Today, President Obama will sign PROMESA, a last minute attempt at helping Puerto Rico two days before the territory owes its next debt payment. The legislation is hardly perfect but in the face of default Democrats and Republicans attempted to work together for some solution. Loud opposition to the government assisting Puerto Rico has been a road block to previous legislation.
The Koch brothers have been some of the most active opponents to helping the territory restructure its debt. Several Koch allies, including donor Ken Griffin, have interests in Puerto Rico and hope to profit off the economic downturn. Leading their efforts is their Latino front group, the LIBRE Initiative. LIBRE claims it advocates for issues that benefit Latino communities; however, they lobby first and foremost for the Kochs’ agenda — meaning they regularly fight for policies that negatively affect Latino communities. LIBRE has joined the Kochs to fight against raising the minimum wage and for repealing the ACA under the guise of helping poor and impoverished people. In 2013, Charles Koch argued that eliminating the minimum wage altogether would allow for “disadvantaged and the poorest in this country… to raise themselves up.”
Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy is an issue close to home for many in the Latino community, yet LIBRE is also fighting for policies that would devastate the Commonwealth. According to a report released by LIBRE this week, they believe that Puerto Rico should have “the authority to petition the Department of Labor for relief from minimum wage restrictions,” recommending that the Fiscal Oversight Board“have the power to grant broad waivers from application of the federal minimum wage.” The same report pushes the Koch agenda on welfare saying that “benefits should be ‘flattened’ by lowering benefits for those who are not working and increasing benefits for those working at the bottom of the income ladder.” In addition the Kochs want to eliminate income taxes for Puerto Rico altogether, moving to a sales tax at least temporarily.
Eliminating the minimum wage as well as changing benefits and the tax system would only add to the devastation the island is already facing. Once again the Kochs are using their network of sketchy front groups to push extreme and dangerous policies that would hurt the communities they claim to work for and boost their own bottom line.