White House appeals to Latinos on fiscal cliff

The White House is taking its “fiscal cliff” fight with Republicans directly to the group that helped put President Obama in office for a second term – Latinos. In a message released Friday targeting Hispanics, the White House says that reaching a fiscal cliff –where taxes would rise and spending would drop unless an agreement could be reached by Jan. 1– would have serious repercussions for Latinos.

According to the message, President Obama is working to avoid a move to “hold middle-class families hostage while we debate tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.” “The fact is Hispanic-American families just can’t afford tax increases right now, but that’s what will happen if Congress fails to act,” said the statement, signed by Cecilia Muñoz, White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council. “In fact, the median Hispanic family of four would see their income taxes rise by $2,200. An astounding 99 percent of Hispanic families will be affected.”

House Speaker John Boehner, who has been leading the ‘fiscal cliff’ talks for Republicans, says any increase in the debt limit must be matched by greater amounts of deficit reduction. Obama is demanding tax rate hikes on the rich, using the prospect of a worse alternative and the momentum of his re-election as leverage.

The president and Boehner spoke Friday, but made no progress on a budget agreement, according to published reports.

The White House’s Friday appeal to Latinos follows a warning by civil rights group National Council of La Raza on Wednesday about the dire consequences for Hispanics of a fiscal cliff or budget deal that would include steep cuts in government programs.

“The ‘fiscal cliff’ … would return the unemployment rate to more than 9 percent nationally,” said an NCLR statement. “Latinos face an unemployment rate of 10 percent and cannot afford reckless actions that threaten to drag our economy back into recession.”

The national unemployment rate at present is less than 8 percent.

Latino leaders also warn that spending cuts in government programs could deeply hurt Latinos, millions of whom depend on entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and earned income tax credit.

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