate, but what it needs is structural reform, not statehood.
So what is Governor Bush thinking? In Washington, the issue has long been more of a Democratic cause — the state would be reliably blue — but some Republicans have warmed to the idea on political grounds, too, thinking it will win over Hispanic voters, especially the growing population of Puerto Ricans in Florida. Bush surely believes what he said (his brother was sympathetic, too), but if this is a political ploy, it’s an unwise one.
Then, the 60 Plus Association hammered Jeb for supporting an expansion of Chapter 9 bankruptcy to the island, a measure conservatives regard as a bailout:
The 60 Plus Association…opposed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s decision to endorse a bailout scheme allowing Puerto Rico to avoid $164 billion dollars in debt at the expense of American taxpayers and seniors.
“…we could not believe more strongly that a Chapter 9 solution for Puerto Rico is no solution at all, and will be quite damaging to seniors, to taxpayers, and the future of state and municipal financial management.”
“There are better ways to address the financial crisis currently gripping Puerto Rico and its people that don’t call on taxpayers to fund yet another bailout that will add to our nation’s mountainous public debt obligation. There are better solutions that will require the leaders of Puerto Rico to finally address long intractable mismanagement problems. We strongly believe these options must be considered first before the words ‘Chapter 9′ are ever mentioned.”
Published: Apr 30, 2015