By Johanna Hester
This election year is that of the Asian American voter. What we think about jobs, the economy, immigration, and education will affect how we vote on November 6 – and potentially swing the presidential election.
The recent Census found Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) to be the fastest growing racial minority in the country. And a survey of AAPI political views revealed that 45 percent of us are likely voters, one out of six lives in a battleground state, and nearly a third of us remain undecided between the two major candidates for highest office.
AAPIs need policies that are fair, responsible and inclusive. Like all Americans, are primary concerns right now are jobs and how to get the economy back on track. Just how important these issues are was on full display during this week’s last presidential debate. It was on foreign policy, but the candidates kept coming back to what is most crucial to our national security – a strong nation investing in an educated, skilled workforce that will cement our leadership and economic competitiveness in the world.
Without a doubt, what’s at stake in this election is our future course for generations to come. This is the first in a short series of articles exploring what’s at stake for AAPI communities when it comes to the next president’s economic, immigration, and education policies.
AAPI workers and small businesses play a major role in our nation’s economy. There are more than 1 million AAPI small business owners who have created nearly 2.3 million jobs. These and millions of other Asian Americans help make up the bedrock of this country’s middle class. In the last four years, many of us have benefited from policies put into place by President Barack Obama that have raised and expanded the middle class in ways that provide fair economic opportunities for all Americans.
For example, President Obama extended the payroll tax cut that put extra money into the pockets of more than 7.6 million hard working Asian American families, helping them provide for their families and allowing them to put money back into the economy. He provided over $13 billion in loans to AAPI small business owners and cut taxes through the Small Business Jobs Act and the American Recovery Act.
That is a smart investment strategy, one that understands how to rebuild an entire nation’s economy with policies that support the millions of immigrants who contribute every day by going to work, paying taxes, and starting small businesses.
Compare that with what Governor Mitt Romney is proposing: much of the same failed policies that brought our economy to the fiscal cliff and unfairly targeted our most vulnerable. Rather than work for all Americans, Governor Romney wants to over-haul the tax code in a way that would cut taxes for millionaires, billionaires and corporations, raise military spending, and pay for it all by eliminating important middle class tax deductions that he has yet to name. In short, Governor Romney’s plans rely on the failed promise of trickle-down economics, something that immigrant, middle-class and hard-working Americans can’t afford.
As a labor leader in immigrant communities, I can attest to progress over the last four years. When President Obama took office, the nation’s economy was in free fall, and was losing 800,000 jobs a month. In Detroit alone, the entire auto industry stood at the edge of a dangerous precipice.
President Obama’s policies and quick actions saved 1 million auto jobs, and all the related industries suppliers and car dealerships that rely on automakers. As a result, we have added 5 million jobs and the seen 31 consecutive months of private sector job growth. The latest unemployment rate is at 7.8 percent, the lowest it’s been since January 2009.
That’s an economic vision I believe in.
This article is the first in a series focusing on President Obama and Governor Romney’s starkly different visions and prospects for America’s future. The second installment will focus on the presidential candidate’s immigration positions, policies and potential impact on AAPIs.
Johanna Puno Hester is President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the nation’s first and only national organization of Asian Pacific American union members to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights. She is a strong labor activist and also serves as Director of Organizing and Filed Services of UDW, The Homecare Providers’ Union of AFSCME Local 3930 based in San Diego, Calif.