Last Tuesday, after ten days of experiencing earth tremors, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was hit with an earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale. Yesterday morning, after days of aftershocks, the island was once again hit with a 5.9-magnitude quake, and today they are experiencing more aftershocks.
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States; its 3.4 million residents are citizens of the United States who pay federal taxes and pay into Social Security and Medicare just as any other U.S. citizen.
If almost any city in the continental U.S. had been hit with two earthquakes of this magnitude in under a week, it would be headline news every day, and the federal government would be sending troops to help residents, keep the streets safe, prevent looting, and assist in cleanup operations. For Puerto Rico? The government is doing nothing as far as I can tell.
You may remember that in 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, with nearly 3,000 human lives lost as a result of the Category 4 storm. The island still has not fully recovered and they are still waiting for some $18 billion in federal funding that was designated by Congress after Maria. The holdup has continued past a congressionally mandated deadline last fall for more than $8 billion of the aid to be officially announced, and on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the Trump administration of acting unlawfully in withholding the money. (Perhaps he is waiting for them to dig up dirt on Joe Biden?)
You may also recall that after Hurricane Maria, Donald Trump briefly visited the island and … threw rolls of paper towels into the crowd of people who had come to hear him speak, hoping for promise of some real help. Trump has repeatedly claimed that he has done more for Puerto Rico than any other U.S. president, but I think if you ask the citizens of Puerto Rico, they’ll tell you that is naught but another of his lies. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake, not a word has been heard from Trump, though he did sign a disaster relief bill authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist. If it had happened in San Francisco or Miami, he would have at least been tweeting “thoughts and prayers”. But for Puerto Rico, nothing.
But, the federal government is not the only one who is kicking the Puerto Ricans while they are down! Given that the aftershocks have not ceased since the initial quake, it is understandable that many residents are trying to leave the island. Now, on an average day, a ticket from Puerto Rico to Florida would run between $85 – $120. Today, both United and Delta Airlines are charging between $249 – $349 – a nearly 200% increase! This, my friends, is how capitalism works. They call it the law of supply and demand, but I call it unconscionable opportunism. This is taking advantage of people who are desperate. This makes me sick.
The Florida Attorney General’s office says that airlines prices do not fall under the state’s price gouging statute, and even then, the statute only applies when Florida is under a state of emergency. The Better Business Bureau said there is no regulation in place for prices of airline tickets during natural disasters.
All in all, Puerto Ricans have gotten a raw deal from the U.S. and the president of the country is too busy assassinating foreign leaders, lying about the reasons for doing so, tweeting criticisms of anybody & everybody, falsely bragging about being the greatest president ever, and ranting about having been impeached, to do his job, to help suffering people. Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are without power, many are sleeping outside for fear of the next quake, and most cannot afford to leave and have nowhere else to go. Once again, I am deeply ashamed of this nation … we have sunk to a new low.