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Saving the American Dream

Saving the American Dream

What does the American Dream mean to you? Is it fame and fortune? Many Americans see it this way. But perhaps the American Dream is simply the essentials — a steady job that covers the basic expenses while providing the best life possible for your children.

As our country continues to weather one of the worst economic recessions in our history, it is perfectly appropriate to contemplate our future and ask ourselves if we are headed in the right direction. Moreover, it is worth studying whether the policies from Washington, D.C. are actually helping or hurting our chances for a better tomorrow — and our chances to live out our American Dream.

For the majority of us, the promise of a job and economic security was the biggest reason we left everything and everyone behind. For some of us, skyrocketing unemployment rates, inflation and corruption are just some of the horrid conditions we experienced first-hand in Latin America. And we count our blessings to live in a country with a high quality of life founded on liberty, freedom and democratic principles that continue to be celebrated and protected.

We Hispanics are an optimistic lot. Perhaps that’s why a recent poll conducted by Allstate National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll concluded that despite faring worse than non-Hispanics during this economic recession, we continue to remain optimistic about our future.

Unfortunately, there is a real cause for concern in both the short-term and long term for all Americans, including Hispanics. Beyond the immediate need to reduce the unemployment rate, unrestrained federal spending is poised to threaten our livelihood even more unless Washington lawmakers act, and fast. The sobering reality is that the federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends.

In addition to runaway spending, advances in technology and medicine are allowing us to live longer lives. That’s a good thing, obviously, but it’s putting an even bigger strain on some of our entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

It’s precisely because of this urgency to act that my colleagues here at The Heritage Foundation recently unveiled a comprehensive plan to reduce runaway spending while promoting pro-growth policies that will help grow our economy to create jobs. Our proposal is aptly called, “Saving the American Dream.”

As my colleagues write, “Unless we act wisely, massive government spending and surging public debt will destroy the foundations of our economy and darken the American Dream for our children and grandchildren.”

First, working-age health-care policy needs to be added to the drivers of the federal deficit. Currently the federal government’s costs in this area actually exceed those of the retirement programs (that is, the costs that are funded by borrowing). Second, we reform “entitlements” by creating new Social Security and Medicare programs based on a real insurance concept: everyone is absolutely guaranteed to have income in retirement at least twice the poverty level and to have basic, comprehensive health care. Currently, the bankrupted programs cannot make that claim after the 2020s.

Change is seldom easy. But if we are to leave our children and grandchildren with a country with a promise of a better tomorrow, then policymakers must enact bold measures to preserve and protect the American Dream. For many Hispanics, the success of our children is the fulfillment of the American Dream and the fruit of so much hard work and sacrifice. We understand this concept, perhaps better than others.

And so, facing the very real possibility of replicating the same wretched economic conditions that drove us to come here in the first place, wouldn’t we want to do everything within our powers to prevent this from happening?

Israel Ortega is the Editor of Heritage Libertad,, the Spanish language of the Heritage Foundation, a think tank in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on Twitter: @LibertadUSA