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Election Day holds high stakes for Hispanics

Election Day holds high stakes for Hispanics
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For Hispanics in the United States, next month's presidential election could hardly have higher stakes.

From education costs to healthcare coverage, from tax policy to deportation, the plans outlined by Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarter Page files defamation lawsuit against DNC Dems fear party is headed to gutter from Avenatti’s sledgehammer approach Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE and Republican Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE are a case study in contrasting philosophies, all of which could have enormous effects on the economic well-being of the roughly 55 million Hispanics living in the United States.

“It's night and day,” said Javier Palomarez, head of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Clinton.

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While Hispanics were among the hardest hit by the economic downturn, they have also been among the fastest to rebound. Latinos in the United States now have $1.75 trillion in annual purchasing power, according to the Hispanic Chamber.

There are 26 million Latinos in the workforce, and the average Latino worker, at 37 years old, is younger than the average white worker, who is 45. 

The average age for Hispanics in general is 27, which means more young Latinos are poised to join the workforce than ever before. Younger Latinos tend to be better educated than previous generations, and 1 in 5 Hispanics are entering the workforce in management or professional roles.

A recent report by market intelligence firm Geoscape said Latino-owned businesses are growing at 2.2 times the rate of U.S. businesses in general.

But Latinos, particularly those who are undocumented immigrants, are disproportionately vulnerable to economic pressures.

The campaign conversation surrounding Hispanics has been dominated by immigration, largely due to Trump's hard-line enforcement approach and his vows to deport millions of undocumented people. It's a strategy he's trumpeted from the very launch of his campaign and one that stands in stark contrast to Clinton's plans, which promote a pathway to citizenship and an expansion of President Obama's programs scaling back deportations.

For that reason, the Hispanic debate — and the race for Hispanic voters — has taken on a decidedly partisan hue, with Clinton enjoying a 50-point lead over the GOP nominee, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Stan Veuger, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said because so many Hispanic families have relatives and friends who are undocumented, the immigration debate simply “can't be separated” from other policy arenas destined to impact Hispanics economically.

Still, such arenas are plentiful.

And the candidates' bald differences when it comes to prescriptions for expanding healthcare, promoting higher education, reforming the tax code and creating jobs would indisputably impact an Hispanic population that's both younger and poorer than the country as a whole.

Take healthcare. No racial demographic has benefitted more than Hispanics from the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature domestic-policy achievement enacted in 2010.

Under ObamaCare, 4.2 million Latinos have gained health coverage, according to administration figures, while more than 900,000 Latinos aged 19 to 26 have kept coverage under their parents' plans — coverage that likely would have been dropped prior to the law. 

And while the Hispanic uninsured rate of 28 percent still soars above the national 11 percent figure, it marks a double-digit drop — and a historic low — from the rate before ObamaCare launched in 2013, according to Gallup.

The statistics lend some explanation why Hispanics and other minority groups view ObamaCare more favorably than the nation at large. Indeed, 57 percent of Hispanics support the law, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted earlier in the year, versus just 33 percent of whites.

Trump, echoing most Republicans, has vowed to repeal ObamaCare in full, replacing it with a system encouraging personal health savings accounts and allowing the freer sale of insurance plans across state lines. He considers ObamaCare “a disaster,” arguing that his plan will improve coverage and care for everyone by tapping free markets. 

Many Hispanics think differently, endorsing Clinton's plan to preserve ObamaCare's core patient protections while tweaking those provisions in need of improvement. The result of Trump's repeal plan, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) told The Hill, would be to “throw a lot of young Latino families out into the street without health insurance.”

ObamaCare also aimed to require states to expand Medicaid eligibility — a move shot down by the Supreme Court but one many states have adopted voluntarily. Trump opposes that top-down approach, proposing instead to fund Medicaid through block grants, which is effectively a cut to the state-federal program catering to the poorest patients in the country. Because Hispanics tend to have lower incomes than typical households, Veuger said, Trump's plan to scale back Medicaid would affect Hispanics disproportionately.

The candidates' tax policies also diverge significantly. Trump has offered across-the-board tax cuts on all incomes, reducing costs for the average taxpayer by roughly $3,000 next year, according to analysts at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. But those cuts lean heavily in favor of the country's highest earners, who would see an average cut of almost $1.1 million, or 14 percent, versus the poorest households, which would get an average benefit of $110, or 0.8 percent, according to the TPC.

Clinton has not proposed cuts in income tax rates, instead pushing tax hikes on the highest earners and offering a string of tax credits aimed at middle- and low-income families. Her proposal to expand the child tax credit, for instance, would provide a $2,000 credit for each child under the age of five — double the current figure. Another proposal to cap child care costs at 10 percent of family income would similarly offer the most benefit to low-income Americans. 

Trump's alternative proposal, for a child care deduction, would provide little or no benefit to the low-income families, according to the TPC.

Eric Rodríguez, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, told The Hill tax credits are the right tool to address the broad wealth and income gaps between Latinos and whites.

“Latinos today still have eight cents on the dollar of wealth of a white person,” said Rodríguez. “White workers in their forties who have graduated from high school but have no post secondary education have more wealth than Latinos in their thirties and forties with post secondary education.”

More millennial Latinos are going to college, but their ability to create wealth is being delayed by student debt. Hispanics are the youngest demographic in the country — 32 percent of Latinos are millennials, compared to 19 percent of whites.

La Raza is pushing for a higher minimum wage and worker protections as an answer to income inequality in addition to a deep reform of the tax code.

Under current policies, it argues that even modest wealth creation is beyond reach for many vulnerable low-income workers with volatile sources of revenue.

This is a particular problem for Hispanics.

“Low pay is a systemic problem in the domestic work industry," said Andrea Cristina Mercado, the National Domestic Workers' Alliance campaign director. “While undocumented Latinas are the lowest paid demographic, even when Latinas do have their documents and they’re working in the sector, they’re often paid really low wages.”

Labor exploitation is common in many industries but much more prevalent among undocumented workers who have fewer legal protections.

The NDWA has pushed through worker protection laws in seven states, but Mercado said that “to reduce the most significant cases of abuse it’s going to require immigration policy.”

As a result, while immigration is not the top economic concern for Hispanics, Palomarez said it has “immeasurable” implications for the economy.

If Clinton, who is ahead in polls in the presidential race, defeats Trump, Hispanics will want to see her carry through on pledges to do something on immigration.

“I think that’s where Hillary’s challenges are. And that’s where my challenge is: To continue to engage her and her administration and say, 'This cannot be put on the back burner anymore,’” said Palomarez.


 

This is part of the Latino Economy series sponsored by the Libre Initiative