The Democratic Party line is that during President George W. Bush’s six years in office, rich got richer (thanks to Bush’s tax breaks, which also happened to benefit middle-class me) and the poor got poorer:
“Under President Bush’s failed leadership, wages have actually declined by nearly $1,700 and more than a million middle class Americans fell into poverty. The number of Americans without health insurance has also increased by 6 million since Bush took office in 2001. African Americans and Latinos have been hit especially hard, with more sinking into poverty and being forced onto the rolls of the uninsured.”
Yes, the victimology-obsessed Dem line is that the ranks of the poor are swelling because people are “sinking into poverty.” In fact, the ranks of the poor are swelling because people are immigrating into poverty–at the rate of about half a million of them a year. That’s the current estimated annual rate of illegal immigration into the U.S., mostly from Latin-American countries so badly off economically that what we call “poverty” looks darned good to them. Yes, their willingness to work for cheap means that a lot of people hire them for cheap, which lowers average wages. No, most of them don’t have health insurance because most of them are laboring off the books to begin with. But for some reason, they seem to like it here, and their strong family-oriented culture enables them to share expenses, live pretty well, and even send cash home to worse-off relatives.
That’s why I’ve always rolled my eyes when the Dems roll out that “sinking into poverty” business–as though employers were supposed to pay unskilled, undocumented workers $100,000-a-year salaries. But finally, reality seems to have sunk into the heads of at least a few members of the chattering class, as in this column for the Washingotn Post by Marcela Sanchez. pointing out that poor as many Hispanic immigrants seem to be, they don’t think they’re bad-off at all:
“In 2006 the U.S. government drew the poverty line at $20,000 annually for a family of four, or a little more than $1,600 a month. But for those newly arrived from Latin America, the average monthly salary was $900, according to a report released last week by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
“But if immigrants, especially Hispanics, are card-carrying members of the U.S. underclass, society at large is having a hard time convincing them of it: Latino immigrants are too busy working, buying cars, purchasing homes and even investing abroad.
“Such a lifestyle is not exactly the picture of poverty. The poor are supposed to be the down and out — the hungry and depressed standing in bread lines. Under this stereotype, they struggle for basic goods and services and are left outside the mainstream, unable to get ahead.”
But in fact, getting ahead is exactly what these $900-a-month Hispanic workers are doing, as Sanchez points out, as they figure out ways–often doubling up with family members–to keep expenses low, and whenever they can, they eagerly invest in real estate and small businesses. Most interesting, remarks Sanchez, they don’t feel like victims, and they don’t think they need more government programs. She writes:
“In an education survey, the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation found two years ago that Hispanic immigrants were notably positive about the quality of public school education in their areas. More pointedly, the survey concluded that Hispanics are not a “disgruntled population that views itself as greatly disadvantaged or victimized.”
“What Hispanics do with their money and how they live reflect not deprivation or exclusion but an attitude of abundance….
“So at the end of the day what do we have? A growing number of immigrant poor? Well, yes. A growing number of depressed and downtrodden? No. Hispanic immigrants, like their immigrant predecessors, are optimists. The IDB found that even though 64 percent of remittance senders have an annual household income of less than $30,000, most believe their economic situation in the United States is good (58 percent) or excellent (10 percent), and they are confident about the future.”
Now, the Dems aren’t likely to change their pity-us-victims line about Hispanic poverty–but they might wonder, given how out of sync it is with Hispanic reality, long they can count on the Hispanic vote.