Presidential Debates: What Latino Civic Leaders Would Ask

By Raisa Camargo, Voxxi

Latino civic leaders are hoping both contenders in the presidential debates tonight address specific solutions on the economy and most importantly what’s it going to take to create jobs.

Both Obama and Romney have offered distinct policy proposals.

Romney’s Latino outreach message often touts his five-point plan to get the economy back on track.  In it he discusses the need to cut the federal deficit, which stands at $1.3 trillion.

The problem with curtailing the deficit for civic Latino leaders as they expressed it during a panel discussion in Washington D.C. on Tuesday titled “What’s at stake for Latino workers?” – is that it compromises other federal services that many Hispanics rely on.

Austerity alone will not get us through this next segment in terms of the economy,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza.

When asked what would be the first question she would probe the contenders tonight on she elaborated on the fiscal cliff. It’s the conundrum Congress faces at the end of the year when deciding what to do about the expiring tax breaks and across-the-board spending cuts that take effect in January.

“The end of the year budget deal. How will they ensure the end of the year deal does not increase the ranks of the unemployed?” said Murguia.

It was recently reported that slight job growth might also be due to businesses that remain “cautious out of fear a sharp tightening of the government’s budget could deliver a blow to the economic recovery early next year.”

The GOP presidential hopeful offers to reduce non-security discretionary spending by five percent, cap federal spending below twenty percent of the economy, give states more freedom to implement programs and align compensation of federal workers with their private-sector counterparts. He would also stop the Bush tax cuts from expiring.

Yet, in terms of what he would do to prevent the massive automatic cuts is still dubious.

Obama’s campaign says he will reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade, including $1 trillion in spending cuts he signed into law last summer as part of a deal with congressional Republicans. Critics contend he hasn’t been able to get both sides of Congress to strike a deal to prevent the cuts.

On job creation, it’s no less clear.

“When I travel the country and I speak with Latino families, the number one question is when are the good jobs coming back?” said Mike Periu, principal of Proximo International.

He proceeded to cite the Kauffman foundation sourcing that new job net growth for the past 35 years has come from new companies. Periu wants specifics on what both contenders are going to do to support entrepreneurs, investors and workers for start-up companies.

Obama campaign often says, “it takes time.” For the most part, the administration is sending out information reminding everyone of how the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. “Now, we’ve seen 30 consecutive months of job growth and 5.1 million new private sector jobs,” according to Obama’s campaign website.

Romney’s outline further states that Romney wants to create a Reagan Economic Zone to strengthen free trade agreements and he offers to champion small businesses through less regulation and is against stronger labor union tactics.

Yet, some panelists agreed that there needs to be reforms to allow businesses to be competitive and there should be regulation to stop cronyism.

On that note, Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO expressed his disapproval with Romney calling him “anti-worker” during the panel discussion. Trumka is in charge of the largest labor union organization.

He argued that what is often sidestepped is the Latino workforce. Latinos have a higher incident rate on safety than other ethnic and racial groups. Hispanics make up 16 percent of the nation’s workforce. They’re projected to make up about 18 percent of the overall labor force by 2018, according to the Labor Department.

Trumka said the growing workforce is struggling with lower wages. He noted that a Latino man gets paid 66 cents on the dollar for the same job his Caucuasian male would get paid.

Day Laborers deal with getting cheated out of wages on a day by day basis.

“There was a man who was a day laborer. He strikes a deal with an employer who has an asphalt company. They agree on 10 dollars an hour. The man works 12 hours and he has to be paid- the man looks at him and says you tried to steal from me. He calls the cops,” said Trumka.

“Now he is in deportation proceedings. When he is in jail he finds out there were three other people from the same company with the same scam.”

Trumka wants to know what Obama is going to do to push for fairer labor laws and an increase in wages.

Although both Obama and Romney have made their case, for the most part the panelists agreed there is still confusion on how these policies will be implemented next year.

This article was first published in Voxxi.

Raisa Camargo is a staff writer at Voxxi.

[Photo by DonkeyHotey]

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