What do you get when 92 percent of your colleagues in the Senate or 62 percent in the House disagree with you on an important roll call vote? The answer is the next aspiring candidates for President of the United States.
Both Senator Marco Rubio, the Tea Party darling of the GOP, and Xavier Becerra, the steadily influential Democratic wonderboy, voted against their respective bills on the fiscal cliff earlier this week for very different reasons. But their motivation to vote against the bill was the same.
The fiscal cliff has served these Latinos as a fiscal springboard for each to demonstrate their commitment to their ideological base, and they could not be further apart in their vision for a prosperous America.
Both Mr. Becerra and Mr. Rubio felt that the bill didn’t go far enough in focusing on job growth and restructuring taxes for a long-term solution. Mr. Becerra said, “In the end, I could not support this short-term fix which may spawn additional long-term problems, putting off until later the tough decisions on taxes and our nation’s debt and deficits, while also ignoring the biggest deficit challenging America’s prosperity: a jobs deficit.”
Mr. Rubio said, “Of course, many Americans will be relieved in the short-term that their taxes won’t go up. However in the long run, they will be hurt when employers pass on to them one of the largest tax hikes in decades. Furthermore, this deal just postpones the inevitable; the need to solve our growing debt crisis and help the 23 million Americans who can’t find the work they need.”
It is comforting that Latinos can apply a wide spectrum of ideological perspectives to our nation’s problems and come up with a consensus on what are problems are, but that really is the easy part. Both candidates know that no amount of politically viable tax hikes or entitlement cuts are going to put a dent in our $16 trillion debt or our persistent budget deficit. The only way we are going to get out of this problem is through economic growth.
Which makes our fiscal problems more about the structure of our taxes and spending than their size. And here is why Mr. Rubio and Mr. Becerra couldn’t be further apart.
While Mr. Rubio believes a less burdensome tax structure on the rich will spur economic activity among job creators, Mr. Becerra believes that a tax structure that leans heavily on the rich can not only relieve the daily economic burden on workers and job-seekers, but spur demand for goods that will encourage an increase in production by those rich job creators.
I’ll let the economists figure this one out, but I know that Latinos overwhelmingly stand with Mr. Becerra on this issue. A recent poll by Latino Decisions found a clear preference for placing the burden of our economic woes on the rich, with seventy-seven percent of Latinos supporting an increase in taxes on the rich.
This shouldn’t be surprising since Latino wealth has fallen over 66 percent over the years, and whites have about 18 times more wealth than Latinos. Herein lies the GOP problem with Latinos, but also their solution. If Mr. Rubio wants more Latinos to agree with him, he’s going to have to find a way to create more Latinos who have an interest in his perspective, and in this the GOP has clearly been a disaster.
Asking Latinos who have recent experiences with their bosses and so-called job creators firing them or cutting their hours to trust these same folks with lower taxes while taking on greater burdens is a tall order. To Latinos, Mr. Rubio is not on their side and it’s clear to them that by voting against his own party, Mr. Becerra is.
As the Hispanic population nevertheless plods forward, these stances by Mr. Becerra and Mr. Rubio are setting the stage for an oncoming battle for the hearts and minds of Latinos and, as Vice President Biden says, the center of America’s future.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.