Dems brush off unemployment rate, say Hispanics will reject Trump in 2020

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Hispanic unemployment is at an all-time low, but Democrats say that won’t matter when it comes to the 2020 presidential race.

Democrats say they are confident Hispanics will turn out in force to oppose President Trump regardless of who wins their party’s nomination. They add that Trump’s argument that the economy is lifting all boats won’t translate into a large number of Hispanic votes — partly because of opposition to the president’s policies and partly because Hispanics aren’t being helped by the economy as much as Trump and Republicans say. 

{mosads}“You have people that are still facing some tough financial situations. This is a community that by and large, is not strongly invested in the stock market, for example,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “So Wall Street doing well doesn’t mean that a vast majority of Latino families are doing well, unfortunately.”

Republicans scoff at those claims.

“Paychecks are growing at the fastest pace in a decade, and for those in the lower half of the income bracket, they are growing twice as fast,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump 2020 campaign.

Daniel Garza, president of the Libre Initiative, a conservative Hispanic organization within mega-donor Charles Koch’s political network, said “there’s no doubt” that economic growth is prompting significant wage increases, home purchases and “real wealth creation.”

“I know there’s a false trope on the left to call it trickle-down economics, but we see it as an economy where wealth permeates from the top up, bottom down and middle out,” said Garza.

In January 2009, the Hispanic unemployment rate was 10.1 percent when President Obama was sworn into office. The rate was 5.8 percent in the month Trump was inaugurated, and last month it fell to a record low of 4.2 percent. However, Democratic presidential candidates say Trump doesn’t deserve credit — Obama does.

Trump won 28 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2016, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. That compared favorably to 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s 27 percent and was a surprise given Trump’s rhetoric about immigration on the campaign trail.

The question for Democrats is whether they can cut into Trump’s numbers with Hispanics, or whether the economy will boost Trump.

“The economy is not going to be a problem. And what Democrats are saying is not going to be hard to beat down,” said Iván García-Hidalgo, president of the conservative Hispanic Leadership Council.

“I have spoken to a large number of Hispanics in Maryland and other places, the consensus is things are better — I hear that from everybody — they still don’t like Trump, they don’t like him personally,” said García-Hidalgo.

Regardless, García-Hidalgo and other Republicans believe economic gains will outweigh any misgivings about Trump’s rhetoric or personality come 2020.

{mossecondads}“That’s going to be the biggest challenge [for Democrats]: can Hispanics, or anybody, vote against their own interest?” added García-Hidalgo.

The Trump campaign says Democrats are over-reliant on anti-Trump rhetoric.

“Democrats make a mistake when they believe among Hispanic voters they can just say Trump and immigration and they can win the argument,” said Murtaugh. “Democrats are asking people to believe their rhetoric over their own experiences and their own lives.”

Still, Democrats in Latino-heavy districts say the surging economy isn’t reaching their constituents.

“Not in South Florida where people are still making basically the minimum wage, and even when they’re making higher than that they’re not getting benefits,” said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.).

Shalala added that big employers in South Florida are mainly airlines, hospitals and the transportation and logistics industry, but low-wage workers are concentrated in small businesses or as subcontractors in large industries: “Everybody has to be lifted up, and the president is not lifting everybody up. He’s forgetting about the working stiffs that need an increase. … He’s not putting out a message that resonates to people in my community because they know they’re not better off.”

A report by UnidosUS, the country’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization, shows that Latinos are not only lagging behind, they’ve failed to fully recover from the 2008 financial crisis.

While Latino wages have risen, for instance, the median wage for Hispanic workers is still $9.62 an hour, $2.39 below the median hourly wage of a white worker, according to the report.

Homeownership, which before the recession was the single largest depository of Hispanic wealth, has not recovered to pre-recession levels, pushing up the rental market in disproportionately Latino areas.

And one of the most glaring indicators of inequality, the wealth gap — a measurement of net average assets compared among demographic groups — has grown since 2012. According to UnidosUS, the average wealth of a white family is almost 8.5-times larger than the average wealth of a Latino family.

Stephanie Roman, a senior policy analyst at UnidosUS, said that Latinos are especially vulnerable to another economic downturn, because jobs in the construction and service industry are among the most vulnerable.

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) said despite the wage and employment gains, low-wage families in his district are still living check-to-check.

“Now they are getting by, but they’re not getting ahead,” said Ruiz.

“What I know is that the vast majority of Americans, and disproportionately so for Latinos, if the American family gets an unexpected bill for $1,000 for some home damage or some unexpected emergency department visit, they will not be able to find that money, pay that bill or even know a friend who can lend them $1,000,” he added.

Garza said there are a lot of other barriers to Hispanic economic achievement that can’t be pinned on Trump, such as lack of English-language education or access to driver’s licenses and adult education.

“The core fundamental issue of the economy is strong as an asset for the president if you’re speaking politically. For real people, their life is just improving because of that,” said Garza. “Now it is up to the Democrats and the Republicans to connect with the Latino community on how they’re going to address all these other barriers, because there’s still people cut off from the marketplace.”

Tags Donald Trump Donna Shalala Joaquin Castro Mitt Romney Raul Ruiz

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