The growing economic power of Latinos

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    Much of the focus on Latinos throughout this election cycle has centered on the divisive and often heated questions about immigration and its effects.

    But now a bipartisan non-profit group is trying to change that. The Latino Donor Collective (sic), as it's known, wants to emphasize the growing economic power of Latinos and the potential force they can become.

    I spoke with its co-founders, Democrat Henry Cisneros and Republican businessman Sol Trujillo. Cisneros was housing secretary in the Clinton administration.

    Gentlemen, thanks for being with us.

    Mr. Cisneros, I would like to start with you.

    The two of you wrote an essay for The Wall Street Journal, and you said that you have been watching this presidential campaign unfold at first with disappointment, then with concern and now with real alarm. What is alarming you?

    HENRY CISNEROS, Former Secretary of Housing: Well, what alarms me is that the rhetoric about Latinos seems to be giving people permission to denigrate this population, to diminish its place in American life. And that's just wrong.

    This is a population of 55 million people, growing to 100 million people. It is essential to the American future. It is already making a major contribution in many areas of American life, from religion to politics to entrepreneurship and to corporate business and as consumers.

    And one of the most important areas is in its contribution to the American economy, what Sol has come to call the mainstream economy, the mainstream American economy, the next American economy. And it's just wrong to categorize a people somehow as — using phrases related to rapists and murderers and freeloaders, et cetera, to characterize an entire population.

    And someone needs to stand up and say, let's talk about the truth of this population. And it's role in American life.


    Mr. Trujillo, why are the politicians missing this? What aren't they getting?

  • SOL TRUJILLO, Republican Businessman:

    No one talking how we drive growth, how we're creating jobs, what's creating jobs, what is our upside in terms of the economy.

    And is where today we have a new mainstream economy driven predominantly by Latinos in growth. Let me give you some quick statistics. There's about a trillion-and-a-half dollars of spend by Latinos in this country today, growing at $80 billion to $90 billion per year.

    On top that, let's talk about job creation and what are drivers of domestic GDP growth. Think about housing. Think about home purchases. Over the last decade, 51 percent of all new home mortgages taken out in the United States of America have been taken out by Latino families.

    When you look at entrepreneurship, in the last half-decade, 86 percent of all new business formations in the United States, based upon a recent Hoover study commissioned through the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, shows that Latinos were creating 86 percent of all new business formations.

    Without Latinos in the mix, we as a nation would have had net negative business formations. And I can go on with more data, John. But, as an American, as somebody that cares about our economy, which all of us at the Latino Donor Collaborative do, we want to make sure that this story is understood, rather than mischaracterizations, incorrect facts, which will mislead policy decisions that could be very damaging to our economy.


    Mr. Cisneros, you talk about the — sort of the economic drivers in the Latino community. But at the same time, there are economic challenges to the Latino community.

    The BLS, Bureau of Labor Statistics, says that one in five Latinos is working in a minimum wage job, that unemployment among Latinos is higher than the national average. Are there still challenges among the — for Latinos in the economy?


    Oh, absolutely. There are huge challenges, many Latinos working in underemployed situations, undercompensated situations.

    And one of the biggest challenges confronting the Latino community is the need to close the gap in educational levels. And we are. We're making progress in terms of lowering the dropout rate, improving the high school graduation rate, improving the acception to college.

    But one of the most dangerous things about the kind of rhetoric we're seeing today is that if it results in the country failing to recognize that it must invest in Latinos, and that Latinos are ambitious and want to avail themselves of education and providing the means to do that, then there's a huge opportunity cost for the United States.

    This is a population that is large. In fact, it's going to be 100 million people by about 2040, 25 percent of the American population. It's already the largest minority and the fastest growing minority. The swing can be immense. Either it can be a large population that is a drag on American society because it is not receiving the proper education and proper investment, or it can be truly one of the absolute drivers, one of the engines of opportunity for the American future, without a doubt.


    How can you get the political power to match the demographic power and the economic power? In 20 — the last presidential election, only 47 percent of Latinos registered to vote voted.

    How can you improve that turnout?


    Well, John, let's look at results first before we get into the what I call misleading statistical analysis.

    If you look at the last election, one of the big conclusions of the Republican Party was that the reason why they lost was because of the fact that they didn't get the Latino vote. If you look at the prior election, same conclusion, and the one before that, until you look back at George W. Bush, and you look at Ronald Reagan, who both were able to get over 40 percent of the Latino vote.

    Well, guess what? The base of the Latino vote, the percentage of total voters as Latinos has only gotten bigger. So, I call it basic elementary math. Then you have to understand the basic math. We can talk about 47 percent voter rates or we can talk about 42 and talk about those numbers, but the base is just getting bigger.

    And that's the reality. There's almost a million young Latinos turning 18 every year; 93 percent of them are native-born. And it's dramatically changing what we would call the base, the voter base, those who are going to be active in politics, and while at the same time, other groups are actually in decline as a percentage of total. It's just math.


    Sol Trujillo, Henry Cisneros, trying to change the discussion about Latinos in America, thanks for joining us.


    Thank you for the opportunity.


    Thank you, John.


    The group that Mr. Cisneros and Mr. Trujillo have started is the Latino Donor Collaborative.

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