Posted by: PRSSA | April 2, 2009

Starve the Beast: The Most Painful $5 Billion Stimulus a Prospective State Could Ask For

“Peace and commerce with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”
-Thomas Jefferson

This quote, although maybe inapplicable to the shaping of current U.S. foreign policy, is what I think of when I dream of a relationship between Puerto Rico and the federal government in which none of the parties has to compromise unwillingly.

Recently on Fox Business, governor Luis Fortuño (R – PR), was questioned in a way most “estadolibristas” (those who favor the status quo in Puerto Rico’s federal affairs) enjoy watching a pro-statehood official be questioned.  The issue is that the provocation did not produce the heated response we who oppose said status quo in relations would have liked to see. “You’re gonna be taking in a lot of money, ranking you twelth among all states and you’re a commonwealth”-remarked Neil Cavuto from Fox Business- “what gives?”

Governor Fortuño calmy answered: “Well, I wish we were a state.” And, just like that, he tickled all those who believe the current “commonwealth” status can be improved without statehood. In his defense, however, I must add he refuted Cavuto splendidly when he replied to his skepticism about Puerto Rico’s contributions to the U.S. “Well you should have told that to the 560 national guardsmen that I sent off on Saturday to fight the global war on terror.”

During the 80’s recession, Reagan’s OMB chief explained a theory known as “starving the beast”. Back then, it meant cutting back on federal spending to avoid raising taxes. The phrase remains a dogma for conservatives and advocates of small-government. After several years, these policies generated wealth at unprecedented levels.

Changing its proper context, I invoke this theory along with Jefferson’s warning against “entangling alliances”. Puerto Rico’s admission as a state must be based by tolerance and diversity, same way it has been with every other state. To this day, I do not expect anything less.

Therefore, I propose we “starve” what has become our current “commonwealth” status, and strip the beast of its will. Let us stop the corruption and confusion that ill-boding inaction has caused the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico. Any effort to achieve equality in funding be it healthcare or education is worthless and demeaning if all it does is throw money at the intolerable second-class citizenship to which Puerto Ricans are submitted. Recently, Pedro Pierluisi, our only representative in Congress, refused to include Puerto Rico within the proposal to gain voting rights for the District of Columbia’s representative. He declared that, regarding voting rights, he would only accept the five congressmen and the two senators we would be entitled to as a State; no less than this. Any pro-“commonwealth” representative would have done the exact opposite. They are the only ones willing to commit to the most unjust terms in our relationship with the federal government, just so they can keep insulting our citizenship by preserving the lie that is our current Constitution.

Haven’t we realized that any improvement of the “commonwealth” is degrading to the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico? We want peace, tolerance, equality, and closer relations to all other States. Let us declare that we will not tolerate hypocritical compromises anymore.

The author, Eduardo J. Soto, is the Communications Director of the Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association, Inc. (PRSSA).  For feedback on this piece, please contact Mr. Soto at


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