John Oliver, that sly fellow, managed to deliver another one of his trademark in-depth reports on an otherwise neglected subject while also securing an exclusive performance from Pulitzer winner and creator of the hottest ticket in town, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Last night on Last Week Tonight, Oliver delved into Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, demonstrating that the quagmire that’s left half of the island’s population in poverty is not entirely of its own making.
Basically, the incentives to bring American businesses to Puerto Rico, a territory that remains “foreign in a domestic sense,” have impoverished the island, leaving it $72 billion in debt. This storm has been brewing for some time now, as Puerto Rico was summarily excluded from filing for Chapter 9 in the mid-’80s, possibly thanks to Strom Thurmond (according to Last Week’s research) or some other unconscionable jerk who would just tack that sort of thing an unrelated bill. Where Puerto Rico once served as a base for manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries, its government is now defaulting on its bonds, whose triple-exempt status has benefitted everyone but the island’s citizens.
With vulture (or hedge) funds now circling, ready to pick apart the budgets of health and education services, Puerto Rico is officially at the brink. Rather than continue in this vein, Oliver handed things off to Miranda, the Puerto Rican/American golden boy who’s poised to EGOT and more. Miranda has already spoken before Congress on the matter, asking politicians to work out a plan to restructure Puerto Rico’s debt, which is not in by any means a bailout. The Hamilton star and writer rapped poignantly about the island “not-quite nation” that’s only “100 miles across,” imploring Congress to take action on behalf of the 3.5 million civilians, who are American citizens, in Puerto Rico. Miranda’s prepared to dance with Nancy Pelosi and take Paul Ryan to the theater—now that’s activism.