A recent Pew Hispanic study indicated that the median net worth of Latino households declined 66 percent from 2005 to 2009. The decline was 16 percent for white households.
Much of the problem is attributable to the housing crisis. The Pew study indicated that Latino homeowners had their equity cut in half.
The job situation is also worrisome. Bureau of Labor Statistics for August 2011 showed an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, 11.3 percent for Latinos.
Latino participation and productivity matter, yet mediocre growth and financial imbalances affect everyone. A partisan landscape that values political positioning over solutions is leaving underlying policies unaddressed. Seemingly limitless, wasteful programs continue without sufficient controls. Harmful laws and regulations are not revised or undone.
The annual budget deficit exceeds $4,200 per person. The overall national debt exceeds $46,000 per person. This suggests an urgent need for action.
Government should be careful about raising taxes in a recession, but special interests should not prevail.
On the spending side, strong lobbies rigorously oppose even the smallest cuts to defense and other favored programs. This is not sustainable policy.
Serious approaches to repairing the nation's balance sheet must include budget cuts, the streamlining or elimination of certain benefits and services, and tax increases. Consideration should be given to how these changes affect jobs.
Tax increases are difficult, but given the $1.3 trillion deficit, they are necessary. Closing tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy and corporations is a start. The tax code should be simplified. But the simple truth remains: The middle class, however one defines it, will have to pay more.
It is unfair that Wall Street, banks and certain corporations benefited most from government bailouts, yet assessing blame will not solve our problems. Nor will pretty words and promises. Indeed, some promises will have to be broken.
The American master of pragmatism John Dewey once wrote, "Our idealism is probably the loudest and most frequently professed philosophy the world has ever heard."
Latinos share that idealism, yet they have suffered acute economic pain. Action is needed now. Bold leadership and tough decisions must right the ship of state.
Mark Alvarez is a licensed attorney in Maryland and Utah. He co-hosts "Pulso Latino," a Spanish-language radio show, and lives in Salt Lake City.