As President Obama continues his forays into Spanish language media in a desperate push to encourage Latino enrollment in Obamacare, the mainstream media is still trying to translate what he said during his most recent town hall with Hispanic voters. When a Hispanic caller who said he earned $36,000 complained about costs under Obamacare, the President told him his bills should be “prioritized.”
“If you looked at their cable bill, their telephone, their cell phone bill, it may turn out that it’s just they haven’t prioritized health care,” the President sniffed.
Sure, it’s tough to cough up 10 percent of your gross income to pay government-mandated health insurance costs, the resident seemed to say, but suck it up — cut your cable or drop your cell phone service. Deal with it!
Coming from anyone else with a $12 million net worth and a $400,000 annual salary (and whose perks involve virtually every creature comfort), the president’s remarks would be seen as callous and condescending. Because he said them on Spanish language television, however, the President’s “47 percent” equivalent amounted to a California Sequoia falling in a vast, empty forest.
If Hispanics are indeed canceling TV cable service, it could be that they want to turn off the avalanche of bad news coming from this White House. Hispanic unemployment still hovers at 8.7 percent (more than 20 percent higher than the nation’s as a whole), and the Census Bureau reports that more than 1 in 4 lives in poverty, a higher percentage than any other demographic group. Only half of Latinos working full-time earned more than $549 per week in 2011, a median weekly wage that is just 71 percent of that earned by Anglos.
For Hispanics, the Obama economy has been like a Mack truck that hit us, went into reverse, shifted and hit us again.
These same hard-hit families are now confronted with higher premiums, deductibles and co-pays — fully 10 percent of the family income for the man who appealed to his president during the Town Hall.
The president’s response? Get rid of cable.
Mr. President, Latinos are way ahead of you. No community has been faster to adapt to mobile telephone technology as a way of avoiding expensive cable and landline phone service. For many of the nation’s low-income Hispanics, there is no choice but to use smart phones as a cheaper alternative.
For our community, cell phones aren’t luxuries — they’re necessities, our primary (and sometimes only) means of connecting to the outside world.
According to the most recent Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners, Latino-owned businesses were the fastest growing small business sector prior to the recession, expanding at nearly twice the national average rate between 2002 and 2007.
Many of these Hispanic-owned businesses rely on smartphones as the lifeline to promote goods and services, schedule appointments, even do their banking. The hundreds of thousands of emerging Hispanic entrepreneurs are defining their own careers and futures — and they depend on mobile technologies to do so.
The hard choices being foisted on moderate and low-income American households (and not just Hispanics) represent just some of the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act, legislation which even the President’s most ardent supporters now concede was too big, too bureaucratic, and too unpredictable in its impacts.
For Hispanics, though, this is a special disappointment. Candidate Obama received a lopsided 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in his first run for the White House, and 72 percent of Latinos trusted him in 2012 — a greater percentage than any candidate since Bill Clinton in 1996.
He first rewarded Hispanic loyalty by disrespecting us, delaying implementation of the Spanish language health care website, one with glaring translation errors — and that ultimately directed users to application forms in English.
His most recent remarks, though, show just how severe the disconnect has become: they shows an arrogant disrespect for the lives of hard-working low-income Hispanics — and show just how little this president knows about our community.
Leslie Sanchez, author of “Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other,” was Director of the White House Initiative on Hispanic Education and is a Republican political strategist and marketing expert.