Current Issuesby Representative Sean P. Duffy
Posted on 2015-12-10
DUFFY. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman yielding.
Tonight I rise to talk about our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico.
If you have watched the news recently, you are well aware that there is an economic financial debt crisis taking place right now in Puerto Rico. Our American brothers and sisters are going through an incredibly difficult time.
The island is $73 billion in debt. That is 100 percent of their GDP, which is catastrophically high. This debt has had a huge impact on the livelihoods of those who live on the island.
The unemployment rate is over twice what it is on the mainland. It is at 12.4 percent. Forty-eight percent of Americans on the island are living in poverty. Again, half of the island citizens--Americans--are living in poverty.
Ten percent of the 3.5 million people on the island are leaving and they are coming to the mainland. It is great because they work hard and they have an amazing culture. It is wonderful they are coming. But if you are coming to the mainland, you should be coming because you want to come, not because you don't have economic opportunity in your home. We don't want to force people away from their families and their neighbors and their community because they don't have economic opportunity.
We have to stand together in this House and stand with our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. We can't turn a blind eye. We have to work with them. We have to work for them so we can address this crisis.
Yesterday I introduced a pretty simple and straightforward bill that will help jump-start the Puerto Rican economy, help put people back to work, grow their economy, better paying jobs, and lift people out of poverty. It is very simple. It is called the Puerto Rico Financial Stability and Debt Restructuring Choice Act, and it has two prongs.
Prong number one is we are going to implement a financial stability board that is going to help the island with the management of its budget, its tax collection, and its finances.
Prong number two is Puerto Rico can access a chapter 9 bankruptcy. By the way, every State in America can access chapter 9. It will be the same rights as every State that we will offer Puerto Rico. It is pretty simple and straightforward stuff.
I also think it is important to note that no one wants to have a financial stability board shoved down their throat, and the citizens of Puerto Rico don't want that either. That is why we give them the choice. This doesn't go into effect unless the Puerto Rican legislative assembly approves the financial stability board and the Governor signs it so that they have a say in their future.
If we do this, we will allow Puerto Rico to restructure their debt, to get their finances in order, to grow their economy, and to let people on the island start living the American Dream. If we do nothing, if we turn a blind eye and say that we are not going to offer the same bankruptcy option that every State has, we are turning our backs on our fellow American citizens on the island, and that is not who we are. We should stand together.
Now, there are others who have proposed different solutions for the island, and those solutions involve a bailout without real structural reform. I have got to tell you that, after the 2008 financial crisis, I think Americans have had it up to here with bailouts. We usually go with bankruptcy and financial reform, and that is what my bill does.
I would encourage all of my fellow Americans in this institution, whether you are a conservative or a liberal, you are a Republican or a Democrat, to note that our brothers and sisters, our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico, are going through tough times, and it is our job to stand with them, not turn our backs.
If we can pass this bill, it is going to be a new day on the island, economic prosperity and opportunity. And then people have a choice to say: Do I want to stay on the island, raise my family on the island, or do I want to leave and come to the mainland? The choice is theirs. They won't be forced into that choice just because they don't have opportunity on the island of Puerto Rico.
I encourage all of my colleagues and friends to reach out. Let's be part of the solution.