The American island territory of Puerto Rico has had a rough stretch the past five years. Thanks to a corrupt, incompetent, liberal government, the territory never recovered from the Great Recession of 2008.
Then the population faced an outbreak of Zika Virus, followed by bankruptcy, then a direct hit from the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the island, a spike in crime, a mass exodus to the U.S. mainland, a political coup, and then — to cap it all off — most recently, a swarm of earthquakes.
So the natural question for a travel writer would be, “Is now really a good time to visit Puerto Rico?”
I am happy to report, the answer is yes.
Better Than Ever
Most of the resorts and tourist infrastructure has returned to normal and in some cases — such as the Caribe Hilton in San Juan – are even better than they were before.
Despite reports that some rural Puerto Ricans went without power for up to two years, life is mostly back to normal, especially the parts of the island frequented by tourists.
But it hasn’t been a smooth road to recovery.
Despite the series of unfortunate natural disasters to hit the island, it’s the manmade disasters that have had the most lasting impact — a slow-building economic catastrophe created by corrupt liberal politicians.
Yo, Bernie Bros, This Is What Socialism Looks Like
Puerto Rico is an American petri dish for Socialism.
For decades, the territory has been governed by crushing regulations on workers and business owners, suffocating taxes on the few people with jobs, and an iron-fisted union power that would make even Bernie Sanders blush.
No sane entrepreneur would set up shop in Puerto Rico unless he had to be there to cater to the tourists, the island’s number one industry.
I was amused, but not surprised, when I noticed that the island’s best brewery, Boquerón Brewing, actually brews its beer under contract in Wisconsin, according to the small print on its cans.
As a result of this Socialist war on job creators, Puerto Rico has a shockingly low 40% labor participation rate. That means six out of ten able bodied adults don’t work for a living.
Well over half the population depends upon federal U.S. taxpayer welfare such as Medicaid and food stamps.
And why not?
We Will Pay You NOT to Work
A Puerto Rican family on welfare can make twice as much money than one with a manual labor job. It is simply not a rational decision to work a hard job for half the wage of NOT working.
That’s not the fault of Puerto Ricans. That’s the fault of Socialist politicians who think that any private-sector, free enterprise should only serve as the government’s piggy bank.
Corrupt government regulations such as the Jones Act – which serve only to protect powerful corporate shipping companies – stifles competition, therefore driving up the cost of every scrap of food, medicine and product shipped to the island.
Meanwhile, all-powerful union bosses handcuff virtually every business, local government, and school district in Puerto Rico.
For example, Puerto Rican schools have 10% more teachers today than they did a decade ago, thanks to teachers’ union work rules — despite the fact that the territory has 40% fewer students!
Quadruple Down on What Is Not Working
To pay for all this bloated Socialist government, Puerto Ricans pay 11.5% sales tax on literally everything, including necessities like already overpriced food and medicine.
In a desperate lunge for even more money, the politicians recently QUADRUPLED the gas tax.
But, as Margaret Thathcher once said, “The problem with Socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
No surprise, the money ran out five years ago.
After killing off any and all free enterprise on the island, tax revenue disappeared while debt exploded. Eventually the government could no longer even make its debt payments.
Have We Got a Deal For You!
You might wonder, what sane investor would lend to Puerto Rico anyway?
Well, Puerto Rican bonds paid high interest that was exempt from all local, state and federal taxes. But most importantly, Puerto Rico’s Constitution specifically protected bondholders, giving them top priority over all other obligations.
So on paper, Puerto Rican debt may have seemed like a somewhat safe bet. But when was the last time corrupt politicians paid attention to the Constitution?
In 2016, a bipartisan deal between President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan was struck handing Puerto Rico a U.S. taxpayer bailout that screwed the bondholders who had lent the island so much money, overriding the territory’s Constitution.
Puerto Rico became the first sovereign territory in American history to declare bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, punishing good behavior and rewarding bad behavior never ends well in the long run.
Brother, Can You Lend Me a Dime?
Now — NO ONE — other than you and me as captive U.S. taxpayers will lend Puerto Rico a dime.
So Puerto Rico doesn’t have to pay its debts, as guaranteed by its own Constitution.
And what do you think Puerto Rico’s corrupt politicians did with the extra cash?
Well, they stole millions of it for their own personal use, of course.
Money for Nothing
And why not when you can, as that great poet Mark Knopfler once said, “Get your money for nothing and your chicks for free”?
But then in 2017, adding insult to injury, Hurricane Maria made a direct hit on the island as a Category 5 storm, packing winds at over 175 miles per hour and destroying the island’s entire electrical grid.
The bankrupt government of course had no resources to rebuild until President Trump stepped in and sent them billions more in U.S. tax money which, through both incompetency and corruption, the Puerto Rican politicians also squandered while thousands of residents suffered without food, water, shelter or electricity.
And as you might imagine, the citizens of Puerto Rico weren’t happy about any of this and it led to a bloodless coup of their Governor last summer.
Exodus, Movement of Da People…
Perhaps the most lasting effect of these series of natural and manmade disasters is the brain drain that’s sent competent, ambitious Puerto Ricans to Florida and other parts of the United States in search of opportunities they could not find at home.
As American citizens, Puerto Ricans are free to move anywhere they want in the United States.
If the Socialist tax-and-spend policies of the territory government are killing economic opportunity on the island, residents can “vote with their feet” by packing up and moving to a state that rewards hard work and entrepreneurship.
This is why visitors of Puerto Rico may notice a lack of quality help at some of their favorite restaurants and tourist hotspots.
Your favorite waiter or bartender may be slinging drinks in Orlando now.
No Passport Required
Now, my wife and I have made six trips to Puerto Rico. With plentiful cheap flights from the U.S. mainland and no passports or customs delays required, a vacation to Puerto Rico is an easy, brainless excursion to the Caribbean sun for any Proud American Traveler.
But our most recent vacation last month was our first visit to the island since 2015.
As I previously reviewed, our favorite resort, the venerable Caribe Hilton, is better than ever with top-notch professional staff.
The same can be said for San Juan’s top dining destinations, including Marmalade, perhaps the best restaurant in the entire Caribbean.
But other places we looked forward to frequenting on past trips were either out of business or seemed to be suffering from a lack of competent help – if they survived the series of calamities at all.
Old San Juan Has Survived Worse than This
But the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan have survived five centuries of colonial rule and are no worse for the wear despite the recent troubles.
Venerable old forts with their iconic Spanish sentry boxes such as El Morro and San Cristóbal, having survived 500 years of attack from the French, the Dutch, the English – and swashbuckling pirates such as Roberto Cofresí – are still open for tourist exploration.
The 40 foot thick Spanish walls around the second oldest city in the Western Hemisphere still serves as a breathtaking vantage point to spot enemy ships on the horizon or watch the sun set into the Caribbean Sea.
Best of all, the sun still shines warmly on golden sand year-round in this American tropical paradise.
So, by all means, come back to Puerto Rico — or come visit for the first time.
Considering all that the Puerto Rican people have suffered through, you and your tourist dollars will be warmly welcomed here.