In this engaging and approachable book, journalist A. W. Maldonado charts the rise and fall of the Puerto Rican economy and explains how a litany of bad political and fiscal policy decisions in Washington and Puerto Rico destroyed an economic miracle.
Under Operation Bootstrap in the 1950s and '60s, the rapid transformation and industrialization of the Puerto Rican economy was considered a “wonder of human history,” a far cry from the economic “death spiral” the island’s governor described in 2015. Boom and Bust in Puerto Rico is the story of how the demise of an obscure tax policy that encouraged investment and economic growth led to escalating budget deficits and the government’s shocking default of its $70 billion debt. Maldonado also discusses the extent of the devastation from Hurricane Maria in 2017, the massive street protests during 2019, and the catastrophic earthquakes in January 2020.
After illuminating the century of misunderstanding between Puerto Rico and the United States―the root cause of the economic crisis and the island’s gridlocked debates about its political status―Maldonado concludes with projections about the future of the relationship. He argues that, in the end, the economic, fiscal, and political crises are the result of the breakdown and failure of Puerto Rican self-government. Boom and Bust in Puerto Rico is written for a wide audience, including students, economists, politicians, and general readers, all of whom will find it interesting and thought provoking.