In regards to PUERTO RICO

This was published this morning on Instapundit by Glenn Reynolds. Since the 70’s when I actually visited our facility there in Puerto Rico, I could tell the end was coming the island in the Atlantic. The grand experiment was already taking hold and it was getting harder and harder to maintain even the simplest of equipment.

PUERTO RICO BEFORE THE HURRICANE: Trouble on Welfare Island: Overbearing government and the welfare state are hurting the United States’ poorest citizens.

Puerto Rico has been a United States territory for more than a century, and its people have been citizens since 1917. They do not vote in national elections or pay federal income taxes, but those are not the biggest differences between Puerto Rican residents and their fellow American citizens. The island is distinguished by its poverty and joblessness, which are far worse than in any of the 50 states. The territory’s economy, moreover, has fallen further behind the national one over the past three decades. Bad government—not just locally, but also federally—is largely to blame. Yet most Americans are oblivious to the Caribbean island’s problems.

The place did earn a rare and brief mention in some mainland newspapers earlier this month. Its government had hit a borrowing limit and partly shut down for a couple of weeks, putting 95,000 civil servants out of work. Then leaders in San Juan—the commonwealth’s capital—agreed on a budget deal that let the government borrow more and resume paying people. The drama ended, and life there reverted to its depressing former state. . . .

Many things have gone wrong. Most important, however, is that the United States government assumed too big a role in the Puerto Rican economy, and its largesse enabled the commonwealth’s government to do the same. Through hubris, clumsiness and sheer size, these governments knocked Puerto Rico off the promising path that it was following, and the island’s economy is now lost in a thicket of bad incentives. Two federal intrusions stand out: an oversized welfare state, and misguided rules on business investment.

Federal transfer payments to Puerto Rico rose sharply in the 1970s. Some programmes have been modified since then, but transfers still make up more than 20% of the island’s personal income. These federal handouts reflect the sensibilities of a wealthy country. So by Puerto Rican economic standards, they are huge. And the more a man or woman earns through paid work, the more they decrease.

Puerto Ricans are eligible for federal disability payments, for example, through Social Security. Ms Enchautegui and Mr Freeman point out that, in the territory, federal disability allowances are much higher than the United States average as a share of wages and pension income. Unsurprisingly, therefore, one in six working-age men in Puerto Rico are claiming disability benefits.

Many families do not view the federal handouts as temporary. Neither does Raúl Vega, who owns a consumer-finance outfit in Aguadilla. His firm treats the benefits as income when deciding whether to lend people money for new televisions.

Sad. They need more of those transgressive bourgeois values. But then, so does the rest of America.

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