Among the very first comments Donald Trump made about the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, almost a week after Hurricane Maria made devastated the island on September 20th, was a reference to the “billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.” Five days later, he responded to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s pleas for aid by attacking Puerto Ricans for “want[ing] everything to be done for them.” When he finally visited the island on October 2nd, he remarked that it hadn’t faced “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” chided the island for “throw[ing] our budget a little out of whack,” and parroted a hoax circulating on right-wing blogs accusing local truck drivers of refusing to distribute relief supplies.
The death toll continues to climb as much of the island suffers without adequate food, water, power, and medical care, but Trump’s grotesque attacks on the victims continued on Thursday. Again raising the specter of “a financial crisis…largely of their own making” (an insidious lie—it’s a product of Wall Street greed and colonialist exploitation by the federal government), he warned that “[w]e cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders…in P.R. forever!”
As usual, Trump is merely putting his own high-decibel spin on the quieter horror that is mainstream Republican governance. On Wednesday the White House asked Congress to approve its first aid package to Puerto Rico—not an aid package at all, but a $4.9 billion bridge loan that will only burden the island with more debt. Conservatives have for weeks been openly plotting to exploit the devastation to enact privatization schemes and other right-wing reforms. House Speaker and prissy sociopath Paul Ryan on Thursday defended Trump’s latest comments by stressing the need for Puerto Rico—where over two million hungry people are being provided only 200,000 meals per day and getting sick is currently a virtual death sentence—to “begin to stand on its own two feet.”