Puerto Rico: A growing catastrophe
A week after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, “the U.S. territory is in the grip of a serious, life-threatening crisis,” said Brian Resnick in Vox.com. Maria’s 150 mph winds and torrential rains utterly destroyed the territory’s infrastructure, wiping out most crops and wrecking almost the entire power grid. It could take months for power to be restored, and cell service is also down—leaving much of the island incommunicado—while the population of 3.4 million is running out of fuel, medicine, food, and fresh water. As panic grows, “many have been openly wondering when help will arrive,” said Samantha Schmidt and Joel Achenbach in The Washington Post. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló this week pleaded for more help from the federal government in Washington— warning that the territory’s U.S. citizens were on the brink of “catastrophe.”
Puerto Rico is fast turning into a “Katrina” moment for President Trump, said Phillip Carter in Slate.com. When hurricanes Harvey and Irma pummeled Texas and Florida this summer, tens of thousands of troops and government officials immediately “snapped into action,” with Trump flying in to pledge a full recovery. But the administration took days to respond to Puerto Rico and sent far fewer emergency and military workers. Trump was too busy posting 17 tweets about his feud with the NFL to say anything about the crisis, until mounting criticism prompted him to send out tweets that appeared to blame Puerto Rico for its own misery. He said the island was in “terrible shape” even before Maria hit, because of “broken infrastructure & massive debt,” which he said “must be dealt with.”
The truth is that “the political and economic model” for Puerto Rico wasn’t working before Maria—and is now permanently broken, said Tyler Cowen in Bloomberg.com. The semiindependent island has $123 billion in pension and debt obligations, its younger population is steadily moving away, and Maria will badly damage its tourism industry and struggling economy. For the island to survive, full U.S. statehood is necessary—but the Republicans who control Washington will not permit it. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground is increasingly “bleak,” said Geraldo Rivera in FoxNews.com. “Only an approach like the Marshall Plan that resurrected Europe in the wake of World War II can save this place.” So come on, President Trump: Our fellow citizens need us.