John Oliver and the staff at Last Week Tonight focused their attention on the huge financial crisis currently facing Puerto Rico last night, with some help from Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda. The US Territory is facing $70 billion dollars of debt, with nearly 45% of their citizens living in poverty. The Governor of Puerto Rico spoke about the situation, saying "this is not politics, this is math". Oliver quipped that "'this is math' is one of the most dread-inducing sentences in the English language".
In some situations, a territory could turn to bankruptcy protection, in order to continue providing for its citizens. Unfortunately, this isn't an option available to Puerto Rico, due to a bizarre provision in an unrelated bill, passed in 1984. The situation is worsening, and because of a Constitutional provision in place, the territory must repay their debt before funding social needs, like schools and hospitals.
There is currently a bipartisan bill being considered in Congress, but there is also a massive misinformation campaign underway hoping to convince voters to discourage their representatives for voting in favour of the bill. They're calling it a "bail out", and stating that to do so would be financially detrimental, even disastrous, to the United States. The campaign doesn't mention the crisis already faced by many of those in Puerto Rico, who face unemployment, high taxes, and a constant struggle to survive.
Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose parents came to New York from Puerto Rico, spoke to Congress, imploring they do something to help the situation.
We have a humanitarian crisis on our hands. We face a financial crisis that triples anything you've experienced in the United States. It is a solvable, fixable crisis, and what we really need is help from Congress. What we need is the ability to restructure and get Puerto Rico out of the hole it's in.
Miranda even offered members of Congress tickets to Hamilton, which are nearly impossible to get, if it would give them any incentive to help the territory out.
Oliver ended the segment by telling viewers that "3.5 Americans are facing a dire crisis right now, and the clock is ticking", and encouraging them to view the territory as "an island of American citizens whose fate is interwoven with ours". He also acknowledged that "there are certainly better voices than mine to speak on behalf of Puerto Rico", and called out Miranda to perform a new rap song written about the situation and sung directly to Congress.
Hoping to God John Oliver's comical dissertation resonates with the Congress that got us in this situation. Along with suicidal tax incentive declarations, 'yeah we'll pay your bonds first, close the hospital, fuck the patients'. This is an island, 100 miles across. A hurricane is coming and we're running up a loss...Paul Ryan, I'll come sing Hamilton at your house, I'll do-si-do with Pelosi, I'll wear my Hamilton blouse...Our citizens are suffering, stop the bleeding, stop the loss. Help Puerto Rico, it's just 100 miles across!
Watch the clip below, including Miranda's amazing performance, and encourage your representative to vote for this legislation. It's a terrible crisis with no real way out for those who live in the US territory. Last Week Tonight returns next week at 11:00pm on HBO.