For many of us the benefits and disadvantages of status as a territory versus statehood are vague, virtually meaningless abstract ideas that have nothing to do with our daily lives. They’re things we never even consider unless a particular instance draws it to our attention. This past Sunday, an article on Breitbart.cominvolving Ben Carson’s support for statehood for Puerto Rico, served that purpose. It motivated me to look a little closer and learn a few things about Puerto Rico and its relationship with the United States. It leads one to wonder if an endorsement of statehood is the kind of thing that would enhance a political candidacy or label one as being a threat to the island residents.
While noting that Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have both also expressed similar pro-statehood positions, the article put forward two very enlightening statements. First, “In four nonbinding referendums on the island’s status held over the past half century, the idea of statehood has never won a clear majority from Puerto Rican voters.”
While that might seem surprising initially, with the common perception among Americans being that US statehood is the Crown jewel, the status of preference for any nation or territory, the second part of that paragraph cleared things up considerably. It stated, “Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but those living on the island do not owe federal income taxes, paying only Social Security and Medicare taxes to the federal government.”