February 3, 2006

Commentary

Hispanic State of the Union Under President Bush

Latinos deserve better than disingenuous promises

By Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano

“Last night (January 31), President Bush spoke to the nation about the state of the union while painting an optimistic picture of what’s to come. Today, the Hispanic community must look beyond the rhetoric of his speech to see the appalling track record he has established with our community since he took office. Tonight, the average working class Latino will go to sleep with a low-wage job, with no health insurance or adequate healthcare, without a high school diploma or college degree, and with less disposable income to afford either the insurance or the degree — all this because of policies that make it harder for Latinos to succeed. 

Latinos must decide that enough is enough. With rising health care costs, skyrocketing heating bills, bigger bills at the pump, and an out of control national deficit, Latinos, literally, cannot afford to be fooled by flowery language of prosperity for all when clearly the American Dream of self-sufficiency is becoming harder and harder to attain. The mounting cost of living and the unfulfilled promises of a better future demonstrate the leadership of this Administration has failed all the hard working people of this country, not just Latinos. The Administration puts the wants and needs of big corporations and powerful special interests above the American people. Why, Mr. President, would you let big business make larger than life profits on the backs of people who earn little to nothing working overtime, who probably have a second job, who have bills stacking up, who have children to send to school, and who have parents who can’t afford their medications?

The Hispanic community should be outraged that during his tenure the President has pursued policies that directly hurt the Latino community in mind, body and soul. For example, today Congress is expected to again vote on a Republican crafted budget that reduces funding or increases fees for key programs that provide basic services in student aid, healthcare, and nutrition assistance. These programs are vital for Latino families that are already struggling to get by. Last night the President called for an immigration system that “upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy.” Yet before Congress recessed in December, Republicans engaged in a nasty drive to promote an extreme, mean-spirited and anti-immigrant bill that has little to do with growing our economy or securing our nation’s borders. Instead the bill demonizes and punishes our nation’s hardworking immigrant community. Are these the American values the President was talking about?

In his speech, the President also talked about the American Competitiveness Initiative and about training 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science. What is disheartening to know is that while Republicans talk the talk on education they cut funding for No Child Left Behind and its drop-out prevention and after-school programs that help keep minority and disadvantage children in school so they can actually make it into high school. It’s a little hard to teach kids if they aren’t in the classroom. Isn’t it, Mr. President?

The President and the Republicans in Congress are being disingenuous about helping our community when they consistently take actions that undermine our ability to move ahead in life. As the fastest growing minority group in the country - as the base of not only the American workforce but of our military — Latinos will greatly influence the direction of our nation’s economic growth, our ability to compete in the global market, and our national security. It’s a simple observation that ensuring Latinos are educated, skilled and healthy will directly translate into an America that is strong and secure.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) believes America needs a new direction where an individual’s hard work and perseverance is valued above special interests, privilege and power. Throughout the thirty year history of the CHC, our members have worked tirelessly to help the Hispanic community rise above the obstacles that keep our community from achieving the America Dream. The CHC has fought to stop budget cuts in education and has worked to fully fund the President’s No Child Left Behind Act that even his party has voted to slash. The CHC has pushed for healthcare equality working with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) to introduce legislation that addresses the disparity gap in minority communities. The CHC has worked to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that is realistic, enforceable and respects the contributions of all immigrant communities. As we move into 2006, the CHC will continue to fight so everyone has a chance at the America Dream because we truly believe America can do better.”

A few alarming facts and figures about the Hispanic State of the Union under President Bush:

Economy

Over the last five years, the number of Hispanics living in poverty has grown by more than 1 million. 

Median household income of Hispanic families is down over $2, 000 since the President took office.

Healthcare

In 2004, the number of Hispanics without health insurance climbed to almost 14 million. Over 21% of Hispanic children lack health insurance.

For the past 5 years, health care costs have increased by nearly 60%

Energy Costs

Average family using heating oil or natural gas will pay double what they paid in 2001-2002, the first winter President Bush was in office.

Education

At a time when college costs are up 46% since 2001, Republicans are pushing historic cuts in the student loan program

Immigration

Last year, a record 460 undocumented immigrants died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border between October 1, 2004 and September 30, 2005.

Between 1999 and 2004, the number of agents in the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol increased by 56 percent, while the number of arrests increased by only 4 percent. 

Congresswoman Napolitano serves as the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is comprised of 21 members of Congress of Hispanic descent.

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