More real world evidence that minimum wages harm people – Seattle WA

Those who think higher minimum wages solve problems are mistaken, as it’s contrary to a common sense economic principle.  The higher the price of a good or service, the less affordable it becomes, and thus, the less of it is purchased, whether it be labor or a cup of coffee.  Should the government require all cups of coffee, whether they are now $1 coffee at McDonalds or $5 coffee at Starbucks, to suddenly be priced at a minimum of $15 per cup, obviously far fewer cups of coffee will be sold at $15.  As a result, more people would do without coffee, or make their own at home.  With less coffee being ordered, there would be less need for employees at coffee shops, and the workers’ hours would be reduced as well as many being fired.   If you only have $5 in your pocket, you could previously buy 1 Starbucks coffee at $5, or 5 McDonald’s coffees at $1 each.  Once the price is $15 for a cup of coffee, even though you want coffee, you can no longer afford it.

Report: $15 Minimum Wage in Seattle Killed Jobs

Democrats adopted $15/hr minimum wage in 2016 national platform

BY: Bill McMorris Follow @FBillMcMorris
June 26, 2017 12:40 pm

Seattle’s groundbreaking minimum wage hike hurt the low-income people that it was meant to help, according to a report prepared for the city council.

Seattle became one of the largest cities to embrace the $15 minimum wage—double the federal minimum of $7.25—in 2014, adopting an ordinance that would achieve the hike by 2017 for major employers and 2019 for small businesses. The new base rate pleased labor activists and the politically powerful Service Employees International Union, but it has dealt a blow to the take-home pay of workers even before the hike has been completed.

Researchers from the University of Washington found that low-income workers saw their pay fall drastically when the city moved to the $13 mark in 2015. Companies reduced the number of hours that employees worked to cope with the increased labor costs.

“The lost income associated with the hours reductions exceeds the gain [in hourly rates],” the report says. “The average low-wage employee was paid $1,897 per month. The reduction in hours would cost the average employee $179 per month, while the wage increase would recoup only $54 of this loss, leaving a net loss of $125 per month (6.6%), which is sizable for a low-wage worker.”

The study also found that the baseline wage did not help as many low-wage workers as bill supporters expected it to because “most affected low-wage workers were already earning more than the statutory minimum at baseline.”

The minimum wage hike has been the centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s economic agenda over the last several years.  Democrats put the $15 minimum wage on its 2016 party platform, despite the fact that nominee Hillary Clinton had misgivings about the drastic hike’s effect on hiring; she initially backed a $12 rate during the primary.

“Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty.  We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union,” the platform said.

Labor watchdogs said that the study should serve as a “wake-up” call to those who have led the campaign to drastically overhaul the minimum wage.

“This important study ought to be a big wake-up call that the ‘Fight for $15′ minimum wage effort is actually hurting those they say they want to help—reducing incomes and eliminating economic opportunities for low-income Americans who need them most,” America Rising Squared spokesman Jeremy Adler said in a statement.

Michael Saltsman, research director for the pro-free-market Employment Policies Institute, said that the results of the study were not surprising and fell in line with previous research that has linked drastic minimum wage hikes to jobs and earnings losses. He said that the report shows that the push for the wage hike is “colliding with economic reality” and that policymakers should approach future bills with caution.

“Similar to members of the flat earth society, some true believers in the labor movement may be unmoved by this body of evidence, but sensible policymakers on the left and the right should feel very comfortable opposing $15 knowing that it hurts employees rather than helps them,” Saltsman said.

The $15 hourly range has spread from Seattle to other major metropolitan areas. New York and California, as well has numerous deep blue cities, including Washington, D.C., and Boston, have passed legislation to eventually raise wages to $15 an hour. Not all of those laws are guaranteed to take effect; the California law allows lawmakers to opt out of future hikes if they are found to hinder job creation or hurt the economy.


Settled Science: On Minimum Wage, Basic Economics Again Rudely Intrudes on Liberal Dreams

Guy Benson

Posted: Jun 26, 2017 2:25 PM

Whenever the Left pushes for sharp increases in the minimum wage (which has intrinsic populist appeal and tends to poll well), conservatives argue that such plans would kill jobs, stifle entry-level opportunities, and end up hurting many of the very people it was ostensibly meant to help. Liberals’ rhetoric about the minimum wage does not align with the data, critics contend, citing evidence about the types of workers who actually seek and fill those positions.  Many supporters respond, in turn, with slogans and smears: It’s time to “give America a raise,” to end “starvation wages” and promote “fairness,” they claim, attacking “mean-spirited” and “greedy” opponents for protecting “the rich” at the expense of the poor.  Which brings us to Seattle’s hard-left city counsel — home to such lovely characters as this woman — deciding in 2014 to ignore pleas from the business community and hike the minimum wage within their jurisdiction to $15 per hour.  The Left celebrated, the Right braced for impact.  The new law took effect two years ago, and basic economics has now rendered a verdict:

Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage law has cost the city jobs, according to a study released Monday that contradicted another new study published last week. A University of Washington team studying the law’s effects found that the law has boosted pay in low-wage jobs since it took effect in 2015, but that it also caused a 9 percent reduction in hours worked, The Seattle Times reported. For an average low-wage Seattle worker, that’s a loss of about $125 per month, the study said. “If you’re a low-skilled worker with one of those jobs, $125 a month is a sizable amount of money,” said Mark Long, one of the authors. “It can be the difference between being able to pay your rent and not being able to pay your rent.” There would be about 5,000 more low-wage jobs in the city without the law, the study estimated…in the years covered by the study, 2015 and 2016, the minimum wage was at most $13, depending on business size, worker benefits and tips.

In other words, even before the full $15-per-hour mandate was phased in, thousands of jobs were killed, and  low-wage workers’ hours were significantly reduced — taking money out of their pockets.  Behold, the (ahem) wages of “fairness.”  A rival study conducted by a progressive, pro-union organization was commissioned by the Seattle Mayor’s office (after preliminary data from UW’s respected, nonpartisan team of economists appeared politically unhelpful to the city’s policy), predictably declaring the move a big success.  Unsurprisingly, it is being criticized as bought-and-paid-for propaganda.  Its liberal authors are counter-attacking by alleging that the more credible study by mainstream economists is methodologically flawed, drawing this strong rebuke: “When we perform the exact same analysis as the Berkeley team, we match their results, which is inconsistent with the notion that our methods create bias,” one UW professor noted.  It turns out that when you raise the cost of creating new jobs and sustaining existing ones, fewer jobs are created, and employers find ways to stay in business.  Hardest hit are low-skilled, would-be workers looking to get a foot in the door — as well as low-income workers whose hours were slashed after the government artificially mandated a spike in their hourly pay.  Based on the data, the harm outweighed the benefits:

NBER: $13 minimum wage in Seattle LOWERED average low-wage employee pay 6.6 percent.

— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) June 26, 2017

Seattle’s minimum-wage hike seems to have reduced low-wage workers’ earnings by $1500 a year:

— Annie Lowrey (@AnnieLowrey) June 26, 2017
But hey, at least a bunch of liberal politicians were able to congratulate themselves on being “compassionate.” National Review’s Charles Cooke joked that the study’s conclusions simply indicate that the minimum wage must be goosed even higher:

Better make it $20.

— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) June 26, 2017
Even though he obviously meant this in jest, there are undoubtedly left-wing activists re-writing their talking points demanding precisely this “solution” at this very moment.  Hell, why not make it $150 per hour?  By the way, the Democratic Party enshrined a national $15 minimum wage in its 2016 platform.  To borrow the Left’s lazy, bullying preferred framing on so many policy debates, why do Democrats hate poor people?  Especially those who actually work for their party?  Parting thought: Between California’s dashed single-payer fantasy and Obamacare’s continued implosion, it’s been a rough stretch for liberal policy schemes.  Not that it will deter the true believers for one nanosecond.  Onward, for “fairness!”


Posted in culture and cycle of dependency, minimum wage laws are harmful to society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What happens if Puerto Rico increases the minimum wage? What are the consequences? More poverty, more unemployment

A well-meaning, but misguided reader suggests that minimum wages protect employees and employers.

“The minimum wage was established to protect both the employees and employers from taken advantage of the other. When it is too high cost of living and expenses to a corporation would cause it to close or shrink, not to mention the ripple effect of increase cost that will be past to the consumer. If not in place many corporations will underpay their employees, knowing the people will stay to avoid change, aka fear of loss or laziness.
Laziness is a disease that is affecting your people, this is not a result of them as much as complacency of the welfare state another ploy of the liberal left to control the mass and beating down the human spirit. The welfare state exists only to gain votes and maintain control of the people at wages far less than minimum wage, or a version of hidden slavery.”

Puerto Rico Newcomer responds:

If companies in PR are forced to pay $15 per hour as a minimum wage, for example, this would cause 2 main things to happen. First, employment levels would drop tremendously. The lowest skilled, least valuable, most vulnerable people would be out of a job, replaced by more automation. There would be fewer entry level jobs for the less skilled, for the less educated to gain experience.  You would be harming the most, the very people that most need help.  Why do some interns take jobs for $0 in pay?  They do it to gain useful skills and experience, allowing them to be paid more in the future.  Why do millions of students pay money to gain skills and knowledge?   So they become more valuable and are worth more.

A higher minimum wage would put many more struggling businesses OUT of business. The biggest beneficiaries of a higher minimum wage would be the bigger companies, the big chains that have more resources, that can adapt quicker with more automation and robotics. Most of those bigger companies are from the states, such as Burger King, CVS, McDonalds, Walgreens, Walmart. The companies that would be most harmed with a higher minimum wage are the smaller Puerto Rican companies.

Second, you think all these employers whether they are mega chains like Burger King and Walmart or small mom and pop stores with only a few employees are going to pay $15 per hour without raising their prices? Of course not! Labor cost is a huge component as a business expense. Force businesses to raise minimum wages and you will also force them to raise prices on all the products and services they sell.

So with more people laid off, there are fewer people able to afford increases in prices. Those who still have a job might be earning X percent more in wages, but for all the things they must buy, they must pay X percent more. For example, whether a worker gets $10 or $50 more in wages, for the things they must buy, they have to pay $10 or $50 more for the items that the businesses increased in price, to cover their higher labor costs.  They are in the same position as before, as they earn more but also have to pay out more for what they needs to buy.  However, many other employees were laid off since they were not worth it to the employer at the higher minimum wage. Guess what the minimum wage is for all those who lost their jobs? $0! Many employers will make the rational decision to employ fewer workers, when faced with forced minimum wages.  The least skilled, least efficient, least useful workers who no longer have a job are getting $0 in wages. Thus, the REAL minimum wage is $0.

Another way to think of it is, what if some politician wanted to interfere in the market, forcing a minimum selling price of haircuts for $100 per haircut for men that were previously $10, so that customers could no longer “take advantage” of barbers, hairstylists by paying them only $10? The government thinks it knows best, that the hair care workers deserve a minimum of $100 per haircut. Would men get the same number of haircuts? Not at a barber or beauty salon! You would likely put most barbers and hairdressers out of business. Most men would get their girlfriends, wives, or friends to cut hair for them at home. Others would grow their hair out longer or shave it off themselves. Many would wait until they travel to the states to get a free market $10 haircut. How many people would pay $100 for a minimum price haircut instead of finding alternatives. Only the richest men would be willing to pay $100 for a haircut. The higher the price something is, the less affordable it is, and the less will be sold. The same concept applies to labor. Don’t throw common sense out the window by thinking you can raise the price of labor through an unfair minimum wage, without rational employers looking for alternatives – namely more automation and fewer employees, as well as raising the prices on their goods and services.   Another example was in the summer of 2008 when the price of oil hit almost $150 per barrel.  People made rational decisions to buy more fuel efficient cars, take more public transportation, take bicycles, or walk.  It’s a basic and common sense economic principle that when you raise the price of something that less of it will be consumed, as people seek out alternatives or do without.  Employees receiving a forced higher minimum wage would not be immune to this basic economic concept.

You also said that a minimum wage protects employers. It doesn’t protect employees or employers, since instead it harms both of them. A maximum wage would be harmful too. Following your logic, should we have maximum wage laws to to protect employers from greedy employees wanting too much money? Of course not! A maximum wage would force the most skilled, most qualified employees to leave or work less. Why should someone study hard, work hard to develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities if they are not allowed to earn what the free market says their skills are worth, even more than the maximum wage? If a worker’s skills are worth $100 per hour, but the government passes a $20 per hour maximum wage law, those workers will not bother working as hard. Why should they work hard when they don’t get credit for it?

To put this in a monetary concept, what if a bank had a maximum deposit credit rule of $20 per day, no matter how much money you brought them. No rational person would give the bank more than $20 if they maximum credit to their account would be $20. Would you deposit a $100 bill if they only posted $20 of it to your account, keeping the $80 difference for themselves? Of course not. You would ask them to deposit only $20 of if, giving you $80 back. It would take you 5 days to deposit $20 per day to deposit your full $100. This would create huge inefficiencies both on you and the bank, needlessly wasting your time. Think about the artificial interference a minimum or maximum wage law would create for society.   It would also create more crime, since it would be known that people carry more cash in their wallets, due to the artificial deposit maximum of $20 per day, making people more at risk for being mugged.

Study the real world to see what happens in real life, not what Socialists say to deceive people, to make them feel good without realizing the harmful unintended consequences.

One need not speculate or have a misguided fantasy that an increased minimum wage would help society.  That’s already been tried, the results of which can be read here which is a real life result showing the tremendously harmful effects of minimum wages.  Again, if you care about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, you would be for free markets, for NO minimum wage laws, no government interference in the marketplace.


Posted in minimum wage laws are harmful to society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US to cut water monitoring because of Puerto Rico debt

When you don’t pay your bills, your services get cut off.   Things like this make Puerto Rico more like Venezuela.  Socialism is mistakenly thought of as “great” until the money runs out.  People are short-sighted, voting for politicians who promise the most free stuff, even if the government has to go into debt to pay for it.  For politicians, it’s an easy way to “buy” votes to get elected, since it’s not coming out of their own pockets.  It’s easy to spend money when it’s not your own!  However, it puts the government on a slippery slope of being financially irresponsible, kicking the can down the road until the money runs out, at which time the problem is even more serious.  One solution is to require a balanced budget, so the can is not kicked down the road.

If you are unfamiliar of where Socialism ends in a country, simply examine the living conditions in Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea.  You can also educate yourself here

US to cut water monitoring because of Puerto Rico debt

US to cut water monitoring because of Puerto Rico debt

Jun. 10, 2016

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey said Friday it can no longer monitor water resources in Puerto Rico because the territory’s government owes it $2 million amid a worsening economic crisis.

The agency said it expects to stop operating up to 177 hydrologic stations by July 1. That would affect the ability to issue flood warnings and as well as the monitoring of water quality, aquifer levels and drinking water supplies.

The stations also are used for environmental research and provide data for water use, flood planning and climate change.

“It’s a serious problem,” Rafael Rodriguez, director of the USGS Caribbean-Florida Water Science Center, said in a phone interview. “The water quality network is being eliminated in its entirety.”

Puerto Rico’s Environmental Quality Board and 12 other local agencies are required by law to pay USGS 65 percent of the cost of operating the stations. However, the agencies have accumulated $2 million in debt in the past year, Rodriguez said.

He said the USGS has offered local officials a payment plan and proposals to lower the agencies’ yearly contributions, but officials have not responded. A spokesperson for the Environmental Quality Board could not be immediately reached for comment.

More than 100 other stations would remain operational, but they are limited in scope and used exclusively by Puerto Rico’s power agency and its water and sewer company, Rodriguez said.

It is the second time this week that Puerto Rico’s debt has affected services. On Tuesday, the island’s only active air ambulance company said it had suspended its services over a multimillion-dollar debt.

Puerto Rico has been mired in a decade-long economic slump and facing $70 billion in public debt that it is seeking to restructure.


Danica Coto on Twitter:

Posted in economic crisis, Puerto Rico > Venezuela > Socialism, Puerto Rico economic crisis, Puerto Rico politics and government | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Puerto Rico statehood push faces long odds

Puerto Rico statehood push faces long odds

Puerto Rico statehood push faces long odds
© Getty Images

Puerto Rico’s government made a huge political gamble on mounting a credible campaign for statehood, a proposition that only its most optimistic supporters view as realistic.

Puerto Rican voters overwhelmingly chose statehood in a plebiscite Sunday, but low participation rates and lack of federal support marred its credibility.

Now statehooders are mounting a campaign on the mainland to follow through on Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s (D) core campaign pledge.

So far, that campaign has mostly fallen on deaf ears in Washington.

“Why would Congress respond to the results of a plebiscite that didn’t follow the rules?” said Federico de Jesús, a Democratic political consultant and former deputy director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA).In 2014, Congress passed a law to sanction a plebiscite on Puerto Rico’s status.

Under that law, the federal government would provide $2.5 million for an educational campaign before the election, and the Department of Justice would approve the wording of the ballot.

In April, DOJ returned Rosselló’s first proposed ballot and asked for the current territorial status to be included as an option.

Rosselló followed DOJ’s recommendations and sent in the new ballot for approval, but DOJ requested more time to review the new ballot, asking the governor to postpone the vote.

Rosselló went ahead with the original June 11 date, giving an opening to opposition parties who favor commonwealth status or independence to boycott the plebiscite.

Statehood supporters say DOJ approval was not a necessary condition for the plebiscite’s validity, since territorial status is a process that only involves Congress and the territory in question.

“There are a lot of people who will make creative arguments to ignore an election that just happened,” said Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), who is of Puerto Rican origin and represents one of the country’s largest Puerto Rican populations in central Florida.

According to de Jesús, sticking to June 11 was a calculated political risk for Rosselló.

On July 1, Puerto Rico’s new budget will come into effect. That budget, the first approved by the Fiscal Control Board appointed by Congress to oversee the island’s finances, will enact unpopular austerity measures.

“They didn’t want to mix the voters’ displeasure with the plebiscite,” said de Jesús.

For Rosselló and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R), the island’s most prominent elected officials, statehood is their core issue. They argue that equal voting and citizenship rights for Puerto Ricans are civil rights issues.

With their political futures tied to the plebiscite’s success, they decided not to risk changing the date.

The argument over DOJ certification aside, other issues have hurt the vote’s credibility.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), who heads the subcommittee of jurisdiction on territorial affairs, alluded to the low participation numbers when asked if he felt bound by the plebiscite’s strong pro-statehood results.

In the plebiscite, 97 percent of voters picked statehood, but only 23 percent of voters went to the polls.

“We have elections in this country with varying degrees of turnout. And we don’t look back. We have them, we have a result,” said Soto.

But LaMalfa added that Congress’ immediate priority regarding Puerto Rico is its financial situation, not its political status.

Proponents of statehood argue that a change in status is necessary to correct the structural issues that led to Puerto Rico’s economic crisis.

“Statehood would get directly to the debt issue,” said Soto.

In Washington Thursday, Rosselló asked Congress for “action. Action so we can solve the 500-year-old dilemma of the territory in Puerto Rico.”

And González-Colón vowed to introduce a new statehood bill based on the plebiscite results.

She introduced a bill on statehood in January that failed to get any co-sponsors. Soto said he’s submitted his signature as a co-sponsor either for the new bill or the old one, provided the text recognizes the results of the plebiscite.

González-Colón also said she would lead the charge in involving international institutions like the Organization of American States, as well as in presenting the official results to both chambers of Congress.

She’s likely to take the lead in promoting statehood, as Rosselló becomes tied up in the new budget and any necessary damage control once the austerity measures are put in place.

González-Colón will have help in her duties, as a Puerto Rican law signed by Rosselló shortly before the plebiscite compels him to appoint two senators and five congressmen to demand to be seated in Washington.

That process — known as the Tennessee Plan after the way that state got into the union — likely won’t result in Puerto Rico receiving immediate full representation in Congress, but it will add seven full-time lobbyists to the government’s cause.

Posted in Puerto Rico politics and government | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PDP says NPP wasted millions on plebiscite that NPP knew was not approved

Puerto Rico is struggling, yet millions were wasted on a vote for statehood when the wording on the ballots was not approved.

The opposition denounces silence about the consultation

It was never revealed that a second review of the plebiscite definitions required postponing the event

Saturday, June 10, 2017 – 9:05 AM

By José A. Delgado

The opposition denounces silence about the consultation (horizontal-x3)
According to Martín, the Department of Justice of the United States looked for an excuse to “get out” of the commitment to approve the referendum. (Archivo / EFE)

New York – According to the political opposition, governor Ricardo Rosselló deceived the people by not revealing that since April he knew that the Department of Justice of the United States had ruled out a second revision of the status plebiscite, unless the consultation date, due tomorrow, was postponed.

For weeks, the government of the New Progressive Party (NPP) maintained that the approval of the ballot paper and the plebiscite educational campaign –that would have given them access to a federal allocation of $2.5 million-, was pending, even though they were aware of the requirements imposed by the Secretary of Justice of the United States, Jeff Sessions.

Since –at least- the meeting that Rosselló kept on April 25th with the then interim secretary, Jesse Panuccio, the federal Department of Justice informed him that there wouldn’t be a second review of the status definitions and the State Elections Commission campaign, unless the referendum was postponed, verified yesterday two sources in Washington.

Besides, since April 27th, it was no longer possible to comply with the language imposed by the federal law that was boosted by the then Resident Commissioner in Washington, Pedro Pierluisi, and the democratic congressman José Serrano, because the federal justice needed 45 days to disburse the $2.5 million, after certifying the ballot paper and the plebiscite campaign.

By May 10th, the government chief of staff, William Villafañe, had recognized to El Nuevo Día that they would not wait to know if the status options of the plebiscite amended law complied with the constitutional, legal and public policy rules of the federal government. They never specified that the review depended on the delay of the plebiscite.

They have shamelessly lied to the Commonwealth and its statists troops, to whom they lead to vote under false information and expectations”, said the president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Héctor Ferrer.

Fernando Martín, executive president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, considered it painful that, all things considered, the NPP “fooled itself”.

“Our administration identified that the inner conflicts of the federal Department of Justice may delay the resolution of the Puerto Rican status referendum even more, so the governor decided to maintain the original date of the plebiscite –June 11th- so that the people have the opportunity to decide their future and, in so doing, emerge from the crisis”, claimed yesterday the Public Affairs Secretary of La Fortaleza, Ramón Rosario.

Ferrer, ex-representative and former candidate to Resident commissioner, declared, after holding meetings in Washington, that Rosselló’s denial to seek the federal executive support can be explained by the interest in holding the referendum before the details of the next Puerto Rican budget’s “fiscal measures that sum up to $924 million” are known.

According to Martín, the Department of Justice of the United States looked for an excuse to “get out” of the commitment to approve the referendum. However, he considered that Rosselló and the leadership of the NPP have lost the opportunity to challenge the federal government in their statehood claim. With that in mind, he claimed that the “humiliation” of having to place the current territorial status in the referendum again, after it was rejected in the plebiscite of 2012, “was in exchange for nothing”.

Posted in Puerto Rico politics and government | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside Venezuela: The Socialist Haven on the Brink of Total Collapse

Puerto Rico similarities to Venezuela – The results of Socialism

Inside Venezuela: The Socialist Haven on the Brink of Total Collapse

12 Jun, 2017 13 Jun, 2017

CARACAS, Venezuela – Even at Bogotá airport in Colombia, the closest major capital city to Venezuela, a look of curiosity comes over the faces of staff when you tell them you are heading to Caracas.

Entry visas into Venezuela remain fairly accessible, although journalists are not allowed without a special visa. Although I claimed I was there as a tourist, this seemed far-fetched even to the likely pro-government immigration authorities. “What is the real motive of your visit?” the officer asked me. “Seeing my girlfriend,” I replied.

She smiled. “Welcome to Venezuela.”

As you travel down from Simon Bolívar International Airport into the city center, the difference between Caracas and Bogotá – formerly one of the world’s major drug war battlegrounds – is stark.

Armed police stand on almost every street corner. Every physical space is dedicated to promoting the success of the late Hugo Chávez’s socialist revolution and Nicolás Maduro’s authoritarian regime. The opposition undermines official government propaganda with its own graffiti, effectively accusing the regime of destroying the country with the highest oil reserves in the world.

The rise in anti-government messaging stands out compared to my visit last November. Pro-government propaganda shares the streets with graffiti denouncing the regime on nearly every block.

“This is the new Bolivarian toilet paper” – a reference to Maduro’s proposed changes to the Venezuelan constitution, rejected by the people in a vote last year. Maduro is depicted holding a pocket constitution.

“If hunger kills the people, the people will take out the government.”

A billboard calls for the release of opposition Leopoldo López, who was imprisoned by the regime in 2014 for organizing a peaceful assembly against Maduro.

Nearly every day, anti-government marches take place across Venezuela, nearly all of which attract violence. So far, as many as 84 protesters have been killed since daily protests began in late March, as police use water cannons, rubber bullets, and smoke bombs to control the situation.

Protests have the feel of an out-of-control soccer crowd. There is a feeling of solidarity among people, most of whom are wearing Venezuelan flags. On the side of the street, salesmen sell what can only be described as protest merchandise, including Venezuelan flags, horns, and t-shirts.

Below, the shirts read from left to right: “S.O.S. Venezuela;” “Whosoever Tires Will Lose;” “Resistance: Don’t Surrender!”

Closer to police and military barriers, the protests become more tense, with the menace of violence constantly present. Many of those protesting are boys and young men in their mid-teens.

“This is a fight for our families, for our future,” a group of masked protesters tell me. “We will risk our lives every day for as long as it takes to bring down this dictatorship.”

A group of young protesters pump themselves up as they prepare to face off with police.

On a visit to the Universidad Central de Venezuela, the country’s biggest university, something seemed not quite right. The university itself seems like any other, with department buildings scattered around a campus, as well as grandiose facilities such as sports stadiums and a stunning concert hall.

Yet, despite it being a Wednesday, there are barely any students around. “The situation is too serious right now for students to dedicate sufficient time to studying,” English professor Lilliana Céspedes tells me. “Many prioritize attending anti-government marches or trying to earn money to support their families. During some of my classes, just a handful of students turn up.”

One of the most frustrating things about trying to understand Venezuela is the high level of security at places the regime would like to hide. As I enter a government-run supermarket, security guards check my pockets to see what I am carrying. They find my camera. “No photos here,” they say. A similar routine takes place on the way out.

I also tried my luck at a Venezuelan state hospital, although this time armed guards asked me to put the camera away. Nearly every public place in Caracas is guarded by police keeping a watchful eye over the situation. Most are very meagerly paid, but still officially remain supportive of the government.

Sitting in a hospital waiting room, armed guards soon ask me to put away my camera. Failing to comply would likely mean facing arrest.

Amid the crisis, some Venezuelans have accused others of not doing enough to fight the Maduro regime. “The only way I see out of the current regime is a military coup,” my taxi driver, Nelson Álvarez, tells me. “Some people have accused me of indifference towards the current political situation, but I have a family to look after. No matter how many or how violent the opposition protests, the key to bringing down this government are the military.”

Everything about Venezuela suggests this is a nation on the brink of collapse. Whether it is the ongoing violence, the extreme poverty, or the enormous piles of garbage in the street, nothing is working as it should be. In January, inflation reached over 800 percent, while some analysts predicting it could reach 1500 percent by the end of the year. Even at one of the city’s most exclusive hotels, breakfast offerings remain scarce and electricity and internet connection regularly cut out.

Thousands of notes are now required to buy anything of value. However, the government recently introduced higher denominations.

Many streets are covered in landfill. People can be regularly seen searching through garbage for scraps.

“I’m Hungry”

While some still solely blame the current crisis on the collapse in oil prices in 2012, a vast majority of Venezuelans believe the country needs serious economic reform. After 17 years of hardcore socialism, egged on by left-wing elites around the world, many in leadership appear hesitant to accuse the socialist system itself – and not the people running it – of being the problem.

Many within the opposition’s leadership structure are members of the Socialist International (SI). Popular Will, the party led by Leopoldo López before his arrest, belongs to the SI. López’s colleagues often find it easier to lay the blame at Maduro’s feet and call for elections, rather than demand a free, capitalist society, rebuilt from the ground up.

Yet the students and street protesters, who have put their lives on pause to fight Maduro, seem to understand that the institutional rot goes way beyond Maduro.

As one student put it to me: “Chávez succeeded in creating an equal society by making everyone poor.”

You can follow Ben Kew on Facebook, on Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at


Posted in Puerto Rico > Venezuela > Socialism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Many Puerto Ricans crave statehood — but the timing couldn’t be worse

June 09, 2017 2:09 PM

Many Puerto Ricans crave statehood — but the timing couldn’t be worse

By Jessica Campisi


When Puerto Ricans vote Sunday on the political future for the U.S. territory, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is confident most will choose statehood.

“It’s unfortunate U.S. citizens here don’t have the same power,” he said. “We need to take action.”

But in some ways, the timing couldn’t be worse. With a political divide on the island, a deepening economic crisis and — critically — a lack of congressional support to become the 51st American state, experts say the vote seems unlikely to result in any real change.

“Now is the worst time and the worst manner to deal with the issue,” said Federico de Jesús, a Puerto Rico native and the former deputy director of the Governor of Puerto Rico’s Washington, D.C., office, under former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, a member of the Popular Democratic Party who opposes statehood. “All parties agree that the current system needs to be modified, but this is definitely the wrong course of action.”

This will be the island’s fifth referendum asking Puerto Ricans to choose statehood, independence or keep some version of the current status as a commonwealth. Opposition groups who don’t believe in statehood and felt unrepresented on the ballot — which originally included only statehood and independence/free association — are boycotting the vote, and experts say a statehood verdict doesn’t necessarily represent what the population wants.

Rosselló said a statehood vote would be legitimate, adding that anyone who doesn’t vote in the upcoming plebiscite is “mostly driven by partisan politics.”

“The plebiscite has to be for a future solution to the status issue, which implied that the current status was not a solution,” he said. “This goes to the roots of what it means to be American, what it means to be part of a nation that shares the same democratic values, human rights, freedom … and all of those components are being severely hampered.”

Independence would give Puerto Ricans complete freedom as a nation, and free association would provide the territory with independence while establishing a mutual agreement with the United States that is defined by a compact.

“To expect other than a vote for statehood is unrealistic,” said Edwin Meléndez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at the City University of New York’s Hunter College.

But he warned: “The result is not legitimate (because) you have one faction of the political process.”

And that perception is likely to influence Congress as well, said Anthony Suarez, president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida and whose parents are from Puerto Rico.

For statehood to win approval, the House and Senate must both vote to approve it, and the president must sign off on it. The last states to be added were Hawaii and Alaska in 1959.

With so many voters expected to stay home from the polls, the result won’t “reflect the will of the people,” making Congress unlikely to consider accepting Puerto Rico as a state, Suarez added.

“If they ignore the will of the people, they’re ignoring the will of American citizens, and they’re ignoring a democratic process, which becomes a very problematic assertion,” Rosselló said. “You’re keeping the will of the people of Puerto Rico, who are American citizens, somewhat in the shadows.”

Puerto Ricans themselves haven’t been united on what they want, but without a majority of voters saying yes to statehood, Congress won’t even consider the idea, noted Amilcar Barreto, an associate professor of political science, international affairs and public policy at Northeastern University.

“For the past half-century, preferences for the three status options have essentially been locked,” Barreto said. “The statehood movement is frustrated. … They can’t seem to get that majority because the electorate is divided.”

And there’s a new wrinkle this time around.

If a majority of voters pick the independence/free association option, a second referendum will be held on Oct. 8 that would ask Puerto Ricans to choose between the two, according to the official plebiscite proclamation.

Of Puerto Rico’s three major political parties, members of the statehood-supporting New Progressive Party — including Rosselló — argue statehood would help the territory, which filed for bankruptcy protection in May, escape its ongoing debt crisis and give residents more rights within the U.S. government. Currently, citizens pay federal taxes, the resident commissioner has no vote in Congress and the territory has no electoral votes in presidential elections.

The other two parties support either independence or a version of the current commonwealth status.

“Why would Puerto (Ricans) want to be second-class citizens? Being part of a union where you can’t vote is undemocratic,” Suarez said. “Its current status is unconstitutional. It’s un-American.”

But the lack of a united voice on statehood from Puerto Rico isn’t the only thing keeping Congress from taking action. The territory’s financial status also is big stumbling block, Barreto said.

“It’s a bizarre idea holding a plebiscite on any issue right now, when literally the island itself is in bankruptcy court,” Barreto said. “The government is spending literally millions on this. One could argue the funds could be better used.”

Puerto Rico also faces a “Medicaid cliff,” and without financial support, hundreds of thousands of its residents could lose health care coverage. The cost of keeping the territory away from the cliff’s edge is about $28.2 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The U.S. Justice Department had pledged to provide $2.5 million in funds for the plebiscite. But after a draft of the 2017 ballot was submitted for review, the department sent a letter to Rosselló in April denying the funding and requesting “current territorial status” be added as an option. Rosselló said the referendum would still take place June 11, and the ballot was amended to include this choice.

For some, the vote offers the best financial chance for the island, said Meléndez, who is from Puerto Rico and came to the United States in 1978. Puerto Rico owes at least $123 billion in debt and pension payments combined, and since 2007, it has lost 20 percent of its jobs and 10 percent of its total population.

“The sentiment among a large number of people is that it might not be the best time (for the referendum), but it is the best time, because statehood will help solve many of the challenges that Puerto Rico faces,” Meléndez said. “It doesn’t matter if the other party participates; what matters is that a majority vote for statehood, so in their own minds, they legitimize that option.”

Rosselló said as the most important issue in Puerto Rico, “we won’t rest until the colonial status question is solved.”

“My commitment is that I will make sure they know this is being ignored and they need to take action, and I will use the pulpit to make sure that everybody is aware of what’s going on,” Rosselló said. “I feel confident that statehood will prevail, and then it’s up to the leadership and the people of Puerto Rico to establish conditions so that Congress can act.”

Jessica Campisi: 609-477-0303, @jessiecampisi

Posted in Puerto Ricans and Puerto Rico people | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
%d bloggers like this: