A new survey by The Libre Initiative of U.S. Hispanics and Latinos tells a tale of shrinking confidence in the next generation of Hispanic Americans to be financially better off. A majority believe the persistent adverse economic conditions, the current unsustainability of government spending, government cronyism and the unfettered regulatory overreach are taking the country in the wrong direction and making the American dream less attainable.
Political sentiments aside for now, of fundamental concern is the negative outlook Hispanics now have of achieving the American dream and the shrinking prospects they have of opening up a business someday. Alarmingly, a majority (51 percent) say it is harder to open a business in America today compared to 4 years ago, and the data also shows that a majority (52 percent) now fear that the next generation will not be able to achieve the American dream. Similarly, a majority of respondents (51 percent) believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Regardless of how you parse the numbers, these results are bad. Nothing contributes more to the proposition of American exceptionalism than steadfast optimism and a resolute belief that its citizens will be rewarded for working hard, saving and investing, and taking entrepreneurial risks. But when that belief erodes because political spenders punish those that work and reward those that don’t; when professional politicians increasingly hinder small business owners with onerous regulations that limit creativity, innovation, and expansion; and when the current Administration punishes job creators by rejecting badly needed projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline only to gamble away hard earned taxpayer dollars on a bankrupt California energy company like Solyndra; the can-do spirit of its people begins to erode as well.
Of particular necessity is the assurance of open competition in the marketplace, the freedom of businesses to hire and fire workers, and the need for greatly reduced government interventions that have served to distort true prices in the market. That is, to avoid a future of debt, doubt and despair, we must restore the principles of economic freedom that reward hard work and accountability. Anything short will only increase the anxiousness and disquiet beginning to spread throughout the Hispanic community.
It all marks back to the dismal job market that nose-dived in 2007, and the Administration’s ineffectiveness to deliver on promises it would reverse the trend. Currently, the Department of Labor figures show Hispanics suffer from an official unemployment rate of 10.7 percent, which is higher than the national rate of 8.2 percent. The government reported the economy added 120,000 jobs in March, just half of the jobs that were expected. Of course, the personal economic ruin suffered disproportionately by the Hispanic community as a result of the housing market collapse, and having the highest poverty rates of any other group, has not helped restore optimism.
Although the results show President Barack Obama retains an overall 58 percent approval rating among Hispanics, his concern should be that much of this support is due to mainly to his own personal popularity, as the same survey indicates the majority of those polled do not approve of the way he has managed the economy, high gas prices, and runaway government spending. Fifty two percent of Hispanics, for example, disapprove of the job President Obama is doing in handling the rise in gas prices and just 34 percent approve.
Furthermore, a full 85 percent of Hispanics say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about Washington’s current levels of spending and debt, according to the survey (the poll has accuracy rate of plus or minus 4.5 percent). Despite President Obama’s overtures for increased spending, a 54 percent majority of Hispanics say the higher priority of the federal government right now should be a reduction in spending to shrink the deficit while just 36 percent say more spending is the answer.
Today, significant doubts remain of the economy improving anytime soon, and with regard to the community’s ability to weather further continuance of the dismal economy. The Case Shiller index of home prices has dropped 36 percent since June 2006. This collapse in home prices - coupled with the massive number of Hispanics suffering loan foreclosure of their homes - leaves many unable to turn to home equity loans and refinancing as options that gave them a boost in the past.
Not surprisingly, the new data, commissioned by The Libre Initiative, also found that 51 percent of Hispanic respondents identified jobs and the economy as America’s most pressing problem, and only 27 percent indicated their individual condition had improved in the last 4 years.
It would seem President Barack Obama does not appear to suffer significantly from the Hispanic community’s dismal view of America’s current economic condition as 59 percent say they are currently planning to vote for President Obama in the upcoming presidential elections while only 31 percent say they will be voting for the Republican candidate.
My sense is Hispanics have been patiently waiting for the turnaround because they genuinely like President Obama and truly desire he do well. They have also bought President Obama’s line that Republican obstructionism has had more to do with continuing stagnation, than his own policies. All the same, the Administration’s disappointing results and inaction on immigration may well prove to be the President’s Achilles’ heel in what promises to be the mother of all elections.
To put it bluntly, when the unemployment level of the American labor pool remains above the 8 percent mark for an unprecedented 50 straight months, it is not enough for the sitting president to say these results persist despite “sound” policies presumably advanced by his administration. As the election heats up, the Hispanic electorate may be persuaded to pin the continued stagnation directly to the President’s own disastrous policies as the root cause of the systemic failure that have kept our economy from rebounding.
I say disastrous because his policies have focused on increasing spending and growing government on the backs of small business owners and hardworking Americans struggling to make ends meet. This approach does not grow the economy, it grows government - it also grows the burden on the American people to sustain it. The poll indicates this approach does not have the support of the Hispanic community as 85 percent said they are very concerned (56 percent) or somewhat concerned (29 percent) about the federal government’s current level of spending and debt. Only six percent of Hispanics said they are not too concerned, and just eight percent are not concerned at all.
What is clear is that Hispanics believe our leaders must set aside their own political interests, stop dividing Americans on the immigration issue, and work to advance real solutions, real jobs and real gowth. And even though a majority of Hispanics now believe that the future will not improve if we continue on the current path, they also know that decline is not inevitable.
In this election cycle, Hispanics will be looking to support liberty-oriented candidates and policies aimed at achieving personal economic security for their children, for themselves, and for every American.
And isn’t that what the American Dream is all about?
*The poll was conducted by The Tarrance Group. The findings include data from a sample of N=500 Hispanic voters (in English and Spanish) throughout the country. Interviews were conducted over the telephone from March 13-19, 2012, and the margin of error for this type of sample is =/- 4.5%.
Daniel Garza was formerly Associate Director at the Office of Public Liaison for The White House. He is currently the Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative. You can learn more about The LIBRE Initiative by visiting their website at www.thelibreinitiative.com , liking their facebook page “The LIBRE Initiative” or following them on twitter @libreinitiative
Daniel Garza is the Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative and former White House staffer from 2001-2006.