In the wake of Republican tax bill passage, Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rosselló is vowing to rally Puerto Ricans residing in states across the country, all 5.3 million of them, to vote against Republicans in the midterm elections next year. His plan to mobilize mainland Puerto Ricans to shake up the political landscape is in direct response to the new tax bill, which he believes will cripple the island territory's already ailing economy three months after Hurrican Maria.
“Everybody has seen the damage of the storm and yet policy decisions go in the opposite direction of where they should go,” Rosselló said, via Politico. “We’re not just going to stand by. We are going to take action.”
Rosselló, a Democrat and member of the island's pro-statehood New Progressive Party, is incensed that the Republican tax plan taxes U.S. businesses that operate in Puerto Rico at a higher rate than their counterparts on the mainland. Even as a million Americans on the island remain without power, and 250,000 are without clean water.
With the passage of the new tax plan, which President Donald Trump signed late last week, both House and Senate Republicans voted for a 12.5 percent tax on intellectual property income of U.S. companies on the island and a minimum 10 percent tax on their profits in Puerto Rico.
With a debt soaring past $70 billion, another $40 billion in pension liabilities, a series of bankruptcies (which Trump had a hand in), and a post-hurricane economy that was already devastated by U.S. government machinations long before Maria, the new Republican tax bill could cost Puerto Rico up to 200,000 jobs.
In response to this latest afront by Trump and the Republican-led Congress toward the people of Puerto Rico, Rosselló has a plan of retaliation.
While the 3.4 million Puerto Ricans living on the island territory are also U.S. citizens by birthright, they have no vote nor representation in Congress because the government will not recognize them as a state. But there are 5.3 million fellow Puerto Ricans in the 50 states, who can vote. If Rosselló can unify them, they would be a political force to be reckoned with.
“We are a significant voting bloc in the United States that perhaps hasn’t been organized well in the past,” he said. “The diaspora, the Puerto Rican exodus, has always wanted to help Puerto Rico, it just hasn’t been crystal clear how they can do it. If we can establish that organization we can have plenty of influence.”
By highlighting the island's legal status, thwarted from becoming their own state, Rosselló believes the diaspora of Puerto Ricans can sway congressional district votes in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, and Texas.
The fact that the U.S. government has yet to allow Puerto Rico to become a rightful state is "this big elephant in the room," according to Rosselló.
“What are we going to do with a colonial territory in the 21st century?” Rosselló said. “The United States has unfinished business. It holds the oldest and most populated colonial territory in the world.”
“Having no representation is a clear disadvantage and if you need any more evidence of this just look at the tax reform. Just because we don’t have representation we got railroaded.”