Like most voters, Latinos cited jobs and the economy as their greatest concern in the days leading up to the election . The pressing importance of these issues led to an historic turnout of Hispanic voters in the 2012 election and overwhelming support for President Obama’s reelection. In the post-election period, Latinos are looking to our nation’s leadership to pursue policies that spur economic growth and keep us on the path to recovery. That progress, however, will be in jeopardy if our nation falls off the dreaded fiscal cliff on January 2, 2013, the day that deep spending cuts automatically go into effect and middle-class tax cuts expire. Most economists agree that if a compromise is not reached before then, we are more than likely to experience a double-dip recession, slower growth, and rising unemployment.
Latinos have a great deal at stake in the debate over the fiscal cliff. Not only are Hispanics a growing share of the electorate that will continue to amplify its voice in the political process, they are an increasingly vital force in our economy. Latino children make up slightly more than one in five of all students enrolled in America’s public schools. In the near future, three out of five laborers will be Latino. This means that investing in those future workers today will have an indelible impact on the strength and competiveness of our nation’s economy.
I recently attended a meeting with President Obama and my fellow national civil rights leaders to discuss the fiscal cliff. We presented a unified message on behalf of those who work for minority communities: we need to protect the most vulnerable among us in this process, and we should not raise taxes on working and middle-class families. Balancing the budget on the backs of these people will only widen the opportunity gap that already exists.
Recent surveys show that Latinos support a balanced, fair, and shared approach to deficit reduction. In an impreMedia/Latino Decisions poll , nearly half of Hispanic voters supported both revenue generation and targeted spending cuts.
The impact of the fiscal cliff would be felt immediately. It is estimated that over two million Americans will lose unemployment benefits and the average middle-class family would see an increase of approximately $2,000 in taxes. For Latinos, who face a higher unemployment rate (10%) than the national average, suffered disproportionately from the foreclosure crisis , and are especially vulnerable to the effects of the fiscal cliff, the struggle to stay afloat will become unbearable.
Latinos want the president to keep his commitment to fostering a fair economy. That means we do not turn our backs on the sick and the hungry. Rather, we must continue to nurture the social contract that has existed through the generations by making long-term investments that will shape a stable and growing economy. Cutting those investments is near-sighted and will shortchange not only our community but the long-term prosperity of our entire nation.
Our nation has a long and proud history of fostering opportunities to join and maintain the ranks of the middle class. We must maintain this tradition if we want to honor those core values that have helped pave opportunities for America’s Latinos.