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.

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18 comments
Jose M Diaz Carazo
Jose M Diaz Carazo

Seems Jose A. Hernández was DELETED from the string of comments: 


"Jose M Diaz Carazo JulioRVarela Sr. Diaz you really are disappointing in the fact that the real issue is as el Sr. Varela has pointed out; Keeping the Status Quo is not in the best interest of all Puertoricans. The Commonwealth you so vehemently defend has not been of any service to PR since its inception as it sold out control of our destiny for money to the big interests of the day (and still does). It has destroyed our agriculture, our manufacturing capabilities, and it is threatening our cultural survival. You should be ashamed not to call out that the "ELA" is a colonizing act that has perpetuated the longest and oldest colony on Earth since the europeans set foot on the island. You should read a little more than accept what any partisan of the two main political parties have told the people in Puerto Rico. One truth is that no matter what the outcome of a referendum it is up to the U.S Congress to accept or deny any request for continuance of the status quo, statehood or independence; and more pointedly Congress can at any given moment boot Puerto Rico out of the territory status whenever it feels like it without any request from the island!!! In order to fix the problem we as Puerto Ricans need to come together as one and demand better, then and only then can we resolve our colonial status.....unless you want an act of congress to resolve the matter for us.



MY ANSWER to Jose A. Hernández:  Yes, keeping the status quo is NOT  in the best interest of all Puerto Ricans.  Not even pro-Commonwealth Puerto Ricans want to keep the 63 year old status as it was established in 1952. Then....... FIX IT, DAMMIT.   The 1952 Commonwealth status has to be updated to work in 2015.  And by fixing it, I don't mean make Puerto Rico a State, because 56% of Puerto Ricans REPUDIATE Statehood.  By fixing it, I don't mean make Puerto Rico an independent Republic either, because 98% of Puerto Ricans REPUDIATE Independence. 


By fixing it I mean, GO TO WASHINGTON AND MAKE CONGRESS SIT DOWN TO HELP US UPDATE THE 63 YEAR OLD STATUS.   The Commonwealth has to be revised, updated, and renegotiated.  That what Puerto Ricans have DEMANDED in the plebiscites of 1967, 1993, 1998, and 2012.  Washington will not say "NO" to a revision and an update, since fixing the Commonwealth would not only help re-develop Puerto Rico's economy, it would also be in the best interest of Washington, since Puerto Ricans would not have to depend as much on Washington as they now depend on them.   


It is a crass lie to say that the  Commonwealth "has not been of any service to PR since its inception".  In fact, it is bull crap, since it was thanks to the Commonwealth that Puerto Rico built an economic status that was the envy of Latin America.  If it is of "no service" today, it's because no one has revised it and updated since 1952, and the sore losers in the Statehood party have spent millions trying to create the necessary conditions so that the Commonwealth IMPLODES, hoping that this way, Washington would shove us Statehood as a "bail out".  It ain't gonna happen.



Let me be clear one more time:  56% of Puerto Ricans REPUDIATE Statehood.  Congress knows that in the 2012 plebiscite,  1,878,969 Puerto Ricans had the opportunity to choose Statehood, but only 834,191 sore losers did.  That's not 61%.  If you use a calculator, even an abacus, you'll see that 834,191 or 1,878,969 is 44%.


Ya'll can whine about the Commonwealth all you want, but Congress will never shove Statehood down the throats of 56% of a population that REPUDIATES it. 

RachelKirkpatrick
RachelKirkpatrick

How about we stop giving PR money period! All the puerto ricans in a city i went to college in were all lazy idiots that lived on every benefit they could get! They were drug addicts, refused to speak english, would sell their food stamps for cash and were 100% disrespectful! A complete disgrace towards the United States! WTF is this country coming to? Oh wait press 2 for Spanish to get this in your language.

MoeDyson
MoeDyson

All the PR people I know are on food stamps and disability benefits lazy bums!

jlop28vislophis
jlop28vislophis

Dear Partner,

The First Oscar – Mandela March in Puerto Rico on the same day that we celebrate the abolition of slavery (March 22) was a success!Click on this link to see TeleSur’s report on it: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1ja9pi_conmemora-pr-abolicion-de-esclavitud-exige-libertad-para-lopez-rivera_news.We are now looking forward to an even bigger success with our First Oscar Mandela Protest in New York City.This year, the New York City Puerto Rican Day Parade honored our political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.

On Monday, June 23, 2014, the United Nations (UN) will be discussing once again Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States.The UN is in its third decade trying to eradicate colonialism, because of its belief that colonialism constitutes a threat to world peace.Since this year’s hearing date is different than the usual, our committee decided to have 2 protests this year.

On Monday, June 16, 2014, the day after Fathers’ Day, we will have our first protest in the park across from the UN on 46th Street from 8 AM to 6 PM to show the world that we too believe that colonialism is a crime against humanity. On the same day of the hearing, Monday June 23, we will have a second one in the park across the UN on 44th Street.We will have a press conference in New York City to inform the public of the latest details of these events. We will need as many people at these 2 protests as possible to make the government of the United States (US) comply with the 32 UN resolutions asking the US to decolonize immediately Puerto Rico.After this many resolutions, it is obvious it does not want to.

President Obama showed the United States’ governments’ hypocrisy about human rights in his Nelson Mandela memorial speech.Obama had only words of admiration for Nelson Mandela.He, however, has tenaciously refused, to release from prison Oscar for doing exactly the same, Mandela did, despite the enormous pressure from Puerto Rico and the rest of the world. Oscar has already spent 6 more years in prison than the 27 that Mandela served.The US likes it when other countries release their political prisoners and decolonize their colonies, but the US government refuses to do the same. Doesn’t the United States have to follow the same rules as the rest of the world?Obviously, those who have colonies don’t believe in justice for all.

Please help us promote these protests.They are so important to obtain Oscar’s release from prison, and achieve the purpose for which he has spent his whole life on.

We will have a sign-up sheet at the protests so that whoever wants to get involved in the planning of this yearly permanent protest in New York City.

We look forward to greeting old and new partners in our struggle to provide real justice for all!

Sincerely,

José M López Sierra

www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com

Because, rights are not requested, they are demanded!

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 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.