There’s a Fourth of July celebration that hasn’t happened during my lifetime. In fact, it was 55 years ago the last time it was celebrated — the addition of the 49th and 50th stars to the American flag.
By law, the new flag is designed by executive order, and then first hoisted on the July 4 immediately following the date of statehood.
Puerto Rico statehood has long been a topic of contention. With the new debt crisis they are facing, it’s time to accept a reality: statehood or total independence.
Invaded and captured during the Spanish-American War in 1898 and with U.S. citizenship granted by the Jones Act of 1917, the status of Puerto Rico as a commonwealth under congressional control remains an anomaly of American history.
Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush has taken quite a bit of political heat for openly advocating statehood, but then again, almost 1 million Puerto Ricans live in Florida and make up 28 percent of the Hispanic vote — only a few points shy of the Cuban vote.
But where Puerto Rico has difficulties is that the per capita income would be the lowest in the United States at time of entry, and even with providing an estimated $2-3 billion in federal income taxes, the initial outlay to boost the standards of living would cost the federal government a projected $4-6 billion.
The people of Puerto Rico have spoken: 61% of votes cast were for statehood in the 2012 referendum.
Bills have been introduced into both chambers of Congress, yet little action has advanced them. This is not wholly abnormal — Alaskan statehood took 10 years of congressional wrangling over many of the same issues: too high a percentage of non-English speakers, too small of a tax base, and little prospects for economic growth.
Statehood would close one of the final vestiges of America’s brief experiment with colonialism, and would solidify our presence in the Caribbean. Desperate, cash-strapped governments make desperate political decisions, and the last thing we need is the unstable socialist government of Venezuela stepping in to lend a hand. These are American citizens, and we should lend them every courtesy and benefit under the law that we enjoy within the states.
So next July 4, along with our cookouts, fireworks, and parades, let’s celebrate the true meaning of the Fourth: the creation and continuation of the United States of America by adding the 51st star to the American flag.