On Sunday, with Martin Luther King Day right around the corner, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News asked Donald Trump what he would say to Americans, especially African-Americans, who believe Dr. King’s dream has not been achieved.
“Oh, I agree with them, and especially under President Obama,” Trump replied.
“We have an African-American president and the black youth, the African-American youth, has essentially all never done worse. You look at the unemployment in the ’50s. You look at African-American people that are 30 and 35 and 40, in the height of their strength and lives, and they’re doing horribly.”
“President Obama, an African-American, has done a terrible job for African-Americans,” Trump concluded.
“Donald Trump will do a great job for African-Americans. I’ll bring back jobs to this country from China and many other places. And I’ll let people work and make a great living. I will be great for African-Americans.”
Trump is right about African-American unemployment being far worse than the national average, and the rates have been awful throughout the Obama presidency, although at the moment it’s not correct to say things have never been worse.
The black unemployment rate is always about double the national average. As the general unemployment rate slowly settled back to “normal” in the final months of the Obama presidency, so too did the black unemployment rate fall below its 2008 and 2009 highs. As of December, the white unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, while it’s 9.5 percent for blacks.
However, The Atlantic notes that the current gap between black and white is still slightly larger than the gap from 15 years ago. It’s even worse for those who lack advanced degrees. The unemployment rate for white high-school dropouts is 6.9 percent, but it’s nearly two and a half times higher, 16.6 percent, for African-Americans. At the other end of the educational spectrum, unemployment for Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 2.4 percent for whites, 4.1 percent for blacks.
By now we should all be familiar with the way unemployment statistics can be sliced and diced for political purposes, so it’s necessary to also consider the kind of long-term unemployment that falls completely off the media radar screen.
Even those most eager to hype the long-overdue “Obama recovery” have been forced to admit African-Americans haven’t benefited nearly as much as other demographics. The black workforce is far smaller relative to the overall population than the white workforce is, while think-tanks on both Right and Left consistently find that average black wages are far lower.
One study found that over the past 15 years, the average hourly wage of black workers fell by 44 cents, while white and Hispanic wages rose by 48 and 45 cents during the same period. Such wage gaps are often attributed to black Americans working in more part-time and temporary jobs, as well as jobs with high turnover rates, making it difficult for them to build careers.
Another metric that has gotten steadily worse through the Obama years is the “wealth gap,” referring to the sum of income and valuable assets, most significantly, home ownership.
A study reported by Forbes in March claimed the typical black household now has only 6 percent of the wealth owned by the typical white household. The report suggested several reasons for the disparity:
Causes include the fact that blacks and Latinos are less likely to have jobs that include employer-sponsored health care, a retirement plan or paid time off. The net result is that families of color spend more of their savings on dealing with life’s emergencies such as out-of-pocket health care. Or, they have fewer wealth-building vehicles, such as tax-advantaged accounts, available to them.
Other factors stem back to homeownership and education: A child whose parents were steered into a low-income neighborhood with a low-quality school has decreased chances of obtaining a four-year degree, which also then cuts off future job opportunities. Additionally, although it is illegal, discrimination on the basis of race or national original endures, whether unconsciously or overtly.
Of course, that’s what all discussions of black economic difficulty come back to: racial discrimination. It’s an unquantifiable X-factor that can be cited as the cause of every problem, since it can’t be measured with any accuracy.
It’s politically useful to say that insidious racism is the cause of “inequality,” and it’s impossible to “prove” it isn’t. The size of the disparities in employment, wages, and wealth mentioned above is supposed to be taken as evidence of systemic racism in America, because nothing else could possibly explain those differences.
This line of thinking prevents us from considering what those other explanations might be, which in turn makes it impossible to address them.
If racism is the reason for black economic difficulties, we might ask how racism is supposedly getting worse under a black President who won two elections, and presides over the richest and most powerful regulatory state in the world. As Forbes noted, racial discrimination is illegal, and the mightiest enforcement state ever created by Man works tirelessly to enforce that prohibition.
One does not hear many credible allegations that the government is ignoring serious complaints of racial discrimination, under either President Obama or his predecessors. Among other things, it would be strongly contrary to the nature of bureaucracy to ignore the sort of complaints that make a bureau more prestigious and powerful – they’re not in the habit of downplaying the crises they exist to combat.
One of the biggest problems facing black Americans is that they’ve been locked into destructive politics that keep pushing the same failed “solutions,” with alternative approaches considered beyond the pale. Large numbers of black Americans live in cities that have been dominated by Democrat political machines for generations. The same bogus federal remedies have been thrown at them for decades, under Administrations from both parties.
An increasingly expensive educational bureaucracy, coupled with a university system dominated by political correctness and affirmative-action programs, have failed to deliver on the theory that education automatically confers wealth. Instead, African-Americans are among the groups hardest hit by the Big Government and Big Business mania for importing cheap foreign labor, at both the low and high ends of the skill scale. We spend more on education than ever, with more attention paid to getting minority youth into college than ever… but the inequality gap widens.
The effort to confer middle-class wealth by making it easier for people with shaky credit to take out mortgages produced the apocalyptic financial crisis of 2008… and it’s nevertheless being tried again, by people who remain convinced middle-classness is a benefit the government can bestow. And yet, despite those incredible expenditures and the horrendous damage inflicted on our financial system by the crash, the wealth gap between white and black Americans grows larger.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that “giving” someone a house doesn’t make them wealthy, if you also “give” them a mortgage debt they can’t afford. The depressingly common outcome is foreclosure, and a family left worse off than ever.
Likewise, attempts at legislating higher income by raising minimum wages have the practical effect of abolishing the jobs entry-level and marginal workers need to get into the game. Forbes mentions the lack of health insurance as a factor in the black-white wealth gap; ObamaCare “fixed” that by making everyone’s healthcare worth less, with exchange plans so wretched that huge numbers of health young people decided it was better to pay a fine than buy overpriced health coverage.
Liberal social policies inflicted tremendous damage on the black family – the factor in that “wealth gap” nobody wants to discuss honestly. There is simply no substitute for intact families accumulating wealth across generations, including the incredibly valuable intangible gifts that mothers and fathers can pass along to their children – from good work and study habits, to family connections that ease young people into the workforce. Any employer will tell you that hiring young people for marginal jobs is a nerve-wracking endeavor. Family and community reputation go a long way toward easing those jitters.
The effect of the welfare state on our human capital has been horrendous as well, generation after generation. It’s another of those truths our elites have stubbornly refused to confront during the Obama era: high unemployment is not only due to a lack of jobs offered, but a lack of jobs sought. There are people from every demographic background chomping at the bit to work… and there are people, especially younger people, who won’t throw themselves into the workforce unless they absolutely must.
Demand for employment does influence supply. Entrepreneurs who see themselves surrounded by eager, dependable workers will make different expansion decisions than those who think good help is hard to find in their community. Entrepreneurial risk looks even riskier in communities that don’t enthusiastically seek investment, commerce, and employment.
Is there racism mixed among those factors – including both racial discrimination by whites against black employees or entrepreneurs, and the reverse? Certainly… and sadly there always will be, barring a significant upgrade to human nature over the coming generations. The question is how to best minimize its effects. There is no better answer than the flourishing of opportunity, which has been artificially suppressed by creeping statism for far too long. Voluntary cooperation, in the pursuit of mutual profit, and vigorous competition have a way of dissolving prejudice. It takes time, but patience is rewarded.
Look at it this way: the Obama presidency brought us the ultimate example of the opposite viewpoint, which holds that imperfect citizens must be molded to virtue by the strong hand of an all-controlling State. More spending than ever, more regulations, more enforcement, more centrally-organized social and media pressure against racism… and the black-white economic gap got worse.
How much more evidence do we need that a different path must be tried, before we go bankrupt following this one, into a future of absurdly expensive social strife?