It’s no secret that for many Latinos, the most important voting issue is the economy.
For years, our families have been disadvantaged by a lack of available jobs, sluggish wage growth, and the real challenge of trying to pay down debt and save more to get ahead.
Latinos put a high priority on greater economic opportunity because we know that when we have the opportunity to work and earn, we can build better lives and better futures. When we have a chance to earn, the American dream is well within reach.
With that in mind, the most recent report from the Census Bureau brings some welcome news. According to the bureau, median household income in the U.S. has increased for three consecutive years. That’s also true for Hispanic households in particular, who saw their median income increase by 3.7 percent in just the last year.
According to the bureau, from 2015 to 2017, the average household income for Hispanics increased from $65,818 to $68,319. That’s a significant increase—one that helps create better options for education, health care, and savings. It empowers people to invest in small businesses, or in acquiring skills that can create a better future. In short, it creates all sorts of options for Latinos in this country to have a better future.
America has also seen three straight years of a falling poverty level. Since 2014, the percentage of people living in poverty has fallen from 14.8 percent to 12.3 percent. The consistent economic growth of the last few years is giving people an opportunity to get ahead—to escape from the poverty trap and improve their lives.
Rising wages are a welcome change for Latinos—a reminder that when American entrepreneurs and workers are unleashed from burdensome taxes and regulations, they generate real economic growth. That means greater business investment, higher productivity, and a greater ability for workers and companies to benefit from growing profits.
It’s especially helpful to our community, which is far more entrepreneurial than the rest of the nation. It’s estimated that Latinos grow our economic base by 1 million net new businesses every five years. As these enterprises grow, all of America will benefit.
The improvements in wage growth and business formation shouldn’t be surprising when you consider recent reports on jobs and gross domestic product. It was recently reported that the economy grew at a rate of 4.1 percent for the quarter ending in June 2018. That was the best number in four years—great news for working families.
While all these improvements are welcome and good, they do not mean that everyone is better off. There remain many Americans—and many Latinos—who don’t have equal access to expanding prosperity. There are those who lack language skills, or appropriate training, or who can’t navigate the complex rules that can govern startups. In short, they don’t have ready access to the tools they need to make their lives better.
I’m proud that my organization, the LIBRE Initiative, is one of the many institutions that work around the country to help people facing these barriers. We know that even the best-intentioned government programs can be cumbersome and overly bureaucratic—or they simply don’t exist. That’s why it is so important that people in local communities around the country are attuned to the needs of the Latino community and are there to respond.
Now that the American people are seeing the benefits of strong, private sector-led economic growth, it’s important that lawmakers not make the mistake of returning to the failed policies of the past. As lawmakers have cut taxes and limited unnecessary regulation, we have seen growing economic benefits for all Americans.
That’s an important lesson, and one that we should remember as lawmakers promise to “fix” things like health care and trade in the months ahead. By committing to the principle of keeping government out of the way of workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs to the greatest extent possible, we are experiencing great success.
Let’s make sure to stay on course. Latino families are counting on it.
This column previously ran in Spanish at Univision.com.