Whatever the United States government does in the coming months to help Puerto Rico, it is important that policymakers act with a deep sense of urgency about the scale of the problem the island faces. The crisis is far more than a fiscal one. If working-age and young Puerto Ricans continue to leave the island at current rates, soon the island will hit a demographic tipping point where the ratio of retiree to worker will make it nearly impossible to ever restore to a virtuous cycle of economic growth and prosperity. Simply put, we have to get it right this time or the future of Puerto Rico will be very bleak indeed.
Getting it right also means that policymakers in the United States will have to accept two inconvenient truths: The people of Puerto Rico are American citizens and deserve the same kind of attention the people on the mainland would receive, and our Congress has played a significant role in helping push Puerto Rico to the brink. There is little doubt that years of bad governance and fiscal management by both political parties in Puerto Rico are the central cause of today’s crisis. But as Washington readies to act, acknowledging that a series of decisions by the U.S. Congress — including the removal of a job-generating tax break a decade ago and inequitable treatment of Puerto Ricans across many U.S. government programs — have made matters worse. In practical terms, this means that the only way to truly address the crisis will be through deep, sustained coordination among the administration, Congress and political leaders of both parties on the island, as everyone will have to do their part, together. ……..