“Help Puerto Rico, it’s just 100 miles across!”
On Sunday, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver enlisted the help of “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda to not only explain just how much of a clusterf*ck Puerto Rico’s current economic crisis truly is, but to also beg Congress to do something about it.
Things are bad for Puerto Rico. It has a $72 billion debt that it can’t pay. And the U.S. Commonwealth can’t declare bankruptcy — like Detroit did — because of an inexplicable amendment introduced into a 1984 bill by former U.S. Senator and noted dead racist Strom Thurmond.
Puerto Rico’s inability to pay its debt is having real consequences.
Nearly half of the population lives below the federal poverty line, and unemployment is so high that many Puerto Ricans are using their U.S. citizenship to move to the mainland to look for work. As if that weren’t bad enough, the financial crisis has forced doctors to leave and hospitals to shut down right as the island is going through the zika virus epidemic. Things are so bad in Puerto Rico that, as Oliver put it, “It’s like the island is being hit with all the plagues that God felt were ‘too thinky’ for the bible.”
Puerto Rico’s current situation is personal for Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose parents are originally from the island. The certified genius is using the popularity of his play to get more people to care about the crisis. He’s spoken directly to Congress, and he even promised to give U.S. House Majority Leader Paul Ryan a private performance of “Hamilton” just so he and his colleagues could do something. On Sunday’s episode, Miranda once again made a plea, this time by dropping some powerful verses.
“This is an island, 100 miles across. A hurricane is coming and we’re running up a loss,” Miranda lamented.
Congress is currently working on a solution for what to do with Puerto Rico’s debt, but it might not happen before May 1, when Puerto Rico says it will default on more than $500 million in debt payments.
Good on Oliver and Miranda for leveraging their name recognition for a greater cause. On a side note, we’d like to propose that we vote on making John Oliver an honorary Latino at the next meeting. Just think about it: He’s an immigrant that’s making America great, he talks about tragic things with a f*cked up sense of humor, and he also hates pretty hard on Donald Trump.
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