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2020: The Year of Truth

Protesters holding pro-immigration signs

2020 is a year to reflect on our past political and personal decisions. It is a year where we will turn out at the polls to decide if America will be defined as a forward-thinking nation. It is a year to be grateful and count our blessings, but also a moment to reflect on whether we want to continue supporting a system that has enabled powerful interests and disabled the impoverished. The good news is that we have the choice to empower new leadership that supports more compassionate and efficient policies with the power of our vote.

As part of our soul search for the ideal candidate, we also need to understand our nation’s debt and how the systems have served corporate interests ahead of the American people. As of June 2019, the federal government’s total debt was $22.02 trillion dollars. A study by the Pew Research Center shows that national debt is now larger than the US gross domestic product. This means that our production levels are not able to compensate for all of the spending we are having in discretionary areas ($1.426 trillion) such as the military and mandatory expenditures ($2.841 trillion) like social security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid and retirement and disability programs for government civil servants. A third source of spending are interest payments on national debt with $479 billion that continues to rise.

As Baby Boomers continue to retire, the amount of spending on social security programs increases and puts pressure on public spending. Moreover, as healthcare services and pharmaceutical companies continue to increase prices, government programs become further strained. According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, national health expenditures will reach nearly 20% by 2025. Overpricing of healthcare services divests development opportunities for other social programs and prevents covering healthcare for Millennials. Interestingly, it is Baby Boomers’ votes who elected President Trump in 2016 and who promised to reverse Obamacare. For his 2020 campaign, Trump plans to further cut back Medicaid benefits by an estimated $777 billion that could leave millions without insurance, according to a Vox analysis. The cuts would heavily affect Baby Boomers – as opposed to Millennials who are less likely to be affected by the cuts.

In order to reduce debt, it is important to minimize unnecessary spending. While social benefits should continue to support the vulnerable and aging populations, the government should negotiate affordable medical prices with pharmaceutical companies and large corporations that have benefited from the increasing national debt. Discretionary spending should also become more targeted as expenditures continue to go to defense contractors and weaponry, further adding expenses. A recent study found that defense subcontractors are not necessarily generating jobs but accumulating exorbitant funds amongst few in the industry. During the period of 2012-2018, employment at Lockheed Martin – a major defense contractor – fell from 120,000 to 105,000. By 2017, the company received $50.6 billion federal dollars, almost double compared to 2017 when it received $37 billion. Moreover, this year $3.6 billion from the Pentagon’s military construction budget was divested to build the border wall. In line with the Trump administration’s anti-immigration efforts, the US laid razor wire along the Mexico-US border, parts of which were later stolen by thieves and resold across in Mexico.

These excessive healthcare prices and military purchases should be further cut down by means of government negotiation. A new administration should be able to negotiate reduced prices with pharmaceutical and defense contractors’ CEOs, who ultimately make money at the expense of taxpayer dollars. Perhaps, a total savings of $1 trillion could help alleviate US debt and become contingency money in case of a future market shock. Moreover, a small amount of savings could also be allocated toward investing in immigrant potential to revitalize an aging US economy. For example, a small investment in the blue-collar and white-collar immigrant workforce could exponentially boost the US economy as it lacks skilled workers due to continued low population growth.

In essence, Trump supporters should not see undocumented immigrants as a source of competition for benefits since immigrants are often disqualified from obtaining social security benefits, although in 2010 they contributed with $12 billion into the Social Security program with their taxes. The competition for economic resources is actually with the healthcare and military sectors given the increased medical, contractor and weaponry prices. Cutting down on these expenses would alleviate the budget deficit and support retirees in the face of unforeseen circumstances such as a stock market crash. Unfortunately, Trump voters have often favored cutting down retirement expenses. They don’t realize that sharing resources with immigrants, many whom are Latinx, could activate economic growth.

Politics of compassion are possible if we decide to vote consciously. 2019 granted us time to do some soul-searching on what we want America to be. Even the numbers reveal that such change is possible – that conservative Baby Boomers and immigrants can coexist to construct an improved and booming economy. What is missing is a leader who is willing to face special interests in 2020.

According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 1 in 2 sick Americans cannot afford healthcare, including those that have health insurance. If we as a nation have a kind heart, we should vote for policies that provide for our hardworking taxpayers. We should vote to set boundaries to large corporations that have taken advantage of a system that believed in good intentions. We should vote for a president that holds accountable all those that have profited from the system instead of empowering Americans. The Latinx community will be a major force in the upcoming election and whoever we stand behind is likely to win. It is not a coincidence that Bernie Sanders who has strong Latinx support is also willing to challenge the current status quo. This should be the year where hard-working Americans, Latinxs, and immigrants are able to collaborate to course-correct the system. 2020 is in our hands.

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Erika Hernandez

Erika Hernandez is a frequent columnist of immigration, Latino and political issues. She’s a travel junkie and culture lover. Erika has had brief conversations with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presidential nominee Marianne Williamson, and worked directly with Mexico’s former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Castañeda. Erika’s mission is to support those in disadvantage and serve as a source of positive change.

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