July 26th, 2011
Obama Needs More Than A Latino Dance Partner

Before President Obama took to the prime-time airwaves to state his case for how the debt ceiling should be lifted, he brought his talking points out for a test run before the National Council of la Raza.

What we’ve heard about the NCLR speech is that the President went there looking for a dance partner. What I’ve heard from many who were there is that the crowd in the room swooned.  CBS news reported that Obama made his point when talking about an issue that resonated with the group of Latino activists:

stating that when it comes to working with Republicans on immigration issues, “I need a dance partner… and the floor is empty.”

But I’m very sure the President had another issue in mind at the time, and he touched on it during the same speech:

I just want to talk about this for a second, because it has a potential impact on everybody here and all the communities you serve. If we don’t address the debt that’s already on our national credit card, it will leave us unable to invest in things like education, to protect vital programs.

Not only is it not fair if all of this is done on the backs of middle-class families and poor families, it doesn’t make sense. It may sound good to save a lot of money over the next five years, but not if we sacrifice our future for the next 50.

No dance partner needed for that. If there’s any music playing it’s the stark notes that Sergio Leone used in his films when he did close-ups of Clint Eastwood’s eyes right before the gun fight. The problem is that this fight is much more serious.

For Latinos, the impasse between the President and House Speaker Boehner comes with the backdrop of a recession that has hit exceptionally hard. A study by the Pew Foundation, as reported in the New York Times, put the economy in a Latino perspective:

The study, which used data collected by the Census Bureau, found that the median wealth of Hispanic households fell by 66 percent from 2005 to 2009. By contrast, the median wealth of whites fell by just 16 percent over the same period.

That’s huge. And if the dire predictions for the economy come to pass, if no deal is struck to raise the debt ceiling in the next few days, things will only get worse. At least that’s what almost all the economists have been saying for the record.

Obama made the dance partner remark to the NCLR group in reference to immigration reform, then he went and said the same thing on TV – in not so many words – about the debt ceiling: he called on Americans to send their congressperson’s a message to get on with the business of governing and compromise. You get the feeling that the President is starting to feel alone in his fights.

The trouble is that if you ask most Latinos, they’ll tell you they feel alone as well – a 66% drop in median income isn’t exactly a camp-fire revival. In that sense, Obama needs Latinos for more than a mere dance; he’s going to need Latinos next to him in a trench.

Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda

[Photo by  HansPiesel]

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