MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Why the Lights Are Still Off in Puerto Rico

The government set the stage for a post-hurricane catastrophe.

Thursday President Trump awarded himself 10 out of 10 on the federal government's response to post-hurricane Puerto Rico. Perhaps. Regardless of how the president and FEMA have responded, Puerto Rico was set up for disaster well before Hurricane Maria hit. Revoked tax breaks, needlessly expensive imports, and crippling debt allled to a shoddy infrastructure that's still without power on most of the island.

On the latest "Mostly Weekly," Andrew Heaton explores: how did Puerto Rico get screwed over well before the lights went out, and how do we get them back on?

"Mostly Weekly" is hosted by Andrew Heaton with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind.

Script by Sarah Rose Siskind with writing assistance from Andrew Heaton, Justin Monticello, and Brian Sack.

Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

Subscribe at YouTube.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    How dare you politicize the tragedy in Puerto Rico to push your libertarian agenda.

  • jcw||

    Hah, I laughed at this.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Hey! The econazis tried to make political hay with it... till the footage of their Quixotic windmills and flattened solar panels popped up. Now Borinken looks like NYC seen from John Galt's plane! (Or North Korea)

  • H. Farnham||

    "(WE DON'T KNOW COMICS)"

    You don't fool me for a second Heaton... I saw your 'spoooorrts' episode.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    He knows it well enough to know that if he actually chose one of the potential beaus for Batman that he'd be igniting a holy war.

  • H. Farnham||

    /blank stare........

    SPOOOOORRRTS!!!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    He's marrying Catwoman soon. If you think politics is violent, wade into one of those debates.

  • H. Farnham||

    Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman or Halle Barry Catwoman? And is she marrying Beetlejuice, Jerj Kloonez, or the Christian guy?

    Ok, now I see your point... this could get contentious.

  • Tony||

    There was also one of the strongest hurricanes in recorded history that passed over the entire island.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Thank you for that concise recap of recent events.

  • Tony||

    There just seems to be some confusion in these parts about whether natural disasters are actually real things.

  • H. Farnham||

    The sub-title might shed some light on that assertion...

  • ||

    There just seems to be some confusion in these parts about whether natural disasters are actually real things.

    I don't care what anyone says, Irma identified as a Category 5 Cape-Verde Type Tropical Cyclone and anybody who says different is a bigot, brainwashed into accepting absurd social constructs!

  • Hank Phillips||

    Speaking of absurd constructs, tornado shelters (and bomb shelters) are called tormenteras in Puerto Rico. Nowadays a Robert Heinlein style tormentera looks like an admirable piece of real estate. The upside? Toothless wind turbines kill no birds, and the land once occupied by the noble experiment of State Science Institute solar panels is large enough to house a CANDU-type nuclear reactor. That could light up the entire island for a couple of centuries, and giggle at hurricanes (like the South Texas reactors next to Houston)

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Tony, I suppose it's possible that the hurricane was so strong that there is nothing left that could be used to transmit electricity anywhere on the island, even at this point. But Were that so, there wouldn't be any people left. Face it, this is New Orleans all over again, only without any pesky Republican state next door to show the difference.

  • HillTown Trader||

    Texas and Florida's "pull on your boots and get the job done together" attitude is making Puerto Ricans look like fools.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Why the Lights Are Still Off in Puerto Rico
    The government set the stage for a post-hurricane catastrophe.

    No catastrophe would occur in this country, natural or otherwise, if we all just give 95% of our paychecks to Uncle Sam.
    Then we would all be living happily ever after.
    Just ask any proggie.

  • HillTown Trader||

    PR is proggie land.

    80% of residences receive housing subsidy.

    Electricity is subsidized by 50%, with much needed capital for upgrades put into subsidies to buy votes.

    Most of the Island is eligible for food stamps and medicaid, because the cost of living is very low, so everyone falls below the "poverty line."

    Government is bloated, retirement is early and pensions gold plated.

    And its all paid for with debt.

    Socialist, a pure example.

  • Brendan||

    No, no, no.

    I have it on good authority that this is all happening because Trump didn't know that Puerto Ricans were Americans, hates "brown people", and also told FEMA to dial back their response because the Mayor of San Juan was mean to him.

    I know someone might bring up articles about FEMA and other agencies being there before this hurricane because they were already there responding to the prior hurricane. That doesn't count. If another hurricane hits, you have to send another batch of people regardless of whether there is space or a place for them.

    Also, there are people who spent too much time talking about those containers on the docks having nowhere to go because of road damage. Well, the military and logistics experts at MSNBC and fark.com have explained that because we can wage war anywhere in the country, we should be able to deploy Chinooks and air life all the aid we need.

    So, to recap, Trump hates "brown people", doesn't think PR residents are US citizens, and won't help unless they talk nice about him. Nothing else to see here.

  • creech||

    "Yeah, there needs to be 100,000 Chinooks and pilots standing by, loaded with supplies, in case a hurricane strikes anywhere in the U.S. Oh, and cut military spending." Proggie

  • Brendan||

    That, and "FEMA is supposed to be able to handle things like this" while they forget or willfully dismiss the fact that FEMA is in 3 places - US Virgin Islands, Gulf Coast states, and Puerto Rico.

    I guess FEMA is supposed to be able to completely handle 3 disasters at once, which means a huge increase in their budget.

    I'm of the opinion that FEMA/Feds should be completely revamped as a '10 days later' type agency. The first 10 days are the responsibility of the local/state government, FEMA will come in on day 11 after assessing the situation and coordinating with local/state emergency management agencies.

    This idea that the feds have to be there day 1 to take care of everyone just means that we all to cover the full tab for cities/counties/states that assert their "right" to build wherever they want.

    The same libs who portray government at every level as being absolutely necessary and important to continually grow so they can take care of everything seem to enjoy going of out their way to excuse the Puerto Rico government's nearly complete failure to do what governments are supposed to.

    If Alabama's government did what Puerto Rico's did, the left would waste no time in calling them out for shirking their responsibility, being welfare queens, etc.

  • Ron||

    The stupid part of the day one response time is that it physically can not happen especially after a hurricane since even after the hurricane leaves a particular location it is often still going and thus you must keep your responders a safe distance away maybe as far as three days travel or more. unless of course you want to put your responders in unsafe locations were they too will need to be rescued from the same storm.

    I don't think logic is a part of the left here in these cases

  • Paper Wasp||

    I for one find it shocking that an island full of fat, lazy, corrupt welfare leeches hasn't been able to get their own power or water supply restored.

  • Presskh||

    And I also find it shocking that any American would begrudge their tax dollars being used to totally rebuild PR's infrastructure, even though it was third-world class before the storm and Peurto Ricans pay no federal income taxes, while already receiving billions of federal dollars in subsidies.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Comrade deBlasio sent them an extension cord that was too short.

  • lap83||

    I want to be there, in my Puerto Rico
    Ooh, oooh

    Sorry

  • BYODB||

    Oh yeah, and don't forget that they need to pay the American minimum wage even though that's patently absurd for them!

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    And help from out of state must take a three day sexual harassment seminar before they can help. That worked out fine with Katrina.
    Thanks, Anita Hill!

  • DRM||

    Hmm? The lights never went off in Puerto Rico. I mean, $70 billion in debt can buy some really nice infrastructure. Especially when spent by wise mandarins with the interests of the people at heart and the knowledge that Puerto Rico getting hit by a massive hurricane was simply a matter of when.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Don't worry. The next $70 billion will be spent much more wisely.

  • HillTown Trader||

    One might wish.

    But in reality for two years after bankruptcy filings, PR continues to refuse to hand collateral over to bond holders, insisting that PR government be forgiven of ALL debt AND keep owning and managing the businesses, assets and utilities that they made such a mess of in the first place.

    The debt holder are MUCH better qualified to take ownership and fix this all.

  • ||

    Just make PR a state already and be done with it.

    There's nothing more pathetic and sad than an island pretend it's independent only to beg to the Federal government of the United States.

    When I see the PR flag, I see a pretend country.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Kind of like that flag with the Maple Leaf on it?

  • ||

    I'm not familiar with that flag.

    There's a flag with a Maple Leaf on it?

    I know there's a hockey team but a flag?!?!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Nah, he's messing with you. That shit was debunked years ago.

  • XM||

    Why do we need Puerto Rico? Just grant them their independence and kick them off the dollar. Let them vaporize poverty by guaranteeing a basic income of 50 thousand "Puertoriqueno Dolares" to everyone in the island. We'll send them some cash to maintain some military bases.

  • Longtobefree||

    Save the money, stage out of Gitmo. We only had to go into Grenada once.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    US doesn't want to take on their debt or add two senators from them. They in turn seem hesitant to join us.

  • Longtobefree||

    We are doing exactly that. the state is named Florida.

  • HillTown Trader||

    Culturally, linguistically, and economically Puerto Rico is a foreign nation, having little in common with the United States. It has more in common with Venezuela.

  • JeremyR||

    Or more likely, the inhabitants. How much of the Caribbean is well run? Despite being some of the nicest places on Earth?

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Interesting point. Over the centuries, people from various cultures and continents have taken control of various islands, and they all turn into shit heads.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Interesting point. Over the centuries, people from various cultures and continents have taken control of various islands, and they all turn into shit heads.

  • Hank Phillips||

    What a delightful video! So superstitious brainwashing, imported prohibitionism, econazi energy policies and looter politicians taxing us to death finally paid off: Puerto Rico at last is a People's State straight out of Atlas Shrugged! Excuse me... I meant "La rebelión de Atlas," available from Amazon punto com.

  • Ron||

    his comment about the energy production, that others have also stated are ridiculous. lets say if they had replaced all their energy production with solar, guess what it also would have been destroyed by the hurricane and they would still be without lights. do these people believe that solar panels are hurricane proof?

  • GamerFromJump||

    Puerto Rico is a US territory that's run like a Latin American country. That's all you need to explain this.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Can we give it back to Spain?

  • HillTown Trader||

    Wow --- so wrong on so many levels.

    Triple tax exempt debt, special tax breaks were all attempts to help the highly dysfunction Puerto Rico society. The US taxpayer bent over backward to help PR at every turn, and this fools somehow turns it into blame.

    He is correct that port cities and Islands are clobbered by the Union enforced Jones Act.

    In classic socialist fashion, Puerto Rico borrowed huge amounts to pay a bloated government sector and subsidize everything. They did not reinvest in infrastructure or utilities, instead using that capital for gold plated pensions and lower costs to buy votes. And now they have run out of other people's money.

  • Africanis||

    Wow, I saw a lot of shots at Trump and not one about the Puerto Rican Government! Who exactly failed to update their electrical grid and who is it failing to increase their agriculture so they can feed themselves??? Funny eh?

  • Paint Thinner||

    Because the President of Puerto Rico is a fucking moron

  • Fifth_Disciple||

    Is this what passes for reporting now? I tried following many of the links and was lost in a maze that contains much rhetoric and hubris but no hard facts. For example, if the Jones Act is making American imports expensive, how expensive? What percentage does it increase prices by? I suspect not much or the figures would be plastered all over the article.

Click here to follow Reason on Instagram

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online