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The gains of the 1990s — where Bill Clinton’s economic policies led to large reductions in poverty — have apparently been erased by the recession, and Hispanics are taking the biggest hit; if only the Republicans weren’t so anathema to Latinos, they might have made big gains this year in the face of economic turmoil associated with Barack Obama:

The wealth gaps between whites and minorities have grown to their widest levels in a quarter-century. The recession and uneven recovery have erased decades of minority gains, leaving whites on average with 20 times the net worth of blacks and 18 times that of Hispanics, according to an analysis of new Census data.

The analysis shows the racial and ethnic impact of the economic meltdown, which ravaged housing values and sent unemployment soaring. It offers the most direct government evidence yet of the disparity between predominantly younger minorities whose main asset is their home and older whites who are more likely to have 401(k) retirement accounts or other stock holdings.

Hispanics’ well-being dropped off the most because they disproportionately work in the housing/construction industries and draw wealth from equity on their homes. This, combined with their living in Sunbelt states like Arizona and Florida that have seen the biggest collapse in housing prices, has made for a brutal combination for America’s Latinos.

In fact, though President Obama has taken some anti-poverty initiatives — his Making Work Pay tax cut attached to the stimulus law among them — the broader macroeconomic trends mean he is presiding over an epic increase in disparity between rich and poor. His housing assistance programs have reached precious few and the mortgage crisis remains a sore spot on his first term.

Further, this should dispel the notion that the president is somehow only concerned with the interests and well-being of his fellow racial minorities. And it speaks to massive political failure on the part of the Republican Party: they were making gains with Latinos as recently as 2004, when George W. Bush surprised political observers by winning about 40 percent of their votes; it wasn’t until the intense resurgence of flagrant nativism and cultural grievance among the national conservative movement that we saw an anti-Republican backlash, Latinos voting for Obama by a more than 2-1 ratio in 2008 and largely sticking by him despite what should be a huge vulnerability in these economic trends. Consider the following from a poll earlier this year:

Despite the dire situation of the economy and the lack of immigration solutions, President Barack Obama’s approval rating among Latino voters increased again to 70% after decreasing in mid-2010. But that support does not translate into automatic votes for 2012.

The second part of a poll conducted by impreMedia and Latino Decisions (LD) also reveals that, although Latino voters will not automatically vote for Obama—only 43% are sure they will vote for him next year—doubts about the president and the Democrats are not turning into support for the Republicans.

Of those polled, 52% said the Democratic party is getting close to the Latino community, while 35% said the party is not interested in Latinos or is negative toward them. The numbers for Republicans are more negative: 18% said the party does not do a good job for Latinos and 66% said it is negative or does not care about the community.

Karl Rove, who always urged his party to snag the nascent Latino vote, must be upset.


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