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Millions of Americans have been living in a recession that needs to end

Written By Dannys Marrero

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Puerto Rico is going through a humanitarian crisis right now, and it unquestionably needs help. But this is nothing new, my family and my people have been needing and asking for help for decades.

Unfortunately, Puerto Rico recently suffered catastrophic damage at the hands of Mother Nature when both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria passed through the most populated parts of the island when they were at their strongest.

These two hurricanes knocked off Puerto Rico’s power grid and now it will be months before most of the island, and the 3.4 million Americans trapped inside, have power again. This is extremely concerning to me as without electricity to pump water into homes, it’s become extremely difficult to find clean water to drink or even to shower in; and due to Puerto Rico’s geographical location, it is unbearably hot and humid for the majority of the year. Without electricity, there’s also no air conditioners or fans, which increase the possibility of things such as heat exhaustion or even worse, heat strokes. Without a doubt, these hurricanes have left Puerto Ricans at an elevated risk of death.

And even with many Puerto Ricans having generators for when there isn’t any electricity, most generators in Puerto Rico are fueled by gasoline. In fact, a majority of Puerto Rico is still powered by fossil fuels. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, two-thirds of the energy used in Puerto Rico is produced by petroleum, which is always imported. So, what will happen when the gas runs out?

Furthermore, it’s not only petroleum that needs to be imported. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Puerto Rico also imports 84 percent of their food, which makes me question, what will happen to my family when the food runs out?

With all this in mind, it also breaks my heart to know that rebuilding the island from the current living conditions one can compare to those in a third world country will be much harder than ever before because we have no money. Puerto Rico and its people are broke.

According to the U.S. census, 43 percent of Puerto Ricans live in poverty.

But of course, everyone already knows that. In fact, that’s all most Americans know about Puerto Rico because according to polls by the New York Times Morning Consult this past year, 46 percent of Americans don’t even know Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Furthermore, in the past few years, the only thing the U.S. mainland has heard and seen of Puerto Rico in the news is how much in debt the island is. It’s true, Puerto Rico is about $70 billion dollars in debt, and that figure isn’t including an additional $50 billion dollars the island owes in pension obligations.

But why is Puerto Rico in so much debt?

Well, for that, we have the U.S. government to blame. After the U.S. acquired Puerto Rico under the terms of the Treaty of Paris following the Spanish-American War in 1898, decades of mismanagement of the island by the U.S. mainland, including the Merchant Marine Act in 1920 and the Section 936 Tax Credit in 1993, have allowed the island to be taken advantage of for about a century with Puerto Ricans suffering the consequences.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, limits the resources Puerto Ricans can receive, and only allows them to obtain what they can with a much higher cost. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, people in Puerto Rico pay double what prices are in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the Section 936 Tax Credit in 1993 gave U.S. companies tax break incentives to set up in Puerto Rico, but with Congress fading out such tax breaks within the last couple of years, these companies have permanently outsourced the thousands of jobs they brought to the island, adding on to the damage of the already existing recession, slowing down economic growth even further.

With no jobs, and unaffordable prices, thousands of Puerto Ricans are also leaving the island. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. mainland has doubled in the last 17 years, now reaching about 89,000.

So, what can the U.S. mainland do to help these American citizens trapped in Puerto Rico?

The Trump Administration actually took the first step in helping the island by waiving the Jones Act, however, the Jones Act shouldn’t just be paused, it should be removed because it’s obviously been hurting Puerto Rico’s economy for about a century now, and if Trump still considers himself a great businessman then he will do what should be done to allow the island’s economy to recover.

We also need to step aside petty politics and aid the island economically, because without any money there is no way anything will get done, and many Puerto Ricans will die. My family may die. I’m not saying hand the island $70 billion dollars, but do increase the money supply.

This government needs to stop taking advantage of my family and my people, and instead should have an overwhelming presence on the island, letting those American citizens know that the U.S. mainland actually cares and is actually going to help.

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