20 October 2009

Money & Self-Image: Puerto Rico

"Money and success don't change people; they merely amplify what is already there.”

"(The Brookings Institution) estimated that the value of the possessions in a typical rural house was no more than $75, a monthly credit card payment for many Puerto Ricans of 70 years later."

The first is an insightful Will Smith quote; the second is from an article describing the 1930s in Puerto Rico. They belong together to describe what We see today in My Brethren.

The Puerto Rican reality of My grandparents and parents was not My reality and is certainly not the reality of My son. Back two generations,  jobs were hard to come by, wages were low, food was scarce, the government was a distant phantom and people faced it all with a sense of acceptance.

But beginning in 1947 and mutating in 1968, scarcity gave way to adequateness then even excess, wages rose, food became abundant and the government...well, the government went from phantom to vampire. What had been a government-led economic transformation of the first order between 1947 and 1968--and had shown signs of developing a powerful private sector engine--was derailed by a new government idea for jobs: government-fed. 

Call it the curse of jíbaro statehood, the bankrupt notion that the U.S. of part of A. would accept Puerto Rico as a state and that in doing so, We would become high-living princes in a wonderful kingdom. Then-governor Luis Ferré hawked that concept like a panacea, unaware or uncaring that there was no disease for it to cure...if it ever could cure anything. The only thing jíbaro statehood was Ferré's complete lack of vision, substituting empty rhetoric for substantial insight.

The whole purpose of this blind man's bluster was to somehow reposition the weak statehood party as an option--a political option--to win again, to convert a fluke election result into a viable one. And to that end, lacking a true economic strategy, Ferré proceeded to engage in three distinct activities with horrendous long-term effects on Us all:

1) Handed out government jobs to create electoral goodwill, or in blunter terms, handing out jobs to buy votes. 

2) Allowing greater government official latitude to counteract opposition party control. Like Pandora found out, what you let out to act freely will not be good to you.

3) Tied economic growth to federal government interests to both "pave" the way to statehood and expand local government influence as opposed to courting private sector growth.

As an "economic" solution, handing out government jobs was like slicing chunks of flesh off the goose that lays the golden eggs: it weakens the goose until it dies. Because it was easier than actually thinking and planning, every governor since has used the same witch's brew formula to both counter the other party's idiocy and "prove" economic growth. The expansion and Byzantine confusion they partnered to create led to increased corruption, to the point where even the Feds decided that it was better to cut Us off at the knees--again--than to continue to have Us as a close "partner."

And what do We have 40+ years later? A government supported by the uninformed greed of sycophants and mindless flag-wavers that cannot sustain itself, cannot correct itself, cannot function with itself and now cannot even lie to itself anymore. Thus, government employees fired, more employees who need to be fired, the mutated compact broken, leaving the uninformed flag-wavers whining and the brainpower needed to find solutions long-squandered in utter disuse.

What was deemed "passive acceptance" in the 1930s became"whiny demanding," for what was once "I will accept what you give Me if you choose to" became "I will take what you do give me when you give it to Me." The low self-worth shift from "if" to "when" is the shift from a sigh to a screech, from "someday" to "now" and from "sharing" to "scarfing." We went from barely having enough food to barely having enough to make interest payments. We went from "what I need" to "what I want now" and from "wishes" to erroneously-called "rights." And We did all that by simply having what We were enhanced by more money and by the underhanded conniving of those We supported time and time again.

Now We need to reconsider, to reorient Our vision of what We have to what We truly have and to seriously think about what We really want to have. It's not 1968 all over again, for then  We let one man and his shaky party lead Us astray. It's now 2009 and the job lies in all Our hands, not in that of a muddle-headed (non)governor and the shaky party he doesn't lead.

It's up to Us. Nothing new: it always was.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


Unknown said...

First time here. Very interesting point of view now, it is there something to be done with all the power the current party have on the government?

GCSchmidt said...

Israel, nice to have you drop by. (I've been told to be nicer to My visitors...It doesn't hurt that much...)

If I understand your question, you see a "one party rule" and given that, it should do more. But there are 3 major factors working against that position:

1) There is no one-party rule. True, one party dominates La Fortaleza (okay, occupies), the outhouse We call legislature and most of the City Halls. But the party is divided between a small group of Fortuño supporters--getting smaller every day-and a big herd of "Rossellistas," supporters of Stupid in name, deed and mental acumen.

2) The biggest problems We face require solutions We don't want. Government is too big--way too big--but We don't want to cut jobs. Our economic incentives are ludicrous, but We (the powers benefiting from them) don't want to change them. And Our status is a political joke of the lowest order, but We don't want to change that either.

3) The crisis isn't big enough. Yet. For true change to come, We'll need a major body blow to rally Us or knock Us flat. THEN We'll change, for better or for worse. Unlike some, I don't think the crippling body blow is imminent, but I'm sure it's inevitable.