A bill has been passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress making Juneteenth (June 19th) a national holiday. President Biden then signed it into law in record time, leaving government offices scrambling to shut down on a moment’s notice. (Fortunately, most of them have had practice.)
For those of you who don’t understand the holiday: This date marks the anniversary of the June 19, 1865, announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas. It doesn’t mark the end of lawful slavery in the U.S., mind; that took another year or two. But it was enough to start a regular celebration in Texas — Jubilee Day, first celebrated in 1866 — which gradually spread to other states.
I’ve argued it before, and I’ll argue it again; I’d shout it from the rooftops if I thought it would help: We need to do something about the damned Jones Act before we strangle Puerto Rico’s economy for good.
You may not realize this — a surprising number of Americans don’t — but Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. During the 1898 war with Spain, it was one of several territories conquered in an overt land-grab designed to promote American sea power throughout the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean. It currently has a population of well over 3 million, all American citizens. They have no right to elect the President; they have no representation in Congress.
At present, the territory is experiencing a public debt crisis that is out of control. The opinion of the present territorial administration is that it cannot be solved without the assistance of the central government of the United States. The Senate proposed an economic aid bill with $3 billion in aid; the House version, which has just been approved by committee, has expanded the bureaucracy but removed the aid. (Update: This version is the one that finally passed.)(more…)