Thursday, January 16, 2020


While you were paying attention to Sanders/Warren and Lev Parnas, this story appeared:
The Trump administration imposed severe restrictions on Wednesday on billions of dollars in emergency relief to Puerto Rico, including blocking spending on the island’s electrical grid and suspending its $15-an-hour minimum wage for federally funded relief work.

The nearly $16 billion in funding, released while Puerto Ricans still sleep on the streets for fear of aftershocks from last week’s earthquake, is part of $20 billion that Congress allocated for disaster recovery and preparation more than a year ago, in response to the commonwealth being hit by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development had released only $1.5 billion of the congressional relief, citing concerns about political corruption. Of that, only $5 million has been allocated....

Puerto Rico will be barred from paying its $15-an-hour minimum wage to workers on federally funded projects. And none of the funds can be used on the electrical grid, although the Department of Housing and Urban Development has yet to release nearly $2 billion that was allocated for Puerto Rico’s electrical system.

White House officials acknowledged that rolling blackouts continue in Puerto Rico but insisted there was no need for new money.
In a better country, withholding nearly all of these congressionally approved funds for more than a year would be an impeachable offense. At the very least, outrage about Trump's treatment of Puerto Rico would be a prominent part of Democratic presidential candidates' stump speeches and debate talking points. Are the Democrats who don't think white voters can relate to the problems of Puerto Rico the same ones who think we'll be riveted by the problems of Ukraine? Most Americans, at least, can imagine what it's like to cope with natural disasters. It seems to me that the the suffering of Puerto Rico is more likely to inspire empathy than Ukraine's struggles to fend off Russian aggression, which is an experience foreign to most people in America.

I don't know why the president hates Puerto Rico as much as he does. I know that in his youth in the 1960s and 1970s, "Puerto Rican" was East Coast shorthand for all Hispanics. The racist stereotype of Puerto Ricans was that they were congenital criminals, and a large portion of the New York-area white population believed that. Here's a joke Jackie Mason told for years:
“I love the Puerto Rican people. I go to Puerto Rico every year just to visit my hubcaps.”
The joke doesn't appear in the following clip from Mason -- a supporter of Rudy Giuliani in his mayoral runs and later a Trump fan -- but I think it's precisely in sync with Trump's thoughts about Puerto Ricans:

Happy-go-lucky people who commit crimes and have never accomplished anything of value -- yup, that's what Trump thinks Puerto Ricans are like. Remember:
A [1991] book by John O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump’s criticism of a black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” Trump at first denied the remarks, but later said in a 1997 Playboy interview that “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”
Ugly stereotypes of Puerto Ricans complement that nicely.

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