John Oliver devoted his Sunday episode of “Last Week Tonight” to the massive debt crisis in Puerto Rico, capping his investigation with an impressive freestyle rap by one of this year’s biggest stars, “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Oliver explored the origin of the island’s $70 billion public debt, which has yielded a 45 percent poverty rate in the commonwealth that’s home to 3.5 million American citizens.
But the HBO host capped his investigation with a performance by Miranda, the son of Puerto Rican parents and winner of the Pulitzer Prize last week for his hit Broadway show about founding father Alexander Hamilton.
“Hoping to God John Oliver‘s comical dissertation resonates with the Congress that got us in this situation along with suicidal tax incentive declarations,” Miranda rapped of the many Congressional actions that led to the latest crisis.
“Yeah, we’ll pay your bonds first — close the hospital, [bleep] the patients,” he continued, a reference to Congressional mandates that force the island to repay bondholders ahead of fulfilling basic governmental functions.
He noted how Congress had brought a flood of industry to Puerto Rico through tax incentives that were abruptly ended a decade ago just as the Great Recession kicked in. “We got here through a million misguided loopholes, that giveth and take away businesses and poop in our soup bowls,” he sang.
Like Oliver, Miranda brushed aside the ongoing controversy over whether Puerto Rico should become its own state, an independent nation or remain in its commonwealth limbo. “The great debate over statehood will have to wait,” he noted. “That’s Rose and Jack on the Titanic asking, ‘When’s our next date?'”
“The ship is sinking, we have to save the patient that matters. Then we’ll figure out our Facebook relationship status.”
Miranda summarized the situation: “To recap, 3.5 million American civilians are on the hook for billions. Vulture funds are circling and lobbying for pay-out. There’s nothing left to tax or cut. We’re stuck, we need a way out.”
He then pleaded with Congress for new legislation for relief from the current debt crisis — “not a bailout, but relief,” he sang.
And then he upped the stakes. “Paul Ryan, I’ll come sing ‘Hamilton’ at your house. I’ll dosey-doe with Pelosi, I’ll wear my ‘Hamilton’ blouse.”