For the last few weeks, every time I turned on my car radio, I would hear an ad attacking Representative Rob Bishop for supporting what it calls a “radical plan called Super Chapter 9” to allow the U.S. territory bankruptcy protection. It’s a deal, the ad suggests, that would take money from American pension plans, and give it to those profligate, irresponsible Puerto Ricans. “What’s worse is that Congressman Rob Bishop is standing with the Obama administration to support a bailout of Puerto Rico instead of supporting negotiations between Puerto Rico and its creditors,” the ad concludes.
There’s also a television ad:
These ads are produced by an entity called The Center for Individual Freedom. That’s a political non-profit organization, either a 501 (c) (4) or 501 (c) (6), which is to say, a group that doesn’t have to disclose its funding sources.
Let’s not mince words: every word in these ads are complete nonsense. The ads are lies, in their every detail. Congressman Bishop isn’t pushing for something called “Super Chapter 9” or anything like it. The Congressman chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico and other US territories. The Republican House and President Obama are currently negotiating a way to help Puerto Rico deal with its crisis; Bishop’s the Republican point man in those negotiations. They’re close to a deal, a crucially important, deeply necessary one.
I know that John Oliver is a comedian, not a journalist, but his show last night dealt comprehensively, and as far as my research suggests, accurately, with the real causes of the Puerto Rican collapse. I wish I could link to it. In general, though, I prefer not to link to R-rated material. May I suggest that you look it up. Look up John Oliver Puerto Rico on YouTube.
The fact is, though, Puerto Rico has historically attempted to deal with its debt crisis through the sale of municipal bonds, which have tax-free properties that make them an attractive investment. At least some of the measures that Congress is considering might cost hedge fund investors some money. I can’t prove this, and neither can Oliver, but it doesn’t seem unlikely that this Center for Individual Freedom is funded by hedge funds. They stand to lose some ill-gotten gains, so they put some money into a TV/radio disinformation campaign.
What they’re not is patriotic. There does not exist some coalition of Americans in favor of individual freedom. ‘Individual’ and ‘freedom’ are two words that, when put in the same sentence, sound like something we should all be in favor of. But no. The Center for Individual Freedom was founded by tobacco companies opposed to regulating tobacco. Literally lethal. They’ve morphed. Now they’re in favor of letting Puerto Rican hospitals go under. This is a bad organization that does bad things. And that’s all they are.
In any event, if you live in Utah, you know all about their ads. I suspect that you’re aware of them wherever you live. Just remember; the ads are fundamentally dishonest. Congress and the President are actually working on a bi-partisan plan to help Puerto Rico out. (Repeat: a bi-partisan plan).
And something needs to happen, and it needs to happen now. Puerto Rico can’t keep the lights on. They’re closing schools and hospitals. Four million American citizens are in serious crisis. We can help. It’s a complicated issue, but this is something government can do, and needs to. And Rob Bishop is that rare Congressman, a guy who is trying to do the right thing for the right reasons. That’s maybe something worth supporting as well.