All the liberals and news commentators keep stressing that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. And they bemoan the fact that half or more of the U.S. population doesn't know that. Even Fox News is doing it as it tries to defend Trump's performance.
Anyone who has even the slightest acquaintance with Puerto Rico knows it is a different country. It has its own language, culture, traditions, history and above all, a strong sense of identity that even 120 years of American domination have been unable to erase.
That understanding permeates how Puerto Rico is regarded in U.S. culture. It's not that teachers fail to stress enough in high school that it's "Puerto Rico, USA," for when did anyone have to be told to remember that Wyoming is part of "America?" Or New Jersey? Or even Mississippi (although Phil Ochs made a pretty good case for Mississippi finding itself another country to be part of).
Does this mean that Washington is off the hook for Puerto Rico? No, quite the contrary, the fact that Washington has stripped the people of Puerto Rico of the right to control their own destiny makes it even more responsible. Especially because it has dominated Puerto Rico so that American banks and corporations can loot the place.
In a detailed presentation by New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez on the island's public debt crisis, he points to a very simple and devastatingly revealing number -- the difference between Puerto Rico's Gross Domestic Product and its Gross National Product. GDP is how much wealth the island creates. GNP is an indicator of how much it gets to keep.
A handy chart from the Federal Reserve shows that the GNP/GDP ratio went from almost one to one in 1960 to two to three for the last 20 years, in other words, that the island's economy only keeps two-thirds of the value it produces. That's a loss of more than $30 billion a year.
A different, much more conservative method for calculating how much Puerto Rico is losing, which uses Gross National Income (GNI) instead of GNP, shows the island being ripped off to the tune of nearly $20 billion a year.
So when Trump complains about the island's huge public debt or an infrastructure that already was on the verge of collapse, remember that it was American domination that made it so -- and the rebuilding of Puerto Rico should be paid by Washington, not San Juan.
Not because Puerto Ricans are "American," but because despite it being a different country, the United States has lorded it over them and fleeced them for more that 100 years -- and we owe them.