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GOP tax bill treats Puerto Rico as a foreign country

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- President Trump awarded himself a 10 out of 10 score two months ago for his response to Hurricane Maria, which leveled Puerto Rico.

"If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died," Trump said as he toured Puerto Rico in October. "What is your death count, as of this moment -- 17?"

"Sixteen certified," the governor of Puerto Rico replied.

"Sixteen versus literally thousands of people," Trump said. "You can be very proud."

How proud we are now.

Last week, we learned the truth. Some 1,065 more Puerto Ricans died in September and October of this year than in previous years, almost certainly storm-related deaths, according to the Center for Investigative Journalism. When all is tallied, the destruction in Puerto Rico will be very much on par with what Trump considers "a real catastrophe like Katrina," which killed about 1,800.

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Incredibly, a large portion of the island remains without power -- three months after the storm. It was reported last week that power may not be fully restored until May. Puerto Ricans -- American citizens -- are still awaiting tarps and temporary roofs to shelter them after an untold number of homes were destroyed.

A new report from Refugees International said, "Thousands of people still lack sustainable access to potable water and electricity and dry, safe places to sleep." The group faulted the Federal Emergency Management Agency's "bureaucratic and opaque assistance process" for leaving survivors with "enormous challenges."

This, in the United States of America, in 2017. Ten out of 10, Mr. President. A-plus for you!

In October, when Trump was tossing "beautiful, soft" rolls of paper towels at Puerto Ricans, he offered lavish promises of aid and said Wall Street lenders were "going to say goodbye" to Puerto Rico's $72 billion debt. But the debt was not written off, and disaster-relief aid has been inadequate and piecemeal. Now, Trump and congressional Republicans are hitting Puerto Rico with an additional, man-made catastrophe.

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