Ask any Hispanic immigrant why he or she came to this country, and the likely response you'll hear is: "for economic opportunities and a chance to earn an honest living." Like most waves of immigrants, Hispanics have come to America for the economic mobility they lack in their homeland. So what's America's secret?
Here's a clue: It has nothing to do with big government, higher taxes, excessive regulations and generous welfare programs. They're not responsible for America's economic prosperity and generally favorable upward mobility. Hispanics wouldn't be immigrating to this country seeking their fortunes if things were going swimmingly in Latin America.
Ironically, many Hispanic immigrants and U.S.-born Hispanics are supporting failed economic policies that will likely recreate the very same conditions here in the U.S. that they were looking to escape so desperately from Latin America. What's more, Hispanic groups and organizations that are supposed to be looking out for their interests are walking lockstep with President Obama and liberal politicians to grow the girth of the federal government, crowding out the free enterprise system that has served our country so well.
Under the guise of "fairness," President Obama is bent on raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for an endless stream of federal goodies and services to the cheering throngs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other special-interest groups. They think the federal government can create prosperity through increased spending. Unfortunately, this failed approach has failed to reduce a stubbornly high Hispanic unemployment rate and has only added to our burgeoning $15 trillion debt.
This reckless spending, without any regard on how the state will pay for everything it's doling out, is the same failed approach we're seeing play out all across Latin America, where politicians reward votes with hand-outs. Instead of permanently lifting people out of poverty, citizens grow increasingly dependent on the state. A far better approach is one where the state rewards and doesn't punish competition, innovation and success -- in short, where economic freedom is allowed to flourish.
For proof, one need only consider The Heritage Foundation's and Wall Street Journal annual Index of Economic Freedom, which consistently shows that countries that are more economically free are more likely to reduce poverty. In a ranking measuring close to 200 countries, only one Latin American country finishes in the top 20.
And yet, many Hispanics cannot resist the allure of a big government that promises them the world. Unfortunately, President Obama happily peppers his speeches with class warfare rhetoric to boost support for big-government policies.
With the Hispanic population poised to continue growing, it would be an awful irony to recreate the very same economic conditions we sought to escape from Latin America. Here's hoping Hispanics will resist the mirage of happiness found under a big government.
Israel Ortega is the Editor of Heritage Libertad, www.libertad.org, The Heritage Foundation's Spanish language website.
First appeared in The Huffington Post