Marshall McLuhan said it best in 1967: “The medium is the massage” and it appears that current Republican and pro-statehood Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño and his supporters, who are now new GOP voters from the United States, have become a classic example of what McLuhan predicted so correctly 44 years ago.
Case in point: a syndicated column by Deroy Murdock, which ran in November, 2011. Titled “Puerto Rico shows Washington the way,” Murdock overlooks some major facts about the Fortuño administration to paint a rosy and glowing picture of a Puerto Rican Miracle that is transforming the island. Problem is: Murdock misinforms and misses the point. Now we have written many posts that try to present the full picture of the Fortuño government, and have tried to present our case with actual official facts from the United States government. Maybe Murdock needs to do a little more research and less public relations drivel.
We are not saying that Fortuño’s intent to make government smaller and cut expenses is a bad idea. In fact, it is a very good one, theoretically. The problem is that is not accurate. Right now, Puerto Rico’s public sector is growing again. Even as Fortuño made headlines and caused social havoc on the island for cutting government jobs, the fact remains (and you can check it here) that 25% of the entire workforce in Puerto Rico works for the public sector. In addition, under Fortuño, unemployment right now is at 16.1% (October 2011), and when he entered in office in January 2008, it was at 10.9%. That is what the US Department of Labor has recorded, and one Puerto Rican gubernatorial candidate even claims that unemployment is actually at 37%.
In addition, if you truly begin to look at real statistics from the 2010 US Census for Puerto Rico, it paints a very different picture than the one Fortuño presents to his American conservative visitors. Granted, Fortuño’s free market on steroids policy is one way to attack the problem, and he is just one of the many political leaders on the island who have not solved this growing social and economic crisis, but the fact remains: three years of growing unemployment, a drop in the island’s population, and an increase in poverty and wealth inequality.
And what does Fortuño promise? We will let Murdock tell us:
CVS, Nordstrom’s, Pet Smart, P.F. Chang’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Victoria’s Secret all are opening in Puerto Rico. “They’re coming in brand new, for the first time, ever,” Fortuno says. Honeywell and Merck are expanding manufacturing facilities. Venezuela’s Banesco is the first new bank to open in Puerto Rico in 13 years.
“We are moving in the right direction,” Fortuno smiles. “We are creating jobs in the private sector, not in the public sector, the way we should be. So, we can keep lowering taxes.
Where does Murdock even begin to question Fortuño’s claim, when the US Department of Labor has statistics that totally refute Murdock’s column?
Then there is this from Murdock, which he writes in the beginning:
Fortuno’s reforms, including merging government agencies, led Standard and Poor’s to upgrade Puerto Rico’s credit rating for the first time in 28 years.
Now that information is true. The credit upgrade occurred on March 7, 2011. But Murdock doesn’t even mention that in August of this year, Moody’s downgrade Puerto Rico’s credit rating. Here is what Moody’s said:
“The downgrade to Baa1 and the assignment of a negative outlook reflect the commonwealth’s continued financial deterioration of the severely underfunded retirement systems, continued weak economic trend, and weak finances, with a historical trend of funding budget gaps with borrowing,” Moody’s said. “Needed retirement system reforms, in our view, may exacerbate strains on the commonwealth’s economy and budgetary finances in the coming years.”
In addition, Murdock spends a great deal of time praising the Puerto Rican housing boom. And data does confirm this. But at the same time, Murdock spends no time actually looking at other data that would present a more fuller picture of the island’s situation. Here is what the Census for 2010 says:
- Almost half the population lives below the poverty line: 45 percent of 3.7 million.Less than 40,000 families have incomes more than $ 100 000. 37 percent of the population depends on the federal Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP).
- In the last decade has been over half a million Puerto Ricans have left the island, which results is a fleeing of knowledge from the island
- 40 percent of the population receives 8 percent of the country’s income, while the remaining 92 percent goes into the hands of 60% of the population, which implies an unequal distribution of wealth.
So while Murdock presents some facts about Fortuño’s administration, he doesn’t present all of them. So as a service to Murdock, we posted them.