Trump Can No Longer Pretend He's Creating Jobs for Black Americans
For at least the last few weeks, Donald Trump has been taking undue credit for a historically low black unemployment rate of 6.8 percent from the December jobs report. Now it looks like Stephen Miller and the other White House aides who put words in Trump’s mouth and teleprompter will need to chuck that talking point.
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its jobs report for January, which shows that the African-American unemployment rate has climbed to 7.7 percent.
Trump took multiple opportunities to pat himself on the back for December’s job report, despite the fact that he bears no responsibility for its figures. Unemployment for all Americans, including African Americans, has been in decline for years, a trend that began in March 2010. What’s more, black unemployment remains far above the national average of 4.1 percent, and more than double the white joblessness rate of 3.5 percent—a slight decline over the month prior.
As the Los Angeles Times notes, “[O]n measures of labor, education, health and income, [black Americans’] standing remains well below that of white Americans, and in some cases the gap has been widening.” In fact, a New York Times report from September points out that “black families in America earn just $57.30 for every $100 in income earned by white families” and “for every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold just $5.04.”
Much of the racial wealth disparity in this country can be attributed to home ownership, which accounts for two-thirds of the wealth of most U.S. households, according to the Economic Policy Institute. As a result of racist lending policies and discriminatory practices in federal housing programs, black Americans were essentially prohibited from accruing property wealth for generations. Per the New York Times, “The modern roots of the racial wealth gap can be traced back to the post-World War II housing boom, when federal agencies blocked loans to black Americans, locking them out of the greatest wealth accumulation this country has ever experienced.”
Homeownership allows for the intergenerational transference of wealth, which further widens the wealth gap along racial lines. Nation contributor Joshua Holland explains:
“It took 400 years of slavery, segregation, and institutionalized discrimination in the labor and housing markets to build the wealth gap that we see today…The racial wealth gap continues to grow not only because of income inequality—whites have more dollars to sock away—but because accumulated wealth is a mechanism for transmitting economic success from generation to generation. It’s a vicious cycle—poor communities have limited tax bases to fund their public-school systems, which lead to sharp disparities in educational quality. A family with some assets can help their kids pay for an education or put a down payment on a first home or kick them some seed money to start a small business. All of those things help the next generation climb the economic ladder.
“According to Princeton University sociologist Dalton Conley, the wealth of a child’s family is the single greatest predictor of that child’s future economic prospects. Conley, whose data did include things like cars and household goods, found that even white households hovering around the poverty line have a net worth of $10,000 to $15,000, but the typical black family at that income level will often be under water, with a negative net worth. In many cases, that means turning to usurious predatory lenders to stay afloat—an added expense of being poor.”
Trump, in an effort to counterbalance charges of racism, has declared himself vindicated by December’s black unemployment numbers. After rapper Jay-Z called out the president for dismissing African countries as “shitholes,” Trump took to Twitter to patronize and scold the musician.
“Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!”
He also boasted about the figures during Tuesday’s State of the Union address, earning blank stares from Congressional Black Caucus members well aware of the role this president has played in ginning up hostility toward African Americans. Since Trump has repeatedly congratulated himself for black employment numbers he had no hand in generating, he should also take credit for the latest jump, but that’s obviously not going to happen. The more likely scenario is that we’ll simply never hear about black unemployment from him again.
Members of Congressional Black Caucus offer no reaction as Pres. Trump says “African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded” in #SOTU address https://t.co/q18EZzVe9p pic.twitter.com/Xxkqc7hFt9
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 31, 2018
Editor’s note: Earlier versions of this article contained an erroneous figure for the black unemployment rate.