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Image 7 of The Advocate Messenger April 16, 2012

Part of The Advocate Messenger

SCOTT C. SCHURZ JR., President, Editor and Publisher JOHN A. NELSON, Executive Editor OPINION MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2012 A7 THE ADVOCATE-MESSENGER LETTERS@AMNEWS.COM  |  WWW.AMNEWS.COM Misreading the Hispanic voter C HICAGO — Will Latinos actually have an impact on the 2012 elections? And will the Republican Party’s hard line on illegal immigration drive Latino voters into Esther Cepeda the waiting arms Syndicated of the incumbent Columnist deporter in chief? I’m beyond tired of seeing these questions all over the news. ey’re the wrong questions. Let’s first start with the very concept of the “Latino vote.” Last week the Pew Hispanic Center released its report “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and eir Views of Identity” and noted that of the 1,220 Latino adults surveyed who even care about the labels “Hispanic” or “Latino,” the term “Hispanic” is favored by more than a 2-1 margin (33 percent versus 14 percent). I was thrilled. “Latino” bugs me to no end. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me, especially when I’ve been asked where I’m from and the answer “Chicago” doesn’t stop the questioner from insisting on guessing my ethnicity. Since the majority of those of Hispanic/Latino origin who can live with a single ethnic label to describe a diverse group of people hailing from any of 20 Latin American countries prefer “Hispanic,” can we also please start referring to them as “Hispanic voters”? And the emphasis is on “voters” because there is no such thing as a monolithic “Hispanic vote.” Sure, you can go back 10 presidential elections and give precise numbers as to how many Hispanics voted Democrat over Republican, but that won’t make a difference this fall. is November’s elections will be decided on issues — and not the ones usually associated with Hispanics. For at least two years, Hispanics have repeatedly said the economy — not immigration — is their top concern going into the 2012 presidential elections. Even early last November, following a full month of outrage after Alabama put the harshest anti-illegal immigration laws in the country into practice, 65 percent of Hispanic registered voters reported to Univision/Latino Decisions that jobs and the economy were the top concerns. Only 23 percent cited immigration. Pew Hispanic Center data from 2002 listed education as the most important issue to Hispanic voters, with the economy trailing a strong second. A late December 2011 Pew Hispanic Center analysis ranked education as the No. 2 most important issue behind jobs among registered Hispanic voters. Health care, taxes and the federal budget rounded out the top five. And the ironclad belief that Hispanics only vote for Democrats? Sure, in the last few elections a majority have, but no party can comfortably rely on past numbers. In its 2002 national survey of the Latino electorate, the Pew Hispanic Center found that 49 percent of Hispanics were registered as Democrats, 26 percent as independent/other, and 20 percent as Republican. Today, 30 percent of Hispanics consider themselves liberal, 31 percent moderate and 32 percent conservative — an almost equal distribution. But again, who will vote Democrat or Republican is the wrong question. e right one is: Will Hispanics vote at all? A few weeks back, several journalists finally began casting doubt on whether Hispanics would actually move the dial for either candidate since Hispanic voter registration dropped 6 percent from 2008 to 2010. is gets lost, of course, in the sea of cliched story lines proclaiming that since Hispanics are the fastestgrowing portion of the population, they alone will have the power to decide who wins the presidency. For years, the nation’s few Hispanic pundits have been warning that population growth is not a guarantee of political power. In a February 2011 syndicated column, “’Largest Minority’ Still Means ‘Nada,’” Miguel Perez put it thusly: “Perhaps the blame (for the over-hype) should go to all the politicians who have spent years telling Latinos that ‘soon, you will be the nation’s largest minority group’ — as if that would solve all our problems.” Enough with trying to predict what the registered-to-vote portion of one group of very different people who happen to share some strong or weak connection to Latin America will do come Nov. 6. In fact, forget gender, race and religion, too. e only question that really matters is: Which candidate will convince the 35 percent of the general population who call themselves “moderate” that he can fix the economy? Esther Cepeda’s email address is The ‘Buffett Rule’ gimmick W ASHINGTON — President Obama admits it: His proposed “Buffett Rule” tax on millionaires is a gimmick. “ere are others who are saying: ‘Well, this is just a gimmick. Just taxing millionaires and billionaires, just imposing the Buffett Rule, won’t do enough to close the Dana Milbank deficit,’” Obama declared WednesSyndicated day. “Well, I agree.” Columnist Actually, the gimmick was apparent even without the president’s acknowledgment. He gave his remarks in a room in the White House complex adorned with campaign-style photos of his factory tours. On stage with him were eight props: four millionaires, each paired with a middle-class assistant. e octet smiled and nodded so much as Obama made his case that it appeared the president was sharing the stage with eight bobbleheads. And if that’s not enough evidence of gimmickry, after his speech Obama’s re-election campaign unveiled an online tax calculator “to see how your tax rate stacks up against Mitt Romney’s — and then see what the Buffett Rule would do.” Obama argued that his plan to make sure that those earning north of $1 million a year don’t pay a lower tax rate than average Americans — although gimmicky and insufficient — is an advance. “e notion that it doesn’t solve the entire problem doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it at all,” he explained. at’s true, to a point. But Obama’s claim that the Buffett Rule “is something that will get us moving in the right direction toward fairness” would be more convincing if he took other steps in that direction, too. ree years into his presidency, Obama has not introduced a plan for comprehensive tax reform — arguably the most important vehicle for fixing the nation’s finances and boosting longterm economic growth. His opponents haven’t done much better, but that doesn’t excuse the president’s failures: appointing the SimpsonBowles commission and then disregarding its findings, offering a plan for business tax reform only, and issuing a series of platitudes. A search of the White House website yields 17,400 mentions of the Buffett Rule — a proposal that would bring in $47 billion over 10 years, much of that from 22,000 wealthy households. By contrast, the alternative minimum tax gets fewer than 600 mentions on the site. e AMT, if not changed, will take about $1 trillion over a decade from millions of taxpayers, many of whom earn less than $200,000 a year. Obama’s prioritization is no mystery: e populist Buffett Rule polls well. is explains its inclusion in countless presidential speeches and statements. White House reporters, tiring of the theme, have proposed a Jimmy Buffett Rule (three-drink minimum). e politics of the Buffett Rule — it has no chance of passing when the Senate takes it up next week — are so overt that Obama’s remarks Wednesday were virtually indistinguishable from a section of his campaign speech in Florida on Tuesday. Wednesday: “If we’re going to keep giving somebody like me or some of the people in this room tax breaks that we don’t need and we can’t afford, then one of two things happens: Either you’ve got to borrow more money to pay down a deeper deficit, or ... you’ve got to tell seniors to pay a little bit more for their Medicare. You’ve got to tell the college student, ‘We’re going to have to charge you higher interest rates on your student loan.’ ... at’s not right.” Tuesday: “If somebody like me, who is doing just fine, gets tax breaks I don’t need and that the country can’t afford, then one of two things is going to happen: Either it gets added to our deficit ... or, alternatively, you’ve got to take it away from somebody else — a student who’s trying to pay for their college, or a senior trying to get by with Social Security and Medicare. .. at’s not right.” Parts of Obama’s “official” speech will no doubt be repeated on the stump, including the points that “we just need some of the Republican politicians here in Washington to get on board with where the country is,” that Obama cut taxes 17 times (the bobbleheads nodded in agreement), and the contention that Republicans today would view Ronald Reagan as a “wildeyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior.” Nothing is inherently wrong with campaignstyle rhetoric from the White House; George W. Bush used it repeatedly to pass his tax cuts and in his attempt at a Social Security overhaul. e pity is that Obama doesn’t use his unrivaled political skill to sell a tax plan of more consequence — and less gimmickry. Dana Milbank’s email address is Thank God Almighty, there is (tax) freedom at last! A pril 9 was Tax Freedom Day in the Bluegrass State — the day Kentuckians finally earned enough to pay off this year’s tax burden and quit greasing the palms of the Nanny State. at means we Jim Waters Guest worked 99 days — Columnist from January 1 through April 9 — to satisfy the demands of Washington, Frankfort and City Hall before we had fully paid the tax man. Not only is 99 a lot of bottles of beer on the wall, it’s another indication of the high cost of big government. Incredibly, many of the economic amateurs determining tax policy in government’s hallowed halls actually think it’s not enough and that we need to do more before being allowed to escape the heavy burden of government redistribution. I don’t doubt the good intentions behind such ideas. Billionaire Warren Buffett genuinely believes that higher tax rates on some Americans will eliminate debt and control deficits. Certainly, if Buffett wishes to donate to the cause, he is welcome to do so. As Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell recently said, he’s free to “send a check” to Uncle Sam. (Make those checks payable to the “Bureau of the Public Debt” and send it to: Dept G, P.O. Box 2188, Parkersburg, W. Va. 261062188.) While I don’t question the motives of those who support higher taxes, I do doubt their grasp of history and current events — both far and near. Socialist leaders in Europe have, for years, tightened taxpayers’ chains rather than make serious attempts to shrink their bloated bureaucracies or confront ever-expanding deficits. Greece plunged into economic insolvency even as public managers submitted $38,000 bills for Mallard Fillmore office curtains and while one in five workers was employed by the government bureaucracy. A local press investigation found that the bureaucracy had careened out of control to the point that some government workers don’t even bother showing up for work because there aren’t enough places for all of them to sit. e Cato Institute’s Daniel Mitchell, a tax-reform expert, wrote recently that European nations “have been raising taxes for decades while almost always arguing that higher taxes were necessary to balance budgets and control red ink. Yet that obviously hasn’t worked.” Look no further than the massive strikes and riots in Europe’s streets to confirm Mitchell’s conclusion. Closer to home, Illinois provides a striking example of what happens when politicians try to tax a state out of its fiscal problems. Just last year, Illinois politicians hiked the state’s corporate income tax by a whopping 46 percent and the individual income tax by an even-larger 67 percent. e stated goal was accompanied by fruity pie-in-the-sky rhetoric: restore Illinois’ fiscal footing and pump up the state’s credit rating by seizing even more of taxpayers’ productive income. Instead, they got even more spending, lofty deficits and a downgrade in Illinois state debt to the lowest among the 50 states. e aftershocks of this economic earthquake have resulted in an exodus of businesses and jobs. Illnois’ proclivity for Draconian tax policy spooked some wellknown companies like Mitsubishi and US Cellular so badly that they are considering leaving the state altogether. at’s a preview of what could happen in Kentucky if some — under the guise of “tax reform” — get their way. Members of the Beshear administration’s current tax-reform task force would do well to remember Winston Churchill’s contention that “for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” Considering no government at any level ever taxed its way into prosperity, here’s the best recommendation that could be made: Allow citizens to begin working for themselves sooner rather than working for government longer. Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at

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