In an op-ed directed at President Donald Trump on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders called on the president to quit with the insulting tweets and start doing a better job to help rebuild the storm-ravaged and economically-devastated island of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that's home to millions of American citizens.
"When Congress just passed an almost $700 billion defense bill and is now debating a Republican proposal to give up to $5 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations, we have the resources to provide the help to Puerto Rico that we always do when states and communities are hard hit by hurricanes." —Sen. Bernie SandersIn the guest column for the local El Nueva Dia newspaper—titled "Trump: Less Tweets, More Melp"—Sanders declares that the people of Puerto Rico "are entitled to the same kind of response as the people of Texas, Florida, Vermont and other regions of the country that have been hit hard by natural disasters. President Donald Trump should be focusing his energies on helping to rebuild Puerto Rico, not attacking San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz."
Sanders excoriates the president—who during his visit to the island earlier this week said the disaster was throwing the federal "budget out of whack" and "costing a lot of money"—for being so grossly insensitive to the dire situation in Puerto Rico while at home pushing a budget that adds tens of billions of dollars to already bloated Pentagon spending and proposing massive giveaways in tax cuts to the nation's wealthiest individuals and corporations.
"When Congress just passed an almost $700 billion defense bill and is now debating a Republican proposal to give up to $5 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations," writes Sanders, "we have the resources to provide the help to Puerto Rico that we always do when states and communities are hard hit by hurricanes."
Now is the time for President Trump to stop his insulting tweets. Now is the time to rebuild Puerto Rico. https://t.co/JmCfxALg8g— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 5, 2017
As a growing chorus of renewable energy experts and climate advocates are urging, Sanders also called for the island to be built back with a strict focus on green technologies that make more sense for the island's long-term economic health and resilience.
"As an island with extraordinary solar and wind capabilities, a new distributed energy system must be built which is based on sustainable energy, not expensive fossil fuel," Sanders argues. "Not only will this provide less expensive electricity, but it will enable Puerto Rico to better withstand future natural disasters."
According to Michelle Chen, writing for The Nation on Wednesday:
In the face of escalating environmental vulnerability for the whole region due to climate change, recovery from Maria will be painful, but there may be one silver lining: There's a chance that the disaster could end up leading the island to kick its reliance on dirty fossil fuels. Researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at University of Massachusetts-Amherst see fertile ground for renewal through green rebuilding efforts and a self-sufficient energy system. Creating a renewables-based power grid emancipated from the fossil-fuel industry could blaze a path to socially fair and climate-resilient energy sovereignty for the island.
With the right balance of massive public investment and tax restructuring, PERI argues, an island-wide program of "green growth" is possible. According to PERI, if the island’s long-struggling communities can reclaim the recovery process through democratic public control, the energy infrastructure could completely replace imported fossil fuels with homegrown renewable power by 2050.
And while Trump's budget director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday made it clear that the White House—contrary to an earlier casual and apparently erroneous statement by the president—is not considering cancelling Puerto Rico's debt and that the controverial PROMESA program will remain in place, Sanders called that the wrong approach.
"Let me be very clear in saying that the 2016 PROMESA law that treats the island like a colony is not the answer," argues Sanders in his op-ed. "The people of Puerto Rico, through their own elected officials, should be determining future of the island, not a seven-member control board. Wall Street vulture funds should not be allowed to make huge profits off the misery of the Puerto Rican people."
And concludes, "Now is the time for all Americans to stand together. Now is the time for President Trump to stop his insulting tweets. Now is the time to rebuild Puerto Rico."