John Oliver focused Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight” on the tremendous financial crisis affecting Puerto Rico.
To drive the point home, the creator of the hit Broadway show “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, appeared on the HBO show and performed an original rap on the crisis.
Puerto Rico has been suffering under the weight of tremendous $7 billion debt that it can’t pay back.
“This is not politics,” Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla said in an address to the island’s 3.5 million people. “This is maths.”
The American territory currently stands at a 45% poverty rate, it has closed down about 150 schools in the last few years, and has had to increase its sales tax to 11% — higher than any state in the US.
“Right now, Puerto Rico is like the last Tower Records,” Oliver said. “Everything’s underpriced, everyone’s been laid off, and there’s still a weirdly large number of Ricky Martin CDs.”
Not only that, but the US view of the territory as a second priority to actual states in our country has devastated the island. In the 1970s, for example, the US offered large tax breaks to businesses that operated on the island as a way to keep industry from moving to foreign countries. But the US took the breaks away by 2006 in order to offset the damage done by the recent recession.
What that did was force Puerto Rico into a financial spiral, and it issued municipal bonds, or “IOUs,” borrowing money with interest from someone to pay its bills, as Oliver explained. It became heavily reliant on these bonds and American investors (with an attached triple tax exemption). But as the governor stated above, Puerto Rico can’t pay the debts back.
In an effort to bring awareness to the situation, Miranda, the son of Puerto Rican parents, spoke to Congress in March to ask for some financial relief. And on Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight,” he took it to another level by performing an emotional rap about the state of the territory.
“This is an island, a hundred miles across,” he rapped. “A hurricane is coming and we’re running up the loss.”
Watch Oliver’s segment below (Mirand’a rap comes in at about 19 minutes in).