John Oliver turned his attention southward on Last Week Tonight to discuss Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory is in a massive financial crisis, facing nearly $70 billion in debt, with a poverty rate of nearly 45%. “Puerto Rico is like the last Tower Records: everything’s overpriced, everyone’s being laid off, and there is still a really weird number of Ricky Martin CDs,” said Oliver.
In a somber speech, the governor of Puerto Rico stated that the debt situation was not just an election ploy, saying: “This is not politics, this is math.” That means the situation must really be serious, because, as Oliver noted, “‘This is math’ is one of the most dread-inducing sentences in the English language.”
To make matters worse, Puerto Rico has no access to bankruptcy protection due to a mysterious piece of Congressional legislation, there was a collapse of industry on the island, there are so-called vulture hedge funds circling, and there’s a Constitutional provision that requires repayment of debt before covering fundamental needs like schools and hospitals.
Puerto Rico’s debt is seemingly insurmountable, and as Oliver noted, 3.5 million Americans need relief from law suits and debt. “We have to start treating [Puerto Rico] like an island of American citizens whose fate is interwoven with ours,” said Oliver.
Of course, Puerto Rico is not without supporters trying to bring attention to its plight. Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda, the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, even offered Congress tickets to his hit musical if they would help his home territory. As Oliver pointed out, Congress should have taken him up on it, because “it’s easier for a meerkat to get into Harvard Law School than it is to get into that show.”
To further make his point, Oliver invited Miranda to sing a rhyming plea to help the “commonwealth without a lot of wealth.”