A man rides his bicycle through a damaged road in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, on September 24, 2017 following the passage of Hurricane Maria. (Getty/Salon)

How Donald Trump’s fixation on cutting aid to Puerto Rico exposes his purest bigotries

The president's chronic neglect and disdain for the territory likely derive from two of his core sources of bigotry

Cody Fenwick
March 27, 2019 10:53PM (UTC)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

President Donald Trump is still fixated on cutting aid to Puerto Rico as it still works to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017 — as well as from the federal government’s neglect — according to new reports.

In a meeting on Tuesday with GOP lawmakers, Trump “complained” about funding to Puerto Rico, Politico reported. It said he even showed a “chart that laid out what he views as profligate spending as the island.”


And the Washington Post reported:

Aid for Puerto Rico has long been a fixation for Trump, who has asked advisers how to reduce money for the island and signaled that he won’t support any more aid beyond food stamp funds.

At the lunch Tuesday, Trump rattled off the amount of aid that had been designated for other disaster-hit states and compared it with the amount allocated for Puerto Rico following the 2017 hurricane, which he said was too high, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private event.

At one point, he reportedly complained about the territory receiving $91 billion in aid, though it’s not clear whether this figure is accurate. According to the Post, a congressional aide said that, because of the way the funding is spent, it’s difficult to put a precise figure on how much a particular area gets.

But Trump’s intense stinginess on this issue is deeply revealing. When he’s spending other people’s money — or the federal government’s money — he’s typically not too concerned about costs. He certainly doesn’t seem to worry about the government spending too much money at his own properties.  He touts adding billions to the Defense budget, even when it’s not clear what the money is needed for. When Alabama was recently hit by tornadoes, Trump tweeted to say he had asked FEMA to give the state “A Plus treatment.”


Meanwhile, Trump’s antipathy for Puerto Rico has been demonstrated repeatedly. In one of the most callous moments of his presidency, he attacked the official death toll of Hurricane Maria on the island, estimated to be about 3,000 people, baselessly claiming it was a plot by Democrats to make him look bad. Politico also showed that, compared to his administration’s treatment of Texas following Hurricane Harvey, which came just before Maria, Trump was a lot slower and less generous in aiding Puerto Rico in the initial response efforts. And since the failure has been exposed, Trump has repeatedly attacked San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, despite the hardship she has endured.

His chronic neglect and disdain for the territory likely derive from two of his core sources of bigotry. The famously anti-immigrant president likely regards the predominantly Spanish-speaking U.S. territory much like the Latin American countries he usually stokes fears of. And second, the territory didn’t vote for him — because of course, it can’t vote in presidential elections at all. It’s another reason why the island’s status in the United States needs to be seriously re-examined — if politicians don’t have any reason at all to worry about the territory’s support, they may feel free to neglect it. Just like Trump has.

Cody Fenwick

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