When word drifted north that Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure was essentially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, most reasonable people expected that it would take weeks to months to get the island up and running again. Little did anyone know that the storms really just would exacerbate an existing problem. It seems that the island of Puerto Rico has been borrowing good money after bad to essentially keep their people on medicare and medicaid rather than actually participating in the old-fashioned, capitalistic American health care system. From The Guardian:
The territory went from having a public, regionalized health system in the 1960s to a privatized, for-profit one similar to the mainland US. A key difference between the two systems is that commercial healthcare is much less popular and consumers largely use Medicaid and Medicare – government insurance programs that help cover low-income and older Americans.
To pay for these services, the territory routinely borrowed money by issuing municipal bonds – as it did in other branches of government. As the island’s debt ballooned, the government kept issuing bonds.
Now, the island faces a $73bn debt and a humanitarian crisis.
And now Puerto Rico has no power. (They also had no functioning ports in the immediate aftermath of the storm, let alone a stash of supplies to get them through any sort of recovery.)
As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is technically our responsibility. Hence, the relief efforts underway by the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Navy using cutters and amphibious ships prior to debris being cleared from the ports themselves. The electrical infrastructure will eventually be rebuilt and the roads cleared, but the “humanitarian crisis” is one of the people of Puerto RIco’s own making.
Maria didn’t do it to them. They did it to themselves in yet another example of something for nothing just ain’t free.