It is said that a society’s well-being is measured by the standard of living it provides to its children, and the course it sets for future generations. If this indeed is the case, it is clear we are falling short with Hispanic children.
Before this recession began in 2007, poor white children outnumbered poor Hispanic children in the United States. In the short span from 2007 to 2010, the number of Hispanic children living in poverty grew over 30% to 6.1 million, compared with 5 million non-Hispanic white children, this according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
While the recent increases in poverty levels are primarily blamed on the boom in foreclosure and unemployment rates experienced by all Americans nationwide, these simplistic attributions barely begin to tell the story.
Further study reveals that the ruinous hikes in foreclosure and record long unemployment rates were actually perpetuated by politicians who actively promulgated misguided measures to guarantee subprime no-doc loans, as fast as "all too willing" financial institutions and mortgage lenders could churn them out. These loans would never have been offered if the risks of default had remained intact. (Unfortunately, such high-risk loans were made to thousands of over-leveraged borrowers, including many from minority communities.)
The housing bubble collapse - blown up by a Federal Reserve that kept interest rates low - ultimately deflated much of the wealth of Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S., which they had invested in their homes. Additionally, many in our community who were heavily employed in the home construction sector were hit even harder.
Leaders in government made an already dire situation even worse by their failure to advance a robust national energy policy, stalling trade agreements, causing monetary devaluation by printing of U.S. currency at record levels, approving anti-business legislation such as Obamacare, and rubber stamping needless regulations from unaccountable federal bureaucrats that hampered a businesses’ ability to grow and caused debilitating uncertainty.
This economic downturn could not have come at a worse time for Hispanic families, as it has only served to accelerate the already high number of Hispanic children living under the poverty line. All the same, this trend can also be traced back to past government assistance efforts dating back to the 1960′s. And although we spend record amounts of taxpayer dollars to ameliorate poverty, the effect of subsidizing poverty and non-work for decades has resulted in, well, more poverty.
What is more, government dependency programs have in many cases stifled parents’ sense of duty to provide financially and emotionally for their family – to pass on a strong work ethic, and a sense of dignity that comes from self-reliance. Sadly, many of us unwittingly accepted a life of subsistence and dependency on programs that were supposed to only serve as temporary safety nets.
In forfeiting our dreams, our aspirations, and our independence for government handouts, we also unwittingly accelerated the destruction of the family unit. In 1960, only 5.3 percent of births were out of wedlock. Today the rate has risen to 32 percent of all births. For Hispanics, half of all children today are born out of wedlock.
Illegitimacy is profoundly worrisome because study after study indicate that children born in a one parent household are five times more likely to be poor; 4.3 times likelier to smoke; three times more likely to have behavioral problems, twice as likely to drop out of high school; and twice as likely to be involved in criminal behavior. What is more, the harsh reality is that children raised in families dependent on welfare are seven times more likely to become dependent on welfare than are other children. Most distressing is that an astonishing 57% of Hispanic/Latino children born to single parent households live under the poverty level today.
So before we call on government to do more to solve our poverty problems, keep in mind the evidence indicates government is a main culprit of our current economic woes; and has been equally complicit in perpetuating poverty over the course of history. To be brief, the more government has intervened, the poorer, the more broken, and more unemployed we have become!
Still, recent budget approvals from Washington indicate there is no letting up on these sort of disastrous policies. The 2011 budget increased spending on welfare programs by 42 percent since 2008. In fact, analysts report that total spending on the welfare state (including state spending) rose to $953 billion in 2011. I suppose allocating more money to anti-poverty programs makes politicians feel they are addressing the issue or buys them some votes. But in the end, bad policies can result in dire economic consequences, difficult to undo for a long time to come.
As such, many of us are now questioning why more of the money we earn should instead be used to grow our businesses to generate economic opportunities for others. More of us are reflecting on better ways to spark growth and recovery by looking to the private sector with its enormous potential. We are questioning whether our hard-earned money should be invested as we deem fit and the market demands, or handed over to politicians to bankroll massive federal spending and more failed social experiments.
We are questioning why elected leaders are not doing more to advance economic liberty - eliminating obstacles that impede markets and restrain entrepreneurs and businesses from generating economic opportunities and income mobility for others. And we question why Congress has not done more to advance policies that build a freer America that affords a higher standard of living for families, instead of pursuing government policies that impoverish and separate families.
Soon, we will turn our questioning into a call to action - action that will return our nation to the principles of economic freedom, entrepreneurship, and self-reliance.
Our children’s future depends on it.
Daniel Garza was formerly Associate Director at the Office of Public Liaison for The White House. He is currently the Executive Director of www.TheLibreInitiative.com and is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino.