The media and the Democrats are deseperate to find a Hurricane Katrina in Puerto Rico, and to deny President Donald Trump’s capable and compassionate response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Puerto Ricans themselves are “very happy” with Trump’s response, which local officials have also praised. The attempt to argue otherwise is just the left’s latest effort to rile up Hispanic voters. But the sheer scale of the devastation is real.
There is a silver lining, however, in the storms that have all but destroyed the island: Puerto Rico now has a chance to rebuild. The past few years have been brutal for the island’s economy, and its government is essentially bankrupt and in default. Congressional efforts to manage the crisis have been poorly conceived, and hampered by the danger that bailing out Puerto Rico could create bad incentives for spendthrift blue states like Illinois and California.
Now, however, there is a reason for the federal government to intervene more forcefully — i.e. with more money and more direct control of governing decisions — without worrying about the incentive problem. Puerto Rico is a wreck, as Breitbart News’ Chriss Street has pointed out, because of poor decisions by its leaders — such as the 1991 decision to make Spanish the territory’s official language, essentially cutting it off from the U.S. service economy.
In addition, the scale of the damage means that Puerto Rico can be built in a more sensible and sustainable way, with more durable structures that are more appropriate to the occasional hazards of the Caribbean climate. There is an opportunity to replace poor housing stock with new buildings; to bring in better building materials and designs; and to re-shape the island’s urban landscapes to offer a more attractive destination for foreign direct investment.
As a friend of mine observed of our shared experience growing up in the Chicago suburbs: the best thing that ever happened to Chicago was that it burned down. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed much of the center of the city, but allowed it to be rebuilt in the age of mass transportation, and at a time when American architects and urban planners had studied and developed the neoclassical style. The result is a downtown that is the envy of the world.
Puerto Rico’s disaster is therefore also its golden opportunity. With the right leadership, and the right stewardship from Washington, the island can be set on a new course to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century that have, thus far, passed it by. It may take years — slowly, slowly, as the smash hit “Despacito” suggests — but it can happen. And one day, the hurricane season of 2017 will not only be mourned, but also seen as a breakthrough.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.