Trump took a break from his racist tirades against professional football players, and has finally gotten around to hurling his white supremacist racism against Puerto Rico. Following the All-American austerity Bible of foisting "personal responsibility," upon the poor for the benefit of the predatory class, the president, in a triple whammy of a Tweet, dutifully blames the American citizens of this island commonwealth for their own plight:
"Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble....As bad as this sounds, it's really nothing worse than how United States leaders have treated Puerto Rico for the past 120 years of its unwanted status as a de facto United States colony plundered by banksters, sugar barons and drug-makers. At least Trump is not ordering the Air National Guard to bomb our fellow American citizens, as Harry Truman did back in 1950, for having the audacity to seek their independence from Uncle Sam.
It's (sic) old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated, with billions of dollars....
owed to Wall Street and the banks, which, sadly must be dealt with. Food, water and medicine are top priorities - and doing well #Fema."
It was not until many decades later that the FBI, under a Freedom of Information Act demand, released files which revealed that about 100,000 Americans residing on that island had been systematically harassed, and often jailed and tortured and experimented on and killed, for participating in the nationalist movement. Naturally, US officials used the same tried and untrue and permanent excuse of "Russian meddling" to justify their own atrocities.
So in the long run, Donald Trump's clumsy bloviating against Puerto Rico might even have the silver lining of causing mainland Americans who hadn't even realized that this island is part of the United States to join forces against him, and to demand an immediate government response to a "natural" humanitarian catastrophe caused, in large part, by man-made climate change.
As the New York Times reports,
A new poll of 2,200 adults by Morning Consult found that only 54 percent of Americans know that people born in Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, are U.S. citizens. (Because Puerto Rico is not a state, they do not vote in presidential elections, but they send one nonvoting representative to Congress.) This finding varied significantly by age and education. Only 37 percent of people ages 18 to 29 know people born in Puerto Rico are citizens, compared with 64 percent of those 65 or older. Similarly, 47 percent of Americans without a college degree know Puerto Ricans are Americans, compared with 72 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree and 66 percent of those with a postgraduate education.
Unlike the presidents before him, Trump is not even remotely trying to cover up the historical, institutional and corporate racism inherent in America's ongoing "War Against All Puerto Ricans."Inaccurate beliefs on this question matter, because Americans often support cuts to foreign aid when asked to evaluate spending priorities. In our poll, support for additional aid was strongly associated with knowledge of the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans. More than 8 in 10 Americans who know Puerto Ricans are citizens support aid, compared with only 4 in 10 of those who do not.
This disdain had heretofore been carefully hidden under the usual benevolent "white man's burden" kinds of platitudes. At least, unlike Teddy Roosevelt, Trump isn't ordering that only English be taught in this Spanish-speaking territory's schools.
Where was all the liberal outrage in 2015/16, when officials from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (unelected American governing bodies) foisted a Greece-like austerity upon Puerto Rico when it defaulted on a $58 million predatory loan repayment? The Obama White House was certainly very quick to nix the kind of bailout it had only recently gifted to the Wall Street banks which had plundered Puerto Rico in the first place.
At the same time that the big banks were underwriting subprime mortgages on the mainland and turning ("securitizing") them into fraudulent toxic financial instruments, they were going on an orgiastic Puerto Rican bond-buying spree, and foisting the paper on colluding hedge funds. When that all went kaput, the neoliberal solution was to reduce the federally mandated minimum wage for select groups of Puerto Rican Americans, to close public schools and fire teachers, to freeze the wages of public employees, to raise college tuition, to reduce Medicaid payments to physicians (causing a mass exodus of doctors from the island to the mainland), and to cut food stamp stipends.
As World Bank economist Anne Krueger wrote at the time, cutting the too-generous-for-Puerto Ricans minimum wage of $7.25 makes perfect sense, "because higher labor costs force Puerto Rican businesses to raise prices, making the island more expensive for tourists than neighboring Caribbean nations."
In other words, the dark-skinned Puerto Ricans should sacrifice and get paid less money to buy their expensive groceries so as to dissuade wealthy, cost-conscious (and white) tourists from vacationing in Jamaica or the Bahamas, where the dark-hued servants earn relative pittances. Moreover, Krueger went on, the $7.25 minimum wage also discourages multinationals from locating their businesses in Puerto Rico. After all, the big pharmaceutical companies have already left in a snit for much friendlier wage-slave countries. This exodus, in turn, had the awful effect of "causing more workers to opt for collecting welfare over working." So let's cut their welfare assistance even more, to get them out of their hammocks of dependency and send them to work at a special introductory rate as low as $4.25 an hour.
Paul Krugman, resident New York Times liberal columnist and self-limited critic of only the GOP side of institutional white supremacy and austerity, dutifully approved:
A recent report commissioned by the commonwealth’s government argues that its economy is hurt by sharing the U.S. minimum wage, which raises costs, and also by federal benefits that encourage adults to drop out of the work force. In principle these complaints could be right. In particular, even economists who support a higher U.S. minimum wage, myself included, generally agree that it could be a problem if set too high relative to productivity — and Puerto Rican productivity is far below mainland levels.Trump, in his own brash and insensitive way, is merely repeating what the poobahs of Neoliberal Thought Collective has been dictating to the world for decades: it's the poor who must bear every burden and who must be blamed when they're not "productive" enough to fix the problems caused by the rich. Trump simply lacks the necessary finesse, the concern-trolling obfuscation, the colorblind beneficence of the modern colonial mindset as displayed by the Kruegers and the Krugmans and the Obamas of the world.
In spite of his own ignorant self, Donald Trump is turning out to be a damned good educator.
Therefore, may his ugly campaign of divide-and-conquer have the unintended consequence of actually uniting more people in both the pursuit of knowledge and in class/race solidarity.
*Update: Responding to criticism, Trump said he'll visit the island next Tuesday, scope it out, and continuously praise the strength and resiliency (neoliberal code for "you're so screwed") of the great Puerto Rican people. "It's very, very tough because it's an island... sitting in the middle of an ocean, and it's a big ocean, a really really big ocean," he insightfully prattled.