It's true, Puerto Rico is very nice this time of the year. It is also true is that the small strip of land I call home is sinking under the weight of an overwhelming 73 billion-dollar debt. But, you know, most would consider this a minor 'detail.' The truth of the matter is that the recently popular debt crisis has been a factor for the Puerto Rican people that has been spiraling out of control for years now. By no means are we dealing with a minor detail. But what does this mean for mainland US citizens? Well, quite a lot, to be precise.
For starters, the island is no stranger to mainland US investors and businesses. As the New York Times eloquently noted, "much of Puerto Rico's debt is widely held by individual investors on the United States mainland, in mutual funds or other investment accounts, and they may not be aware of it." So, in other words, "virtually all of that $73 billion is held by the U.S." To fix this we just need our fellow citizens to conscientiously help us through the process of balancing out our checkbook. The first step could be as simple as allowing the island to access Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
The solution to the problem is so simple that even Germany's Minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said that he would gladly settle Puerto Rico's crisis in exchange for the US to take Greece's. Schaeuble, however, noted that Jack Lew, United States Secretary of the Treasury, who had previously referred to the island's bonds as "the junkiest of the junk," thought it was nothing more than a joke. And that is precisely the problem, PR's debt crisis is no joke and has the potential to affect mainlanders as much as islanders.
Still, there is one major aspect, aside from the shared economic weight, that most mainlanders are forgetting to acknowledge: Puerto Rican opinions have the power to shape mainland United States' politics. The Washington Post recently provided a very real approach to Puerto Rican presence in politics. They found that "Puerto Rico has its own voice at nominating conventions, with more delegates at the Democratic National Convention than 21 states. And 1 million Puerto Ricans live in Florida, enough to be the swing vote in one of the nation's most important swing states." Even former White House adviser on Puerto Rico under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, Jeffrey Farrow, acknowledges the political power that Puerto Ricans hold. He even said that "during the last campaign, it was called the swing vote from the swing state." Statistically, Jeffrey Farrow's words have been proven time and time again. For example, a firm that analyzes Latino votes found that "Puerto Rican voters in Florida went 72 percent for Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012." And we all know how that one turned out.
As a result, it doesn't come as a surprise that presidential candidates for these upcoming elections have been very active and outspoken about the situation. Candidates like Jeb Bush, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders have openly discussed their opinions in regards to Puerto Rico's debt crisis. But what is astonishing about their remarks is that they all focus on the same conclusion: "Puerto Rico's debt crisis is not theirs alone."