November 26, 2008

Fat Cows and Thin Cows

By Javier Sierra

Just like in the Bible, our country is coming out of a dream, or rather a nightmare, in which we saw seven thin cows eating seven fat cows. The biblical fable, which announces seven years of prosperity, could well be suggesting that the end of the nightmare has a date, Jan. 20, 2009.

And judging by the state of the nation, the end arrives not a minute too soon. We look around and see the ruins of what eight years ago was a great, prosperous and proud country ready for the challenges of the 21st century.

But in January 2001, the fat cows ate the thin ones; that is, the Bush administration took over, starting a steep decline in every sense of the word. Today, the losses of homes, life savings and jobs are the worst since the Great Depression. We find ourselves entangled in two seemingly endless wars. Our global prestige lies in the mud, and the environment is under siege.

But when Americans went to the polls on Nov. 4, they clearly understood that we had to make a 180 degree change. And Latino voters responded resoundingly. President-Elect Barack Obama owes his title not only to quite possibly the best presidential campaign in history, but also to the Latino vote. More than two thirds of us voted for him.

And regardless of the fact that voter turnout practically matched that of 2004, Latino participation increased by an astounding 25 percent, from 7.5 million to 10 million voters. According to Federico Peña, Obama’s National Campaign Co-Chairman, “without the Latino vote we would not have won” in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico or Florida. And what should worry Republicans even more: the voters of the future – young Latinos – went 80 percent for Obama.

The most powerful engine that drove Latinos to the polls was the disastrous economic situation. Days before the election, the unemployment rate among Latinos was 8.8 percent, 2.3 points higher than the general population. Also, remittances going back to their countries of origin took a dive this year for the first time since recordkeeping began.

Latino voters saw in Obama’s economic plan the light at the end of the tunnel. The president elect is now preparing to launch the most ambitious energy renewal plan in history.

Obama plans to invest $150 billion in the next ten years in the development and deployment of clean and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal. This transformation includes the creation of 5 million new green jobs in industries such as construction and manufacturing that employ millions of Latinos. The initiative also includes weatherizing one million homes per year, a job that will require the hiring of tens of thousands of workers for jobs that cannot be outsourced.

All this will help generate 10 percent of our electric power from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.

We need prosperity but also clean air. By 2015 Obama’s plan will put one million plug-in hybrids on the country’s roads that will yield up to 150 miles per gallon. All these moves will help us eliminate all the oil that we import from the Persian Gulf. The plan will also curb our global warming emissions by 80 percent by 2050, the goal scientists tell us we must reach to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.

But Republicans and their allies are already trying to play the wet blanket. After posting the greatest profits in American corporate history —Exxon-Mobil alone made almost $15 billion in profits in the last quarter— Big Oil announced it’s about to launch a multi-million-dollar national campaign to defend the subsidies and tax breaks it has amassed in the last eight years. Also, in recent days the White House has further weakened laws that protect endangered species.

But something tells me after Obama’s landslide victory, the ones in danger of extinction are Washington’s sacred cows.

Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Visit

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