In the debate over the so-called fiscal cliff, many in the media have missed something critical that both parties must understand: People of color, whose votes are increasingly crucial, believe in the positive role of government. They don't want domestic social programs cut.

According to the Census Bureau, people of color will be America's new majority by the year 2043. African-Americans, Asians and Latinos already outnumber whites in several states and play a growing role in presidential swing states. Neither party can ignore them.

But too many people who should know better have been acting as if the Republicans can fix their dismal performance among Latinos, for example, simply by adopting nicer rhetoric and less draconian immigration policies.

It won't work. Immigration is important (and insulting groups of people is never a way to win their support) but it's not enough.

That's where the fiscal cliff comes in.

An election eve poll by Latino Decisions found that the economy/jobs was by far the top concern of Latinos. Immigration was a fairly distant second, and the deficit didn't even rate.

Perhaps even more telling is the Latino vote in California, where the state's budget troubles produced two ballot initiatives to raise taxes for schools and other threatened government services. Latinos supported both by massively larger margins than the electorate as a whole.

The lesson is obvious: Latinos aren't buying the notion that government is the problem and should be starved of funds. They value government services and want an adequate, fair tax structure to support it.

The same thing is happening among Asian voters, who have been moving steadily toward the Democrats, and who favored President Obama over Mitt Romney by more than a 3-1 ratio. A Pew study last June found that "Asian-Americans prefer a big government that provides more services (55 percent) over a smaller government that provides fewer services (36 percent)."

Neither party will win voters of color by preserving tax cuts for the wealthy while slashing Medicare and other vital programs. Instead, the president and Congress should:

Make the tax system fairer. Letting the top tax rate return to Clinton-era levels is a start, but not sufficient. Abusive corporate use of offshore tax havens costs the government up to $100 billion a year. Let's crack down.

Cut with a scalpel, not an ax. Protect programs that help those struggling in the tough economy, but take a hard look at our bloated defense budget, which exceeds those of the next 13 countries combined.

Protect seniors. Seniors of color, who are less likely than whites to have worked for a company with a retirement plan, are especially dependent on Social Security and Medicare. They -- and their kids -- will not take kindly to cuts. That includes gimmicks like changing the way the consumer price index is calculated (the "chained CPI"), which is just a backdoor way of cutting benefits.

Both Republicans and Democrats should pay attention: Austerity budgeting is not just bad policy; it's bad politics.

Orson Aguilar is executive director of The Greenlining Institute, He can be reached at

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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