A Trump-Ryan Alliance on Puerto Rico Bailout?

FedUp PAC StaffPaul Ryan

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are loudly claiming to reject each other’s agenda. However, when it comes to bailing out Puerto Rico, Trump has clearly signaled his support for the approach that Ryan is trying to railroad through the House over conservative opposition and with liberal Democratic support. Years of welfare-state spending have piled up a huge debt that Puerto Rico says it cannot pay, preferring to continue its generosity to all those who have been feeding from the government trough (especially current and retired government employees). On May 2 it stayed with those priorities by defaulting on a $422 million loan repayment. Another payment of $2 billion is coming up in July.

Federal law does not allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy and wipe out the debt. Loans were made with that legal protection in mind, and any change in the law would cheat lenders who believed that their investment was protected.

However, congressional Democrats want the law changed to allow Puerto Rico to repudiate nearly half of its debt. Speaker Paul Ryan has been working on a bill to give them exactly that, but has so far been blocked by strong opposition from conservative Republicans.

Now Donald Trump has come to Ryan’s rescue, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Puerto Rico should be allowed to “cut the debt way down”. Disagreeing with congressional conservatives who have called for cuts in welfare state spending and a financial control board (such as was used to restore Washington D.C.’s financial status two decades ago), Trump told Blitzer that repudiating the debt was the only choice Puerto Rico has.

Trump pointed out that Puerto Rico would be doing what he, as a businessman, has done many times. However Trump overlooked the fact that he had taken advantage of long-standing bankruptcy laws to break faith with his creditors. They should have understood the risk. Those who made loans to Puerto Rico had the guarantee of Federal law that Puerto Rico would not be allowed to declare any form of bankruptcy.

Puerto Rico may be the first test of Trump’s influence with Congress. If he successfully follows through by assisting Ryan to ride roughshod over Republican conservatives, it could be a grim warning of what a Trump presidency would look like.

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