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Editorial & Column


What If?

"It’s The Economy, Stupid!"


August 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

"It’s the economy, stupid!" Crass as it may sound, the phrase has a place in history.

It was popularized by then-candidate Bill Clinton during his first successful run for the presidency in 1992. With it, Clinton sought to mark the contrast between him and then-incumbent President George H.W. Bush, whose approval ratings, despite overwhelming popular support immediately following Operation Desert Storm, fell precipitously during the election year because of the lingering effect of an economic recession that the White House claimed wasn’t so.

With business shutdowns and unemployment claims on the rise, the president insisted the country technically wasn’t in a recession. His campaign team kept wondering why Bush’s numbers had eroded so significantly despite such broad support the year before. The Clinton campaign had an answer: "It’s the economy, stupid!"

In its simplicity, the phrase has come to illustrate an undeniable fact of the political process: Voters are first and foremost concerned with their economic well-being.

It’s a matter of priorities. Other issues may be important, but voters realize that without a good, prosperous economy, other things can’t be achieved. They follow the simple logic of their own individual experience. If the breadwinner in the household is out of a job, it’s no time to remodel the home or buy a new car. After everything is said and done about every other issue in a campaign, voters vote primarily with their pockets in mind.

For decades, the perennial issue of Puerto Rico’s political status has been discussed and debated emotionally without the benefit of in-depth information and analysis of the economic implications of each status alternative.

The politics of it all have been discussed endlessly, as have the cultural issues, including whether we would have a Miss Universe candidate or an Olympic team under this or that status. Issues of political sovereignty, citizenship, language, voting rights, congressional representation, cultural identity, national defense, international treaty-making powers, democratic deficits... They all have been explored inside out. But not the economy.

What does each status alternative hold for Puerto Rico’s future, in dollars and cents? For decades, that question has begged to be asked. Starting today, and for 12 consecutive weeks, CARIBBEAN BUSINESS will answer it, bringing you the result of the months-long work of several researchers, economists, and writers.

Each of the status options available to the island inherently carries its own economic implications. We will examine these implications, highlighting the economic benefits and drawbacks of statehood, commonwealth (new or enhanced), free association, and independence, not just for the island as a whole but also for each individual at each economic level.

Most intelligent political and business leaders know that until the status issue is resolved—and there’s consensus that commonwealth as is exists right now isn’t the solution—we will remain deadlocked, with our economic future held hostage to an unending controversy that doesn’t allow our economy and our society to develop to their full potential.

In our series "What If? Puerto Rico’s Economy: It’s a Matter of Status," we will present the various scenarios for each of the status alternatives that Puerto Rico faces in this defining moment of its history.

Our goal is to help our readers make an informed decision based on the economic implications of each status option and its potential impact on the pocketbook of every citizen, without the emotional baggage that for so long has dominated discussion of this fundamental issue.

Because, at the end of the day, it’s all about the economy, you know.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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