Equal benefits in health and nutrition assistance; deploying all promised reconstruction funding after Hurricanes Irma and María struck the, an audit of Puerto Rico’s debt, and canceling the portion determined to be invalid are some of Joe Biden proposals to attract the Puerto Rican vote.
Twenty days before the general election in which Biden will face current President Donald J. Trump, the former U.S. vice president under Barack Obama administration answered exclusively for El Nuevo Día several questions in writing about Puerto Rico, economic development, access to federal funds, reconstruction, and the amendments he would suggest to PROMESA if he wins the elections.
In his answers, Biden seeks to continue strengthening his presidential flame and seduce the Puerto Rican vote by drawing stark contrasts between him and the current White House tenant. Biden says that if he wins the election, he will seek to end the discrimination that has haunted Puerto Ricans for decades, using as a weapon his belief that Puerto Ricans have the right to receive the same support from the U.S. government as any other citizen of the nation.
“Our president (Donald Trump) should be able to pass a simple test: understand that Puerto Ricans are American citizens and have the right to receive the same support from the government as any other citizen. But our current president fails that test,” Biden says as a preamble when asked about his three main macroeconomic initiatives for Puerto Rico.
“Three years after María, we still have to rebuild the island and we still have to rebuild trust. Puerto Rico deserves much better treatment. First, I will provide equal Medicare and Medicaid benefits, nutrition assistance, Supplemental Security Income, no more partial payments, no more discrimination. Second, I will ensure that Puerto Ricans receive all the recovery funds that were approved years ago, not just a portion six weeks before the election, which is what they received now,” the candidate said.
Three years after María, we still have to rebuild the island and we still have to rebuild trust. Puerto Rico deserves much better treatment”
“Third, I will work with Congress and the island’s representatives to rebuild the investment climate, the power grid, water systems, homes, schools, and hospitals,” Biden adds, before outlining his plan to boost manufacturing.
As an example, Biden says they would use the federal government’s purchasing power to boost demand for U.S. products, including those made in Puerto Rico. Besides, Puerto Rico would be part of his plan to invest $300 billion in research and innovation in 100 U.S. cities, “so that every part of our nation owns part of the future, including Puerto Rico,” he says.
“It’s simple: manufacturing has been one of the main engines of the Puerto Rican economy and should play an important role in its recovery,” notes Biden. Despite the economic depression that has lacerated Puerto Rico since the beginning of this century and the flight of much of the industrial activity, manufacturing still represents over 40 percent of the island’s Gross Domestic Product.
According to Biden, his plan to strengthen manufacturing in Puerto Rico would be key in preventing the flight of talent. “My plan will create thousands of well-paying jobs on the island so that many skilled workers don’t feel they have to leave. You wouldn’t have to leave to achieve the kind of life you want,” he says.
In his plan for Puerto Rico, Biden considers multiple changes to PROMESA Act and the Fiscal Oversight Board. Among these changes, the candidate speaks about reversing austerity policies, ensuring that Puerto Ricans have a voice on the Board, and protecting the low and moderate income people, as well as pensioners.
How are you going to accomplish that? Are you planning to draft a new PROMESA Act? Why didn’t that happen when you were vice president under the Obama administration?
“One that ensures that Puerto Ricans have a voice, that protects their pensions. We need to chart a new path to base decisions to restructure our current needs, not on the failed fiscal austerity policies of the past, but to cancel additional debt through legal means, to identify and immediately cancel all debt that was issued illegally. We have already identified billions. We need an audit to identify the rest. We need to act now”.
Although Biden says he is open to different ideas on this issue, he also stresses he wants to move as quickly as possible. “With the right people in charge, we could act without having to wait for Congress to pass a new law”.
Sympathy for Puerto Ricans
Biden says he remembers with admiration and respect the thousands of Puerto Ricans who live in Delaware, the state where he studied since elementary school. Everything points to the fact that if the presidential candidate manages to capitalize on that “connection” he professes with the Puerto Rican community, it could translate into votes in his favor.
A recent poll by Latino Decisions on 1,000 eligible Puerto Ricans in the U.S. shows that Puerto Rican voters have more confidence in Biden than in Trump.
The poll interviews were conducted primarily in the states of Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Puerto Ricans in Florida and Pennsylvania, two swing states, may be very important in the next elections.
You grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, what is your first memory of the Puerto Rican community there? Who is the Puerto Rican woman or man you most admire?
“I moved from Scranton when I was a kid, I was in third grade, but when I moved to Delaware there were many Puerto Ricans. I admire and respect the 30,000 Puerto Ricans who have greatly contributed to strengthening Delaware, my home state. We are one of the 10 states with the largest Puerto Rican population. I was able to meet so many good people over the years, we spent time together in their businesses, in their homes, at their table, sharing their hopes and dreams, which surely were no different than when I was growing up. I have always admired your community, which has thrived here in Delaware. And our state has thrived. We’ve always known: it’s about adding, not subtracting”.