D. Dowd Muska


Was It Latinos Who Broke America?

March 13, 2014

To the populist right, it’s the final step in Barack Obama’s scheme to destroy our once-great nation.

The president’s plan for immigration reform would grant “undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else.”

Immigration restrictionists believe that placing millions of mostly Mexican illegal aliens on “a pathway to citizenship” will buy votes for the Democratic Party and accelerate America’s lurch toward European-style Unlimited Government.

Charge #1 is debatable. Charge #2 is downright dodgy.

First, a quick question for tea partiers of all stripes: What’s the value in shielding the Republican Party from ballot-box threats? Conservatism has little to show for its investment in the GOP. Ronald Reagan couldn’t eliminate a single cabinet-level bureaucracy, Newt Gingrich’s “revolution” imploded, and George W. Bush tried to match LBJ’s feverish expansion of the federal “public” sector. (Ohio Governor John Kasich, a former fiscal warrior in Washington, recently invoked “Saint Peter” in his defense of expanding Medicaid: “[H]e’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he’s going to ask you what you did for the poor. You’d better have a good answer.”)

Notwithstanding pesky political realities, let’s go with the notion that Latinos are good for the Democratic Party. It’s tough to refute, if scanned through the prism of presidential elections. In the modern era, Republican nominees have crested 40 percent of the Latino vote just once. But the party has fielded some appallingly unappealing candidates -- e.g., George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney -- in recent decades. Shouldn’t the nominees bear much of the blame?

On Capitol Hill, the story isn’t so simple. The ratio of Democrats to Republicans for Latino congressmen is 27:8. It’s 1:2 in the Senate, and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are top-tier contenders for the GOP’s presidential nod in 2016. At the state level, the premise that a “browner” America spells electoral doom for Republicans almost disintegrates. Texas has nearly doubled its share of Latinos in the last 30 years, while the Lone Star State has grown redder. The nation’s two Latino governors are Republicans. (In New Mexico, Susana Martinez’s ethnicity is nearly the majority. Latinos comprise more than a quarter of the population in Brian Sandoval’s Nevada.) Last November, Chris Christie won 51 percent of New Jersey’s Latino vote. Univision viewership, it’s worth noting, can be quite thin in moonbat states. Vermont, Minnesota, Hawaii, and Maine are deep blue, with infinitesimal numbers of Latinos.

Politics matters, of course, but culture has far more impact. Dissect the habits and principles of America’s Latinos, and talk-radio gabbers’ stereotypes begin to shatter. Welfare is a good place to start. “No amnesty!” activists frequently claim that taxpayers bear an intolerable burden for loose borders. Last year, the Cato Institute examined the data, and concluded that “low-income non-citizen immigrants are less likely to receive public benefits than low-income native-born citizens and … the value of benefits received per recipient is less for the immigrant groups.”

Looking at all residents, legal and otherwise, by race/ethnicity and gender, Latino men post the highest workforce-participation rate. At 78.1 percent, the cohort significantly surpasses the rates for black (64.2 percent) and white (71.3 percent) males. Latino women are not job-seeking superstars, but that’s because many refuse to contract out the raising of their children. Solid family and community bonds contribute to the “Latino paradox.” As newer arrivals, residents who trace their origins to Central and South America have below-average incomes and subpar school-completion rates. Yet their health is as good as, if not superior, to both whites and blacks, in metrics including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and infant mortality.

Hardworking men, women who care for their children, healthy social capital. Who do these Latinos think they are, Luis and Sofia Cleaver?

Many in the liberty movement realize that putting America’s second-largest racial/ethnic group in the crosshairs isn’t helpful. Others wallow in baseless -- and frankly, bigoted -- shibboleths of welfare dependency and resistance to assimilation. But demagoguery doesn’t invalidate the truth that Latinos played no role in the New Deal, aren’t responsible for the Great Society, and made only a small contribution to the Bush-Obama fiscal and economic catastrophes.

Serious responses are needed, now, to the twin crises of family fragmentation and government insolvency. Instead of spreading myths, hurling accusations, and slamming gates, it’s time to ask Latinos how they can help.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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