We’re All Puerto Ricans Now

U.S. President Donald Trump tosses rolls of paper towels to people at a hurricane relief distribution center at Calvary Chapel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It was early on in the Trump presidency when Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico. We watched in angry horror as the vicious combination of Trump’s ineptitude, pettiness, narcissism, corruption, and callous disregard for human life were on full display in his non-response. He shot off angry tweets at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. He botched the delivery of aid. He tried to steer the critical job of reconstructing the island’s electrical grid to a tiny, inexperienced Montana company, Whitefish Energy Holdings, which was affiliated with one of Trump’s donors and based in the hometown of then Trump Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke. Worst of all, the loss of human life and the untold misery suffered by Puerto Ricans didn’t faze Trump in the least. He could have cared less. Throughout Puerto Rico’s crisis (actually, for many, it has ended yet), Trump saw it through only one lens: how it impacted him, politically, personally or otherwise.

At the time, I didn’t contemplate a scenario in which the entire country would endure what Puerto Ricans did in the wake of Hurricane Maria. I’m not sure I could have.

Yet here we are.

We’re all Puerto Ricans now.

Trump had ample warning of the Covid-19 onslaught. Back in January, he was advised the most critical elements to the nation’s preparation and mitigation efforts would be testing and ventilators. He ignored that advice, choosing instead to focus on the stock market. He raised false hopes so traders and investors would not be spooked, at one point assuring Americans that the then 15 current cases would shortly reduce to zero. He spoke of treatments and vaccines as if imminent, when they are at best months away. He lashed out at a reporter for asking him what his message was to Americans who were fearful and suffering. He’s used his twitter account to disparage Democrats amidst the crisis. After feigning serious concern about the challenges ahead, he’s now swung back to prioritizing economic concerns far above American lives. He wants to see the churches full on Easter Sunday, notwithstanding the millions of newly infected Americans such an insane act would produce.

Just like in Puerto Rico, it’s all on display: the ineptitude, the pettiness, the narcissism, and the disregard for human life.

And of course, the corruption. After meeting with Trump, his henchmen in the Senate put forth a relief package featuring $500 billion of no strings attached aid to corporate America, perhaps including the Trump Organization, to be doled out by Steve Mnuchin.

Tomorrow or Thursday, Trump no doubt will take an action even more depraved. But for now the action most highlighting Trump’s moral turpitude in the midst of America’s once in a century crisis is this: This Is a Massive Scandal’: Trump FDA Grants Drug Company Exclusive Claim on Promising Coronavirus Drug. Here you have the rank corruption and reckless disregard for the health and well being of Americans rolled into one act:

As healthcare providers across the U.S. desperately attempt to treat a rapidly growing number of patients with the coronavirus, a pharmaceutical company with ties to the Trump administration has been granted exclusive status for a drug it is developing to treat the illness—a potential windfall for the company that could put the medication out of reach for many Americans.
As The Intercept reported Monday, the Food and Drug Administration granted Gilead Sciences “orphan” drug status for remdesivir, one of several drugs being tested as potential treatments for the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. The designation is generally reserved for drugs that treat rare illnesses affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans—but companies can be eligible if the designation, as in this case of a rapidly spreading virus, is made before a disease spreads beyond that limit.
Having secured orphan drug status, Gilead Sciences can now profit exclusively off the drug for seven years and could block manufacturers from developing generic versions of the drug which might be more accessible to many patients. The company can set price controls on the drug as well as benefiting from grants and tax credits.
As The Intercept reported, the designation was given to a company where Joe Grogan, a member of President Donald Trump’s “coronavirus task force,” worked as a lobbyist from 2011 to 2017, often working on issues regarding drug pricing.

[emphasis mine]

There it is: Puerto Rico all over again. A favor to a political crony at the price of human life.

We’re all Puerto Ricans now.


  1. Bob, I am Puerto Rican. We have gone through two hurricanes, kicked out a corrupt governor (but not his cronies), endured some earthquakes and now are in lockdown, all since September 2017. Before that, we’ve been in a recession for close to eleven years. We as a people not only had to endure the scorn of the Trump “administration,” the aloofness of FEMA and the paternalistic pity of many famous movers and shakers who intended to help but eventually did very little; we also endured the brutal critiques from way too many conservatives in the US who drowned the pleas of needy Puerto Ricans under a lot of bovine propaganda, ignoring our 2800+ dead from Maria and our multibillion dollar damages. Being the benchmark for pity from the left and verbal abuse from the right is getting really tired. We are sick of Trump, sick of the corruption, sick of the sycophants from BOTH sides. We’re tired of being the subject of pity on one side, and of pure hatred on the other. I’m personally repulsed by the United States’ government and political attitude towards us. Now you know what we’ve experienced, but the country is 121 years late in acknowledging it.

    • It’s off topic to the post, but what do you think is the answer, assuming we all can get out from under Trump? When I entered law school 36+ years ago, the student body president was Puerto Rican, and I learned a bit from him about the statehood debate, which was raging at the time. But here we are, 36 years later…My sense is that if statehood or some other dramatic change doesn’t happen soon the hopelessness will drive more and more of the population out. I get what you’re saying about pity from the left, but I think that’s more characteristic of the centrist left. On the progressive left, I think there is more solidarity and respect than there is pity, but also an inability or unwillingness to make Puerto Rico a front and center issue. Perhaps that will change as AOC consolidates more power.

  2. Adam Serwer

    Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what your death (not mine) could do to raise the Dow Industrial Average a few points.

    9:48 AM · Mar 25, 2020·Twitter for iPhone

    • Actually, I’m not sure it qualifies as pedantic. “He could care less” is one of those expressions that at one time was unacceptable but through common usage became acceptable. Here’s another example: When I was a young associate at a NYC law firm serving on the recruitment committee, we’d occasionally encounter the word “memorandums” on resumes and in cover letters. It wasn’t a disqualifier, but it certainly didn’t help. Now, the word is entirely commonplace — no red line under it when I type it — to the point where “memoranda” comes off as a bit stilted.

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