Latest Food Stamps Story About Puerto Rico Riddled with Ignorance and Racism

I knew almost immediately that when a story from offthegridnews.com began with this headline, “U.S. Food Stamps In Puerto Rico Costing You 2 Billion Dollars,” readers weren’t going to get much actual real information about Puerto Rico and its relationship with the United States.

That was pretty much confirmed when the piece’s author, Tara Dodrill, last night included the following photo of “Puerto Rico” (FYI, that’s the Philippines and there is a rail in the street, which doesn’t exist at all in Puerto Rico) as the featured image of the story:

offthegridnews

That photo of “Not Puerto Rico” was replaced later with this photo, one that is widely used:

USFoodStamps

So now we know the initial intentions of the piece, which confirms that Dodrill was just going to write drivel about Puerto Rico and create the myth that Puerto Ricans are a bunch of foreign Third World moochers. Yet in the interest of taking a moment to respond to yet another example of how some Americans have no idea about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, I will share a few more thoughts about Dodrill’s sham of an article.

Let’s start:

Do Puerto Ricans living on the island get $2 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) money from the federal government? Yes. But did you know the federal government spent $80 billion on SNAP last year? Dodrill only gives you one tree instead of the forest to prove her point that Puerto Ricans are taking away “American money.” So Puerto Ricans living on the island, who by the way ARE American citizens (something Dodrill’s story tends to brush aside until the very end), account for 2.5% of the entire 2012 SNAP budget. 2.5%. And those American citizens living on the island can’t even vote for President or have representation in Congress. Dodrill’s story could have easily have read, “U.S. Food Stamps in California Are Costing You 5.6 Billion Dollars,” or ”U.S. Food Stamps in Texas Are Costing You 5.5 Billion Dollars,” or ”U.S. Food Stamps in New York Are Costing You 4.9 Billion Dollars.” Instead Dodrill makes this illogical assumption that Puerto Ricans are not “American” and have no right to the same programs that are offered other U.S. citizens.

Do Puerto Ricans living on the island pay federal taxes? Yes. Let’s stop that myth right now. It’s just not true. Here is what the IRS has to say:

In general, United States citizens and resident aliens who are bona fide residents of Puerto Rico during the entire tax year, which for most individuals is January 1 to December 31, are only required to file a U.S. federal income tax return if they have income from sources outside of Puerto Rico or if they are employees of the U.S. government. Bona fide residents of Puerto Rico generally do not report income received from sources within Puerto Rico on their U.S. income tax return. However, they should report all income received from sources outside Puerto Rico on their U.S. income tax return. Residents of Puerto Rico who are employed by the government of the United States or who are members of the armed forces of the United States also should report all income received for their services to the government of the United States on their U.S. income tax return.

Special rules apply to civilian spouses of active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces who work in Puerto Rico but retain their tax residency status in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia under the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. If these spouses’ Puerto Rican income is only from wages, salaries, tips, or self-employment, they will only file a U.S. income tax return. For more information on how MSRRA applies to civilian spouses, refer to Publication 570 and Notice 2012-41.

United States citizens or resident aliens who are not bona fide residents of Puerto Rico during the entire tax year are required to report all income from whatever source derived on their U.S. income tax return. However, a U.S. citizen who changes residence from Puerto Rico to the United States and who was a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico at least two years before changing residence can exclude from U.S. taxable income the Puerto Rican source income received while residing in Puerto Rico during the taxable year of such change of residence.

If you are a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico and qualify to exclude your Puerto Rican source income on your U.S. tax return, you must determine your adjusted filing requirement based on the filing thresholds shown in the tax return instructions. For more information about how to determine the amount of income that requires filing a U.S. income tax return, refer to Publication 570 and Publication 1321 (PDF).

If you have no U.S. filing requirement but have income that is effectively connected with a trade or business in Puerto Rico, you must fileForm 1040-SS (PDF) or Form 1040-PR (PDF) with the United States to report your self-employment income and, if necessary, pay self-employment tax. For more information on self-employment reporting requirements, see the Form 1040-SS Instructions and Form 1040-PR Instructions.

Also, since we are still talking about federal taxes, the IRS also says this: “Employers in Puerto Rico are subject to the taxes imposed by the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) (Social Security and Medicare taxes) and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA). An employer is a person or organization for whom a worker performs services as an employee. As an employer you are required to withhold, report, and pay employment taxes on wages paid.”

Wait a minute, Puerto Ricans serve in the U.S. military? They’re not foreigners? Yes. In fact, Dodrill should be praising those who do serve and protect her right to write ignorant articles that suggest that Puerto Ricans are just a bunch of foreign Spanish-speaking poor people who live on the other side of the tracks and are just taking advantage of the system. Maybe Dodrill should read this piece from 2004: “Soldiers Can Die But Can’t Vote; Puerto Ricans Serve Without Representation,” which pretty much sums it up perfectly.

Is Puerto Rico a welfare state dump? Seriously? I have to address this one? Ok, I will. Yes, the island has problems, both in crime and unemployment, but I believe that this has to do more with the political status issue that has dragged on for decades and the island’s mediocre politicians who have placed status over the real issues surrounding Puerto Rico. I do agree with what Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi told the United Nations this week that the island’s current territorial (yes, colonial) status is the “root cause” of its problems, but I am equally disappointed that Puerto Rico’s current and past leaders aren’t working together to solve the status issue. Instead, they just keep bickering and blaming each other. It also does not help when the island’s own governor Alejandro García Padilla claims that if Puerto Rico were to become a state of the Union, it would turn into a “Latin American ghetto.” Comments like that play right into Dodrill’s thesis, which is also implied in posts by the likes of Alex Jones’ InfoWars. So García Padilla just gave Alex Jones even more fodder to justify InfoWars’ views on Puerto Rico as being a backward welfare state instead of promoting what is good about the island and what Puerto Rico offers. Thanks a lot, governor.

Puerto-rico-culture

Let’s be real for a minute: the current political system in Puerto Rico is broken. The status quo no longer works. Right now, those who believe in Puerto Rico’s future and potential must be attentive to the misinformation that is being shared online through so-called “alternative journalism” sites. Dodrill’s “story” clearly suggested that “foreigners” are taking away “YOUR hard-earned tax dollars,” when in fact, that is just not true. However, this type of content will continued to get shared and it is the biggest reason why I tell my pro-statehood friends that a very small yet influential group of Americans will do anything to discredit their statehood efforts and say that the United States should not take on a “Latino welfare state” full of Spanish-speaking people.

It is critical that Puerto Ricans of ALL political stripes start becoming Pro-Puerto Rico first and foremost. Take off your status badges now. We MUST be ever so vigilant of how the rest of the world views us, and when we see problems that ignorantly portray us, we must act together and feverishly defend ourselves. This is not about political status —let’s leave that debate for later— this is about working together to change how the rest of the United States views Puerto Rico and the 8 million of us who form part of the American fabric. And that perspective is one that is bilingual, bicultural, sometimes American, sometimes Puerto Rican. It is what makes us so unique. It can be our greatest strength, but also our greatest weakness. Yet it is purely Puerto Rican, and that is what we need to share, now more than ever.

Does the island have serious economic and social problems? Yes, and those problems will be tackled if the island’s bitter political struggles disappear, when we start promoting new industries on the island and move away from what is and what will always be a colonial system.

But does Puerto Rico also have millions of proud boricuas who can and will speak out against imbéciles like Dodrill and Jones? Of course we do.

Let’s defend Puerto Rico at all times. Let’s make sure that the our authentic narrative is being shared online more and more so that our house is united and in order. Then we can worry about how the inside of our house will look like eventually.

Who’s in?

I am, and I will always support any fellow portorro who puts Puerto Rico first.

***

Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77 on Twitter) founded LatinoRebels.com (part of Latino Rebels, LLC) in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  UnivisionForbesand The New York Times.

12 comments
Slayer6
Slayer6

You claim that this tiny islands welfare burden is less than half that of California's . While only 2.5% of snap this is still atrocious given the territory's population. This is a terrible time for the US to consider adding additional social service burdens. Taxation of internal business in no way makes up for this. Statehood status is not fair to US taxpayers. I accept that territory status is not always fair to Puerto Rico. The only logical and acceptable course is to encourage those on the island who currently pursue independence. However offensive the article you are criticizing was to you, the financial realities it refers to are significant to US taxpayers. The referendum you mention is only important to us in that it shows many do support independence. I personally find such sentiment admirable. A vote for statehood unfortunately equates to any other ally democratically deciding to increase the amount of aid they receive. Whatever questionable level of fairness this would accomplish would certainly cost taxpayers in the other 50 states far more than it is worth to them in these troubled times. Sorry if this upsets you.

Jose M Diaz Carazo
Jose M Diaz Carazo

@Slayer6 Statehood status is not "fair" to US taxpayers?   Who cares about US taxpayers?  How many of those taxpayers have ever cared to protest their disagreement with keeping Puerto Rico as a territory stuck with an autonomous form of government that has never been updated in 61 years?  In my book of what's fair and what's not.... screw them!  On the other hand, allow me to identify to you to whom would statehood be unfair: it would be unfair to 55% of Puerto Rico residents who REPUDIATE statehood.  Such a status would be as unfair as it would be to shove independence down 98% of residents' throats when these many people also repudiate independence.  The only sensible solution to fix Puerto Rico's economic maladies  is to update its 61-year old autonomous relationship with the US.

Jose Lopez
Jose Lopez

Greetings,

We must work together to decolonize Puerto Rico and free Oscar Lopez Rivera.  Join 2 peaceful protests a year until it is accomplished!

Un abrazo,

Jose www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com

Jose M Diaz Carazo
Jose M Diaz Carazo

@Jose Lopez You want to help decolonize Puerto Rico?  Two peaceful protests per year will not do the trick (the status conundrum is not Vieques, which back in those days had proved obsolete to the US Navy anyway and it was a matter of time until they closed it).  However, something that would help decolonization much better is if you can tell those in the 2% pro-independence spectrum who respect the liberation of Oscar López to equally respect the political mandate of the pro-Commonwealth majority.

Jose M Diaz Carazo
Jose M Diaz Carazo

Nice defense by the author (Julito) to set the record straight about welfare and federal taxes, but he FALLS SHORT, very short, explaining the root problem that affect Puerto Ricans.  Julito wants us to take off our status badges now?  Heck no!  That is exactly why Puerto Rico is sunk deeper than the Mariana Trench... precisely because of the status problem.  The Commonwealth itself is NOT a "status quo" like Julito wants you to believe.  What is a "status quo" in Puerto Rico is the fact that the democratic mandate of the winners of all four plebiscites celebrated in 1967, 1993, 1998 and 2012 (a mandate to KEEP and FIX  the Commonwealth) has NEVER been respected by pro-statehood sore losers, just as if Puerto Rico were a Banana Republic with dictators.  Yes.... the Commonwealth is obsolete, but a majority of Puerto Ricans DO NOT want to change it for an independent republic nor a federated state--they want to fix it since it has never been reviewed nor upgraded since 1952.  The "status quo" is nothing but a desire of pro-statehood politicians to shove their statehood ideology down the throat of 55% of the islanders who REPUDIATE it.   They obstruct Commonwealth upgrade efforts and attack and sabotage the Commonwealth system  so they can say that it does not work.    So don't believe anyone when they say or write that Pierluisi was right when he whined about the current status as the "root" of our problems.  THE ROOT OR OUR PROBLEMS IS SORE LOSERS WHO CAN'T ACCEPT THEY CAN'T WIN  PLEBISCITES ON THE BALLOT -- THE ROOT CAUSE IS SORE LOSERS WHO PEE ON THE WATER FOUNTAIN THAT EVERYONE HAS TO USE, EVEN THEM, WHEN THEY GET THIRSTY.

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela

@Jose M Diaz Carazo Thanks for your comment. First, I actually disagree with you on one note: you are viewing this issue through the same engrained attitudes that have made the whole politics of status a sham. Let me say this: I am not a pro-statehooder and I find their strategies to be amateur hour. They put their self-interests in front of the common good for PR. The same goes for the existing leadership of the PPD. AGP lacks the vision to truly impact change for the island. I also believe that the PIP leadership is not capitalizing on trying to expand its base and has done a poor job in selling its cause. Last night in Brazil, 1 million people took to the streets for a better Brazil. Will that ever happen in Puerto Rico? I doubt it. 

My argument is a simple one: when will we as Puerto Ricans stop the culture of division? It is obvious that AGP and Pierluisi are stubbornly entrenched in a childish political struggle of egos that do nothing. 

Decades have past and the same thing goes on and on. Politicians have never put Puerto Rico first and this is why where were we are.

However, I do think that more and more Puerto Ricans are starting to realizing that the only way to fix our own problems is being proactive about it. It will be extremely hard to go against established thinking, but I have hope.

My dream for Puerto Rico is to begin to foster a better attitude towards real change. I also think that the politics of status has to disappear, and there should be outrage by the current governor for his "ghetto" comments.

Once we realize that stepping away from a political system that was built on political egos (Muñoz, Ferré, etc.) is the way to go, only then can we see real progress. AGP is clinging to a system that has failed. It opens up typical partisan criticisms by Pierluisi because that is how they have been trained to act. 

Here's hoping the system changes, and I refuse to fall into the status trap. It is the past. The past is dead.

Jose M Diaz Carazo
Jose M Diaz Carazo

@JulioRVarela @Jose M Diaz Carazo 

Julio..... I totally disagree with you.  Status can be seen as a sham, but it is NOT -- it is so important for Puerto Rico to move on that it has to be resolved, regardless of the statehood party's dictatorial attitudes or the current Commonwealth party's lack of vision or guts to defend their legitimate and current mandate for Commonwealth.  What we need to get away from is precisely the political immaturity ingrained in Puerto Rican DNA:  the people have spoken for the past 46 years, so....  when will their mandate be respected and, worst case scenario, shoved down the throat of the sore-losing minority?  If you want to stop the culture of division, you have to remove the ones who create that division that leads to the STATUS QUO, and that removal does NOT mean the eradication of the legitimacy of the people who support the Commonwealth since they have all the right in the world to develop it by virtue of their political mandate. 

AGP may not be effective defending the Commonwealth, reason why you may call him mediocre and incompetent in that regard, but calling it "childish" for doing so?  Is it childish to defend a mandate that a sore-losing minority does not want to respect and accept?  Absolutely not.  With your statement, you show me you have no regard whatsoever for the will of the people, and I assure you there's no chance in hell for Puerto Rico to move forward towards "real change" until that will is respected, no matter how much noise sore losers "proactively" make. 

I must tell you that I 'm disgusted by hypocritical comments such as, "Uhhh... we need to  be outraged by the current governor for his "ghetto" comments", but then nothing is mentioned about Pierluisi lying at the United Nations when he claims that 61% of Puerto Ricans want statehood when the reality is that 55% REPUDIATED it last November. Again... you paint the reader a one-sided view of a multi-dimensional  problem.

You totally misguide your readers when you unfairly state, like all statehooders unfairly state, that AGP and the Commonwealth party clings to "a system that has failed".  TOTALLY UNFAIR STATEMENT.  What AGP and the pro-Commonwealth people cling to is a system that has been attacked and sabotaged by sore losers for the past 46 years and is now obsolete because nothing has done to it since 1952 except make it weaker on purpose to see if Washington could give us statehood by accident.  We cling to a system that can be fixed and upgraded IF ALLOWED TO BE FIXED AND UPGRADED.  There's no other choice.  The status is not a trap of the past -- the status is our future if we fix it today.  The Commonwealth is THE option that the majority of Puerto Ricans (and Washington silently) want -- respect it, embrace it, develop it... or sink with the status quo.

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela

I have been critical of both and it is obvious that you fall into the same "politiquería" traps as many others. Once we stop that, we will progress. In the meantime, keep defending a status quo that no one wants.

In the meantime, I also think AGP misread the political tea leaves and lost the status narrative and is doing an incredibly poor job in trying to convince everyone that the current system works. He is an amateur politician, and I expected more vision from him.

My goal is not to convince, it is to increase dialogue and conversation. Have a great one!

Jose M Diaz Carazo
Jose M Diaz Carazo

@JulioRVarela "Highly critical" of Pierluisi?  How so?  By agreeing publicly with his farce at the United nations when he claimed that the Commonwealth status is the "root cause" of the island's problems?   By not denouncing his B.S. claim that 61% of Puerto Ricans chose statehood in the  November 2012 plebiscite when in reality 55% repudiated it?  Gotta try a little harder to convince me, sir!

Jose M Diaz Carazo
Jose M Diaz Carazo

@JulioRVarela But we ARE in charge!!!  If the VAST majority of Puerto Ricans wanted independence, they could go to Washington, not to ask for independendence, but to tell Congress people that the people of Puerto Rico are declaring its independence.  Washington would never say no to that. It'd be an easy way to get rid of the problem.

By the same token, if the VAST majority of Puerto Ricans wanted statehood, they could go to Washington to demand it (not like Pierluisi is doing, ridiculously demanding statehood for 45% of his constituents) .  Of course, at that point, Washington would have no more excuses to get out of the closet and accept or deny incorporation.  I'd bet they would  say NO, and ask Puerto Rico to chose between fixing the Commonwealth or declaring a republic.

And of course.... the third alternative..... if the two ideological minorities RESPECTED the will of the majority that wants to fix the Commonwealth and stop lobbying against this effort, Washington would work with us to upgrade the Commonwealth.  That would most convenient to them.

However, as long as there is no respect for that majority and its mandate, Washington will not resolve our auto determination problem for us.  THEY WILL LAUGH AT US (very justifiably so).   Come to think about it, it's not time to get the bull by the horn as far as demanding anything -- if it is time for anything, it is time to put on the big pants and act like politically mature and democracy-loving people, THEN we can go to Washington with ONE voice and demand that they join us to fix a 61 year old status.

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela like.author.displayName 1 Like

If we were truly in charge, we wouldn't be so dependent on what Washington has to say. It is time to grab the bull by the horns. If we want to enhance the current territorial relationship, then let's do it. But I don't see any coherent successful strategy, just the same political tricks and frauds that have failed Puerto Rico for decades. 

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela

In all fairness, I was also highly critical of Pierluisi's comments. The moment we stop looking at the current political system we have, which has been based of a farce of political parties that play the status game all the time, only then will things truly change. All parties are at fault.