Statehood for Puerto Rico?

Are we ready for a 51st state? Where would we put the additional star in the flag?

The House on Thursday approved legislation that could set in motion changes in Puerto Rico’s 112-year relationship with the United States, including a transition to statehood or independence.

The House bill would give the 4 million residents of the island commonwealth a two-step path to expressing how they envision their political future. It passed 223 to 169 and now must be considered by the Senate.

Initially, eligible voters, including those born in Puerto Rico but residing in the United States, would vote on whether they wish to keep their current political status or opt for a different direction.

If a majority are in favor of changing the current situation, the Puerto Rican government would be authorized to conduct a second vote, and people would choose among four options: statehood, independence, the current commonwealth status or sovereignty in association with the United States. Congress would have to vote on whether Puerto Rico becomes a state.

via House approves bill that would let Puerto Ricans vote on relationship with U.S..

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Kirk

    This happens from time to time, doesn’t it? And Puerto Rico consistently votes to maintain its territory status due to some tax benefit, or something.

  • Kirk

    This happens from time to time, doesn’t it? And Puerto Rico consistently votes to maintain its territory status due to some tax benefit, or something.

  • Tom Hering

    “Where would we put the additional star in the flag?”

    We now have five rows of six stars, with four rows of five stars between. But we could return to the “Betsy Ross” layout of stars – a circular layout. One star surrounded by fifty stars arranged in concentric circles (with all fifty-one stars of equal size).

  • Tom Hering

    “Where would we put the additional star in the flag?”

    We now have five rows of six stars, with four rows of five stars between. But we could return to the “Betsy Ross” layout of stars – a circular layout. One star surrounded by fifty stars arranged in concentric circles (with all fifty-one stars of equal size).

  • sg

    It seems it would make Puerto Rico, ironically, even poorer.

    They would have to pay more in taxes, wages, regulatory fees and for what, the privilege of having businesses leave to go to a place with lower operating costs?

    However, they may be gullible enough to fall for it.

  • sg

    It seems it would make Puerto Rico, ironically, even poorer.

    They would have to pay more in taxes, wages, regulatory fees and for what, the privilege of having businesses leave to go to a place with lower operating costs?

    However, they may be gullible enough to fall for it.

  • kerner

    I am still thinking about a serious answer. Until then, consider this:

  • kerner

    I am still thinking about a serious answer. Until then, consider this:

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “Where would we put the additional star in the flag?” Well, 51 is evenly divisible by 3 into 17, which can then be made into alternating rows of 8 and 9, which seems like the design most similar to our current flag. I doubt most people would notice the change honestly (either in the flag or the addition of the new state). You can see an example of this layout at Wikipedia’s article on “51st state“.

    But, perhaps like Kirk (@1), I’m not going to waste any time coming up with even more exciting designs. I just don’t see it happening.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “Where would we put the additional star in the flag?” Well, 51 is evenly divisible by 3 into 17, which can then be made into alternating rows of 8 and 9, which seems like the design most similar to our current flag. I doubt most people would notice the change honestly (either in the flag or the addition of the new state). You can see an example of this layout at Wikipedia’s article on “51st state“.

    But, perhaps like Kirk (@1), I’m not going to waste any time coming up with even more exciting designs. I just don’t see it happening.

  • DonS

    I think this is just another political deal, with no likelihood of it occurring. Puerto Rico has a pretty good deal as a territory, and I don’t see them giving that up. Moreover, I don’t see the Republicans allowing two more likely Democratic senators to the Senate without a counterbalance of two likely Republican senators, as was the case when Hawaii (D) and Alaska (R) were added as a tandem.

  • DonS

    I think this is just another political deal, with no likelihood of it occurring. Puerto Rico has a pretty good deal as a territory, and I don’t see them giving that up. Moreover, I don’t see the Republicans allowing two more likely Democratic senators to the Senate without a counterbalance of two likely Republican senators, as was the case when Hawaii (D) and Alaska (R) were added as a tandem.

  • Joe

    Correction, my brother.
    Alaska was a Democratic state; it was Hawaii that was Republican in the late ’50s.

  • Joe

    Correction, my brother.
    Alaska was a Democratic state; it was Hawaii that was Republican in the late ’50s.

  • DonS

    Joe @ 7: You’re right. I knew that, but carelessly applied the current labels in my post. Your correction caused me to go back and do a little research (well, just Wikipedia):

    “In the late 1950s Civil Rights Bills were being introduced to the Congress. To overcome the Southern Democrats’ suppression of the pro-Republican African-American vote Hawaii’s (Then Republican) prospects at statehood were tied to Alaska’s, which many thought would be more Democratic.[3] Hawaii Statehood was expected to result in the addition of two pro-civil-rights Senators from a state which would be the first to have majority non-white population. This would endanger the Southern minority segregationist Democrat Senate by providing two more Republican votes to invoke “cloture” and halt a Senate filibuster. The Congressional vote totals show a proportionally larger support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act by the Republican Party. The House of Representatives’ vote by party was 136 to 35 (80% support) by Republicans, but only 153 to 91 (63% support) by Democrats.[4]”

    So it was actually, the southern Democrats’ fear that Hawaii would supply two Republican votes for cloture against their filibuster of the Civil Rights Act that caused the linkage of Alaska to Hawaii for statehood. Interesting history for present day Americans to understand, to be sure.

  • DonS

    Joe @ 7: You’re right. I knew that, but carelessly applied the current labels in my post. Your correction caused me to go back and do a little research (well, just Wikipedia):

    “In the late 1950s Civil Rights Bills were being introduced to the Congress. To overcome the Southern Democrats’ suppression of the pro-Republican African-American vote Hawaii’s (Then Republican) prospects at statehood were tied to Alaska’s, which many thought would be more Democratic.[3] Hawaii Statehood was expected to result in the addition of two pro-civil-rights Senators from a state which would be the first to have majority non-white population. This would endanger the Southern minority segregationist Democrat Senate by providing two more Republican votes to invoke “cloture” and halt a Senate filibuster. The Congressional vote totals show a proportionally larger support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act by the Republican Party. The House of Representatives’ vote by party was 136 to 35 (80% support) by Republicans, but only 153 to 91 (63% support) by Democrats.[4]”

    So it was actually, the southern Democrats’ fear that Hawaii would supply two Republican votes for cloture against their filibuster of the Civil Rights Act that caused the linkage of Alaska to Hawaii for statehood. Interesting history for present day Americans to understand, to be sure.

  • http://spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    Perhaps this isn’t kosher but I wonder if my state could get Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth status.

    I’d gladly give up the representatives in Congress and welfare benefits for fewer taxes and more local autonomy.

  • http://spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    Perhaps this isn’t kosher but I wonder if my state could get Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth status.

    I’d gladly give up the representatives in Congress and welfare benefits for fewer taxes and more local autonomy.

  • kerner

    What Puerto Rico would gain from Statehood is representation in Congress and the ability to vote for president. Puerto Rico would be the 27th largest state. The burden Puerto Ricans would assume would be the cost of running a state government. Right now, the federal budget provided the cost of local services (roads, schools, infrastructure, courts, bureaucracy, etc.). Since these are all federal jobs, I think they pay federal wage scale.

    According to wikipedia, most Puerto Ricans don’t earn enough to have to pay federal income tax. They do, however, pay all other federal taxes, such as payroll taxes and excise taxes.

    Puerto Rico may be kind of a backward place, economically. By which I mean, not much of a tradition of entreprenureship, nor much industry. And, this may explain why so few make enough to pay federal income tax. It also explains the concerns of conservatives about Puerto Rico becoming a state; they figure it will put more Democrats in Congress, and the Electoral College.

    As others have noted, Puerto Ricans seem pretty satisfied with the way things are. If a Puerto Rican wants to live in a State, he/she generally just moves to one. I don’t think that the U.S. government would resist Puerto Rico becoming a state, or becoming independent, if there were a strong popular desire to move in either direction. But there doesn’t seem to be one.

  • kerner

    What Puerto Rico would gain from Statehood is representation in Congress and the ability to vote for president. Puerto Rico would be the 27th largest state. The burden Puerto Ricans would assume would be the cost of running a state government. Right now, the federal budget provided the cost of local services (roads, schools, infrastructure, courts, bureaucracy, etc.). Since these are all federal jobs, I think they pay federal wage scale.

    According to wikipedia, most Puerto Ricans don’t earn enough to have to pay federal income tax. They do, however, pay all other federal taxes, such as payroll taxes and excise taxes.

    Puerto Rico may be kind of a backward place, economically. By which I mean, not much of a tradition of entreprenureship, nor much industry. And, this may explain why so few make enough to pay federal income tax. It also explains the concerns of conservatives about Puerto Rico becoming a state; they figure it will put more Democrats in Congress, and the Electoral College.

    As others have noted, Puerto Ricans seem pretty satisfied with the way things are. If a Puerto Rican wants to live in a State, he/she generally just moves to one. I don’t think that the U.S. government would resist Puerto Rico becoming a state, or becoming independent, if there were a strong popular desire to move in either direction. But there doesn’t seem to be one.

  • sg

    “According to wikipedia, most Puerto Ricans don’t earn enough to have to pay federal income tax. They do, however, pay all other federal taxes, such as payroll taxes and excise taxes.”

    The people who don’t earn enough to pay tax will not be the ones paying for advertising promoting a statehood vote. The people who earn enough to pay tax are more likely to vote and vote against raising their own taxes and level of responsibility for themselves. Who in PR is going to want to pay those high premiums for the new health insurance mandate?

  • sg

    “According to wikipedia, most Puerto Ricans don’t earn enough to have to pay federal income tax. They do, however, pay all other federal taxes, such as payroll taxes and excise taxes.”

    The people who don’t earn enough to pay tax will not be the ones paying for advertising promoting a statehood vote. The people who earn enough to pay tax are more likely to vote and vote against raising their own taxes and level of responsibility for themselves. Who in PR is going to want to pay those high premiums for the new health insurance mandate?

  • Joe

    fyi: the Joe @ 7 is not me, the regular lovable commenter. Hey Joe @ 7, I have dibs on our ridiculously non-unique name around this blog.

    Sincerely,
    Joe

  • Joe

    fyi: the Joe @ 7 is not me, the regular lovable commenter. Hey Joe @ 7, I have dibs on our ridiculously non-unique name around this blog.

    Sincerely,
    Joe

  • kerner

    I may be being too idealistic abut this, but doesn’t it make you wonder about people who are satisfied with being in a perpetual condition of helplessness. In the United States, the only way to secure your rights and control your political destiny is to be a citizen of a sovereign state. Without that, you are subject to taxation without representation, and you have no control over who your president is. I know I could not live under those circumstances for very long. Puerto Ricans have been American citizens for 93 years. Are they ever going to assert their rights and accept their responsibilities as Americans?

  • kerner

    I may be being too idealistic abut this, but doesn’t it make you wonder about people who are satisfied with being in a perpetual condition of helplessness. In the United States, the only way to secure your rights and control your political destiny is to be a citizen of a sovereign state. Without that, you are subject to taxation without representation, and you have no control over who your president is. I know I could not live under those circumstances for very long. Puerto Ricans have been American citizens for 93 years. Are they ever going to assert their rights and accept their responsibilities as Americans?

  • fws

    i have long thought that we should offer puerto rico two choices: complete independence without subsidies or statehood. one or the other.

    they are what now? colony? “commonwealth”?

  • fws

    i have long thought that we should offer puerto rico two choices: complete independence without subsidies or statehood. one or the other.

    they are what now? colony? “commonwealth”?

  • kerner

    fws @14:

    Here here. Right now, Puerto Rico is a “commonwealth”, which is not a term used in the Constitution as far as I know. Like you, I am having difficulty coming up with a rationale for continuing to subsidise this place if it is not trasitioning to statehood.

  • kerner

    fws @14:

    Here here. Right now, Puerto Rico is a “commonwealth”, which is not a term used in the Constitution as far as I know. Like you, I am having difficulty coming up with a rationale for continuing to subsidise this place if it is not trasitioning to statehood.

  • sg

    Massachusetts and Virginia are both commonwealth states.

  • sg

    Massachusetts and Virginia are both commonwealth states.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@16), are you being humorous? The designation in states is meaningless as to their governance or status in the United States (Pennsylvania and Kentucky are also “commonwealth” states, for what it’s worth). The term means something else entirely when it comes to Puerto Rico.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@16), are you being humorous? The designation in states is meaningless as to their governance or status in the United States (Pennsylvania and Kentucky are also “commonwealth” states, for what it’s worth). The term means something else entirely when it comes to Puerto Rico.

  • sg

    todd,

    Could you explain that?

  • sg

    todd,

    Could you explain that?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@18), you don’t appear to be putting much effort into learning about this on your own — it’s not exactly difficult knowledge to track down. I’ll start you down your journey of knowledge with a link to the Wikipedia article on “Commonwealth (U.S. state)”. You can follow other links there to learn more.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@18), you don’t appear to be putting much effort into learning about this on your own — it’s not exactly difficult knowledge to track down. I’ll start you down your journey of knowledge with a link to the Wikipedia article on “Commonwealth (U.S. state)”. You can follow other links there to learn more.


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