One of the hallmarks of American democracy -- one of the things that makes America great -- is the healthy exchange of ideas that supports our political life. We accept that people of every stripe will have different views, and that the open discussion and debate of ideas informs us all, and helps the people make decisions about how they want to be governed. Our views are not defined by how much we make, or where we went to school, or whether we earned a degree, or where our parents were born.
Unfortunately though, there are some who believe that all Latinos must hold liberal views, or that you're not authentically Latino if you are a conservative. In recent years people like Henry Cuellar, Susana Martinez, Ted Cruz and others have been criticized -- often by anglos -- for not being sufficiently Hispanic, simply because of their personal beliefs.
The staff and volunteers of the LIBRE Initiative experience this every day, as critics who profess to have the best interests of the Latino community at heart -- including People For the American Way -- argue that a pro-economic liberty organization can't be trusted to deliver aid to kids arriving at the border, or to provide medical checkups to needy families, or provide children backpacks, notebooks, and haircuts as they go back to school. Some of the staunchest self-professed defenders of Hispanics say we can't care as they do because we put more faith than they do in individuals and less in government.
This is not only wrong; it's un-American.
Over the last few years, the LIBRE team has demonstrated that limited-government Latinos care as much about their communities as others do. We have helped to change thousands of lives by listening to the people in the neighborhoods where they live, and finding ways to offer the services that count.
For example, when our Nevada team learned that more than 70 percent of those who take the test for the state's Driver Authorization Card (DAC) were failing, they decided to do something about it. This is a real concern for immigrants and Latinos across the state -- who rely on these cards to get to that job or class that is crucial to their American Dream. LIBRE has sponsored four classes (so far) with licensed instructors, and hundreds of attendees -- each event filled to capacity. One attendee was a mother who had previously been unable even to obtain the drivers' manual, and had already failed the test once. With LIBRE's help, she was able to pass the test -- allowing her to get to work and take her children to school far more easily.
In Arizona, local residents are telling us that a top priority is English language instruction. Hispanics appreciate the need to learn English to access the American mainstream. It unlocks greater economic opportunity, educational achievement, health care options, and so much more. In response, English tutoring sessions sponsored by LIBRE are helping hundreds of families build better futures by improving their English skills.
These are only a fraction of the outreach and community building activities we engage in. In the months ahead, our team will be partnering with civic-minded businesses and others to provide financial literacy and tax preparation services for people who need it. We've hosted health clinics, back-to-school preparation, and more. In Texas and Arizona, LIBRE partnered with a local church to deliver needed items to help children arriving at the border, with no family members to care for them.
These community services aren't part of a conservative agenda. Nor are they uniquely liberal. They're the sort of thing people of all ideologies and party backgrounds offer to neighbors they care about. They change lives. And in the years ahead, we look forward to doing much more.
But with that said, we make no bones about a commitment to discussing the dangers of big government to Latinos and their families. We know that the Affordable Care Act remains unpopular among Latinos who attend our events because they tell us. Furthermore the data show that many are impacted by higher costs, narrow networks, and a lack of access to doctors who speak Spanish.
Additionally, many who attend our events complain that while they hear plenty of talk from Washington about an economic recovery, they see no improvement in their wages. The fiscal cliff deal that President Obama signed into law in 2013 meant higher payroll taxes for most working families. Too many Latino workers are still living paycheck to paycheck, and an agenda that raises their taxes without growing wages hurts them.
Simply put, many Latinos -- like others across the country -- are looking for a changed agenda. They want a limit to regulations that prevent them from opening family businesses. (LIBRE has offered seminars on how to accomplish this.) They believe government should impose fewer mandates on how companies use any profits they make -- leaving more for worker raises. And they want both parties to stop playing politics and get to the business of reaching agreement on immigration reform. LIBRE is in full agreement with the many Hispanics who are disillusioned with the big government agenda that has dominated Washington in recent years, and who believe government should be smaller. We won't be intimidated into silence when it comes to discussing the real nature of the problems facing our community, and we will defend our convictions. It's time to drop the personal attacks -- which won't work anyway -- and instead engage on ideas and proposals. The people we all want to serve deserve at least that much.