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GOP tax bill treats Puerto Rico as a foreign country

Dana Milbank on

The GOP tax bill, which Trump celebrated last week, treats Puerto Rico as a foreign country, imposing a 12.5 percent tax on the income that companies there receive from intellectual property -- a big hit to its crucial pharmaceutical and medical-device sector. Rather than give Puerto Rico special tax treatment, which it urgently needs, Trump and his congressional allies gave employers a powerful reason to move jobs off the island.

You might recognize this pattern, even if you don't care about Puerto Rico and the suffering of the more than 3 million Americans there. Trump comes in with razzle-dazzle and self-congratulation, promising great things to come. Then, when the cameras are off, comes the quiet collapse.

The prototype is the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. In April 1990, it opened with much fanfare as the world's largest casino-hotel complex. Six months later, it defaulted on payments. Nine months after that, it filed for bankruptcy.

Now this happens on a world scale. Trump promises an easy peace in the Middle East but winds up setting off a new wave of violence. He promises a tax cut for the middle class and winds up with a giveaway to corporations and millionaires. He promises to improve upon Obamacare but ravages the program with no replacement.

In business, when Trump attended the ribbon-cutting and then moved on while deals went south, people lost their investments.

But when the United States walks away from promises, people lose rather more.

Nearly a million low-income Puerto Ricans are in danger of losing health care early in the new year because the territory's Medicaid program will soon be unable to pay providers. Federal law restricts Medicaid reimbursements for Puerto Rico to not-quite 20 percent, about a quarter of what it would get if it were a state. Puerto Rico's leaders have called for a few billion dollars to avert this latest crisis, but the request went unanswered as Congress rushed to complete the tax cut.

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Puerto Rico's (Democratic) governor, Ricardo Rossello, made a dumb mistake in October when, appealing to Trump's vanity, he praised the president's hurricane response. That gave Trump cover to do nothing for Puerto Rico. Now Rossello has apparently realized his mistake, and, in an interview with Politico last week, he vowed to mobilize the more than 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the mainland United States. That includes hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens fleeing Puerto Rico since Maria.

They are eligible to vote, in 2018 and 2020. One suspects they might award Trump something less than the 10 out of 10 he gives himself.

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Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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