When I read the details of Congress’ latest proposal to address Puerto Rico’s debt challenges, I came away feeling a sense of déjà vu: Once again, politicians are galloping down a path that rewards avarice, greed and the rich, while at the same time blaming and punishing millions of regular people.
Some facts: Puerto Rico faces a debt of over $70 billion. That debt was largely accumulated because of a decadelong economic depression that has left 60% of the adult population without jobs, which obviously makes the government’s task to pay back debts quite onerous (unemployed people don’t pay taxes). And now, a Republican-written bill proposes to hand over decision-making power over the island’s economic restructuring to a seven-member commission with a Republican majority.
Among the measures put forward: exempting residents from new overtime protections, cutting the minimum wage to $4.25 an hour for five years (far lower than the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 that all Democrats now agree is a poverty-level wage), drastically reducing pensions, raising taxes, and privatizing public assets. This is nothing short of a playbook for austerity wielded by some very powerful behind-the-scenes players. In essence, Wall Street profiteers are holding a huge sword over the heads of 3.5 million American citizens.
(Read the rest here.)