"TBT - The Trouble With Islands Controlled by the U.S. Part 1 - Puerto Rico"

Some of you are aware that the United States has control of several islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Most of those properties were acquired in the old fashion way - by conquest. We got the Trust Territories of the Pacific by defeating Japan and we took Puerto Rico from Spain.

During the early '80s I spent half my time in Puerto Rico exporting live plants to Miami. It took a couple months to find good workers. Puerto Ricans - unless they worked for the bureaucracy (government jobs) or had a small business - most are on welfare and food stamps. The work I needed done in the plant nursery was physically demanding and I needed dependable guys - so it took 50 some 'try-outs' to end up with 7 good hard workers. I must of said: "You are fired" as much as Donald Trump!

Still - there was one more problem. Most of the work required pealing leaves off the trunks of plant cuttings before shipment. To work efficiently required both hands and the guys liked to talk while working, and being Latin, they gestured with their hands a lot when talking. That seriously slowed production because they were working with only one hand and using the other for conversation! I solved the problem by requiring them to not talk while working - they only had to work 50 minutes and then they could stop working and just talk for the last ten minutes of every hour.

But the workers had a special request too. No one would work on the books. They wanted their $7/hour salary off the books so they could still get their welfare checks and food stamps! Well - when in Rome . . . . Hey - they were good workers and I had no problem with that arrangement.

The people of the island were very friendly and often showed great generosity to me personally. One explanation offered to me about the cooperation and hospitality I received had to do with the fact that I was not a Puerto Rican. That jealousy, rivalry and envy of one another on the island often made it more difficult for any locals to get ahead financially. I have seen that happen before in small towns and other islands. This might be one of the reasons I always like being the outsider or foreigner?

Interesting too is the 'domestic help' situation. They would smuggle people over from the Dominican Republic to be cheap maids and helpers. And as we now know the Dominicans have been exploiting the cheap workers from Haiti forever. I guess that puts Haiti at the bottom of the totem pole. So U.S. taxpayer funds allocated to welfare payments in Puerto Rico are then paid out to helpers from the Dominican Republic who send that money to DR and it is in turn spent on Haitians who send it home to Haiti. Convoluted foreign aid?

All of this money sent to Puerto Rico used to be justified by our need to maintain a large military presence in the Caribbean, with several bases on Puerto Rico. But George W. Bush needed money for new wars of occupation in the Middle East and closed the major bases in PR - one of several reasons the island is in deep economic trouble today. If Puerto Rico could go bankrupt - they would! Maybe they are waiting to see what happens to Greece?