Our nation is just two weeks away from the fiscal cliff, the series of tax increases and automatic spending cuts that threaten to derail our fragile economic recovery. If we go over the cliff, the median Hispanic family of four would see an income tax increase of $2,200. An abrupt change like this, coupled with the mindless, draconian cuts to government programs on which so many families depend, would be devastating to a Hispanic community that has been disproportionately hurt by the recent recession.

We [Hispanics] can be the difference between being led by a status quo, gridlocked government that fails to do its job and one that is able to compromise and make tough but balanced decisions

- Rafael Fantauzzi, President and CEO of the National Puerto Rican Coalition

The extreme austerity of the fiscal cliff must absolutely be averted to avoid another recession that Hispanic families and the country as a whole simply cannot afford. But we also cannot afford to ignore the unsustainable growth of our national debt and continue to kick the can down the road. According to the U.S. Census, the Hispanic population is expected to double from 53.3 million in 2012 to 128.8 million in 2060. These future generations –our children and grandchildren– will be the ones to inherit a mountain of debt if we don’t do something about it. As the Hispanic population increases, so does their buying power, which is projected to reach $1.5 trillion in the coming decades. This buying power is crucial to the U.S. economy, and it will be sorely hindered, affecting not just Hispanics but the country as a whole, if we don’t do what it takes to correct our fiscal situation speedily and effectively. Addressing this problem will require smart decisions, compromise, shared sacrifice, fairness, balance, protection for the most vulnerable among us and courage on the part of our elected leaders to put country before politics.

The Hispanic community cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while our elected leaders play a game of political brinksmanship with our economic future. There is simply too much at stake. This is why as the President and CEO of the National Puerto Rican Coalition, I am supporting the non-partisan Campaign to Fix the Debt. I support the Campaign’s efforts to urge the President and Congress to reach a bipartisan deal to avert the fiscal cliff, while also putting in place a framework for a comprehensive plan that puts our national debt on a downward trajectory relative to GDP over time. The details of this plan can be worked out in the new year, but the President and Congress should put a down payment on a big debt reduction deal now to show that they are serious about tackling this issue in a bipartisan way in 2013.

I urge other Hispanic leaders to get involved in the national debate on our country’s economic future. The 2012 election demonstrated the power of the Hispanic electorate, and we will only continue to grow in influence in the years to come. It is time to take our seat at the table and make our voices heard on perhaps the most important issue affecting our country’s long term economic future – our national debt.

As the prominence and influence of Hispanics grows, we can be the difference between being led by a status quo, gridlocked government that fails to do its job and one that is able to compromise and make tough but balanced decisions for the good of the country. Hispanics have always played an integral part in the development of this country, and will continue to do their part to ensure that America prospers and for that to happen, we must fix the debt. We owe it to our communities, to our children and to our future.

Rafael A. Fantauzzi is the President & CEO of the National Puerto Rican Coalition (NPRC) and a Board Member of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR).   

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