Critics: Democrats’ Push for Puerto Rico Statehood a Bad Idea

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The House of Representatives passed the “Puerto Rico Status Act” in mid-December, led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). The mostly symbolic bill could be brought up again in the new Congress. If signed into law, the measure could spark a drastic change to the island’s economy.

The bill would require the U.S. government to conduct a plebiscite for the island’s residents, allowing them to democratically decide whether they would like Puerto Rico to become the 51st state, an independent country, or remain a commonwealth. Previous non-binding referendums have resulted in a slight majority favoring statehood.

Grijalva’s act received unanimous Democratic support in the House, and 16 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the bill, including outgoing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo). Supporters of the bill view it as an important step in undoing the vestiges of American colonialism.

“Invaded by the United States during the 1898 Spanish American War, Puerto Rico has remained in a state of colonial limbo that flies in the face of the anticolonial values upon which the American Republic was founded,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) in a press release after the bill passed the House. “The time has come to fully decolonize Puerto Rico.”

This argument is not compelling to Yaron Brook, a Puerto Rico resident and chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute. When asked about the congresswoman’s perspective, Brook told The Epoch Times, “I don’t buy it.”

He believes the island’s inhabitants are better off today than they would have been had the United States granted them independence after the Spanish-American war in the late 1890s. People should not focus on whether colonialism is inherently evil, according to Brook, but instead ask themselves, “Are human beings living better lives under this system or not?”

Brook, who is also a hedge fund manager based in Puerto Rico, warned that both statehood and independence could have detrimental effects on the island’s economy.

“Those who want to be a state, basically want to be a state because they want more welfare,” he said, adding that welfare will only make residents more dependent and less productive in the long run. A recent study found that many U.S. states offer unemployment and other benefits that exceed the national median household income.

By Liam Cosgrove

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