By Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR
Two weeks ago, Congress steer us away from the so-called fiscal cliff and many of us thought we were out of danger, yet the threat is greater than ever. The agreement, which prevented tax hikes on working families, raised taxes on the affluent, and extended unemployment insurance, was a good deal for hardworking, taxpaying Latinos, but lawmakers disagreed on spending cuts and fell well short of the $3.7 trillion needed to stabilize the debt. Congress and the President now have two months to work out a deal or face automatic cuts in sensitive areas of the budget that will affect both parties—and millions of Americans.
Experts predict that by March the government will run out of cash to pay its bills. Since we need congressional approval to borrow money, negotiators need to work fast.
The Latino vote flexed its muscle in the presidential election and Congress now has more Latino representatives than ever. However, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives pledge to withhold support for lifting the debt ceiling unless all of the savings come from spending cuts to programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—programs that many Latinos depend on to survive. On the other hand, the White House seeks a split between increased tax revenue and cuts to spending.
Once the fiscal cliff was “avoided,” many Hispanic leaders and voters may have understandably turned their attention toward immigration reform, another urgent national priority, but it may be perilous to look past the fiscal debate. Negotiators should know that Latinos haven’t left the table and our economic, educational, and health interests are not bargaining chips. A good deal would balance taxes and spending, including through investments that generate economic growth and create jobs. This will improve Latinos’ financial outlook by maintaining economic ladders that move families out of poverty and into the middle class. A good deal would do no harm and protect the vulnerable among us. Hispanic leaders and voters should expect to be heard in this debate, and we must do all we can to ensure that negotiators continue to hear us.