Sorry about the lag, folks. I’ve been on vacation, doing some job-hunting, and generally dealing with personal matters…but without further ado,let us skip the personal, and on to the political. Shall we?
Looking over my bounteous bag of mail, I noticed a message from my father. My dad,every once in a while,will drop me a line about some outrageous event taking place in the nation’s capital.
Usually, it’s pretty harmless stuff–mostly his impressions about life at the epicenter of power. This time, though, my jaw dropped when I saw the goods.
Seems that Rep. James Hansen spoke,well,bluntly about Puerto Ricans this past week. Among other things, he said,”They sit down there on welfare, and very few of them are paying taxes.” He also said Puerto Ricans had a “sweetheart” deal.
In the interest of exposing the kinds of morons,cretins, and imbeciles that,sadly,Republicans are increasingly electing to high office,allow me to respond to the Congressman’s empty blast of hot air, with facts courtesy of Juan Gonzalez.
Utah contra Puerto Rico:
Two simple,yet,astonishing facts:First, the amount of federal aid Utah gets far outstrips the paltry amount received by Puerto Rico.
Second, and more importantly, the amount of money Puerto Rico and its people contribute to the economy–on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars–far exceeds the amount they receive in federal “welfare” (as Jimmy Hansen kindly put it). In other words, Puerto Rico is footing the bill for U.S. prosperity.
Don’t take my word for it. Check the U.S. Census Bureau’s own numbers.
Every year, the bureau publishes something called the Consolidated Federal Funds Report, which breaks down federal payments to individual states and territories.
The latest one, for fiscal 1999, reveals that the federal government spent $12.9 billion in Puerto Rico. In contrast, it spent $9.2 billion in Utah.
Utah’s population of 2.3 million, however, is far eclipsed by Puerto Rico’s 3.8 million. Since 1917, anyone born in Puerto Rico has been a U.S. citizen, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.
On a per capita basis, however, the federal government shelled out an average of $4,016 for every resident of Utah in 1999, as opposed to $3,416 for every resident of Puerto Rico.
Even though only 10% of Utah’s population lives below the poverty level–compared with 65%of Puerto Rico’s population–Utah received more than twice as many Medicaid dollars from the federal government: $558 million to $219 million.
But the federal transfers are not all outright grants. Payments for entitlements such as Social Security, veterans benefits and Medicare are all things the recipients have earned either through service in the military or through payroll taxes. Subtracting those entitlements, federal grants to Puerto Rico are reduced to $7.5 billion, and $5.2 billion for Utah.
That’s still a lot of money. Yet it doesn’t begin to compare with the vast wealth tiny Puerto Rico provides the United States.
The island is so small, after all, that it could practically fit inside Utah’s Great Salt Lake, yet for decades it has been the most profitable place for U.S. corporations in the world.
In 1995, for instance, U.S. companies earned $14.3 billion in profits from their direct investments in Puerto Rico, more than any other nation, and more than their combined profits in Brazil, Germany and Mexico.
Those companies made such superprofits because, just like individual Puerto Rican citizens, they are exempt from federal income taxes.
The actual amount of money Puerto Rican individuals would have to pay in federal taxes, remember, would not be that great, because two-thirds of them are at the poverty level and many would be eligible for the earned income tax credit.
No Contest on Education, Stars
Another place where Utah gets far more federal money than Puerto Rico is in military payrolls and procurement. That might explain why Hansen is so upset over Puerto Rican protests against military bombing in Vieques.
Hansen should spend more time studying the facts and less time displaying his ignorance. Utah, after all, seems to suffer from an educational deficit. In 1990, a mere 177,000 of the state’s adult residents had college degrees, compared with 503,000 in Puerto Rico.
No wonder the list of famous Puerto Ricans seems to dwarf that of poor Utah. Utah claims such well-known natives as Roseanne, Maude Adams, the Osmonds and Butch Cassidy, the outlaw.
The state’s biggest native sports heroes? Former pro footballers Merlin Olsen and Jim McMahon.
Puerto Ricans, on the other hand, proudly point to world-famous cellist Pablo Casals, percussionist Tito Puente, actors Raul Julia, Rita Moreno and Jennifer Lopez, and singers Marc Anthony, Jose Feliciano, and Ricky Martin.
As for sports, from Roberto Clemente to Orlando Cepeda to Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez, the list of stars seems as endless as the deserts of Utah.
Anyway, more elaboration later…