Right Hooks

In Midst of Puerto Rico's Debt Crisis, Left Angles for Votes

Democrats only see an opportunity to score political points.

Political Editors · May 3, 2016
San Juan, Puerto Rico

On Monday, the Puerto Rican government defaulted on a $422 million debt payment. Altogether, the U.S. territory is sitting in a $72 billion hole. In the past, retirees placed their hard-earned dollars in Puerto Rican bonds because they were tax-free. But last year, the island’s governor declared that creditors should “share the sacrifices” with the struggling government. The Republican Congress moved to head off the problem by trying to establish oversight to restructure the debt. Naturally, however, Democrats only see an opportunity to score political points before Election Day.

Young Puerto Ricans are fleeing the island, The Wall Street Journal writes. If Democrats somehow get this demographic on the government dole — maybe if the island defaulted on the whole $72 billion — they could tip presidential elections in states like Florida, where many Puerto Ricans end up. Of course, it wasn’t too long ago that Democrats were toying with the idea of making Puerto Rico the 51st state.

House Speaker Paul Ryan faces opposition from the conservative Freedom Caucus because it considers proposed legislation a “bailout” for Puerto Rico. But the bill doesn’t have any federal funds flowing to the island, The Hill reports. In the midst of the discord, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sees an opportunity to attack the GOP for dysfunctional leadership.

“The Speaker has an overriding, shall we say, principle, which is the committees shall do the work,” Pelosi said. “But at some point, there’s going to have to be a moment where there’s got to be a leadership decision — that this is as good as it gets and this is what we’re going to take to the floor. Hopefully, that will be very soon.” She wants to demonstrate what a Democrat-controlled House would look like ahead of the election. Meanwhile, she is one of the lawmakers primarily responsible for consistently and dramatically increasing the national debt. The big takeaway from this Puerto Rican debt fiasco is that debt actually is crushing — it’s not some sort of theoretical exercise to talk about the trillions of dollars the federal government owes. The time to pay the piper eventually comes.

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