Election 2020: A vote for Trump is a vote for economic progress for African Americans

Patrice Onwuka, Opinion contributor
·5 min read

With just days until the election, some Black voters may still be grappling with whether to cast their vote for former Vice President Joe Biden or President Donald Trump. Biden said, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you 'ain’t Black,” because apparently, he owns the Black vote. But Blacks are not a monolith, and they are not indebted to Joe Biden nor to the Democratic Party.

If their final decision comes down to which candidate will continue the economic progress that lifted median Black household incomes to their highest levels on record and pushed Black unemployment rates and poverty rates down to their lowest levels, then there is really just one choice: President Trump.

A president’s words are powerful, and people often view him in light of his rhetoric. Insensitive and offensive language is off-putting. Yet that does not diminish what he accomplishes for the people he serves.

Numbers don't lie

Consider that the man who championed the 1957 Civil Rights Act, then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, referred to it as "the (N-word) bill.” As president, he signed into law pivotal legislation that dismantled segregation and disenfranchisement of Blacks: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet, according to biographers and personal accounts, he still referred to Blacks of every stature — from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to his own chauffeur — as the N-word.

Trump’s name-calling and rhetoric are indefensible, but if actions matter most his pro-growth policies of corporate tax cuts and deregulation merit another term because they worked.

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The Census Bureau just released stunning statistics about the economic well-being of Americans in 2019. Minority groups benefited greatly from the remarkable labor market that preceded the coronavirus epidemic.

President Donald Trump on Oct. 17, 2020, in Norton Shores, Michigan.
President Donald Trump on Oct. 17, 2020, in Norton Shores, Michigan.

Unemployment rates for Blacks hovered for months at or near historic lows. Workers with less than a high school diploma and criminal records left the sidelines of the workforce.

Before the coronavirus, the labor force participation rates of Blacks, prime-age workers 25 to 54, and women ticked up from Obama-era lows. Even years into the Obama economic recovery, these workers were still leaving the labor force.

High employment under Trump led to minorities experiencing the largest income gains. Real median income grew by 7.9% for Blacks in 2019. That outpaced 2018’s income growth of 2.6% and 2017’s income decline of -2.4%. Notably, Black median income growth last year surpassed income growth rates under the Obama administration. There’s still more work to do though. Although Black median income hit a new high, Blacks earned the lowest income level of all groups (just over $45,000 a year).

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Income gains for Blacks translated into real economic mobility. Not only did the poverty rate for Blacks fall to an all time record low in 2019, but it also dipped below 20% for the first time. At the other end of the economic scale, more Black households earned six-figure incomes than the year before.

Look forward to recovery

The financial picture for Blacks and all Americans undoubtedly looks different because of the pandemic. The economy shed 22 million jobs in March and April, and the Black unemployment rate is now 12.1% after spiking to 16.8% in May.

The difference now versus during the Obama years is how quickly unemployment is falling. From May to September, the economy added back about 10.6 million jobs, eclipsing the 8.9 million jobs created during President Barack Obama’s eight years.

Black employment increased by 1.3 million from April to September. It took years for the Black unemployment rate to fall from a recession high of 16.8% in March 2010 back down to 12%, whereas it only took a handful of months during the pandemic, likely because the economy is so resilient.

This should encourage Americans to believe in a fast rebound to pre-Covid-19 prosperity. Black communities have been hit hard by the pandemic. It’s critical that they recover and we resume tackling long-standing racial gaps in incomes, homeownership and wealth.

Patrice Onwuka
Patrice Onwuka

In addition to job creation, entrepreneurship has flourished under Trump. According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s report on early-stage entrepreneurship in 2019, the average rate of new entrepreneurs under the president’s first three years surpassed the averages for the previous two presidents. Women-owned businesses also surged, adding more than 1,800 new businesses each day in 2017 and 2018, well outpacing the rate under Obama. Remarkably, firms owned by women of color grew at double the rate of women overall.

Now through his Platinum Plan, Trump is promising to increase access to major capital in the Black community by almost $500 billion, building on opportunity zones, in an effort to attract even more long-term investment to low-income communities. He has promised to create 500,000 new Black-owned businesses and 3 million new jobs.

He will expand school choice at the K-12 level for parents and continue to support historically Black colleges and universities — building on his restoration of federal funding for those students.

He also plans to build upon criminal justice reforms of the bipartisan First Step Act, which overwhelmingly benefited Black men with sentence reductions.

President Trump has ambitious promises, but his track record says he can get it done. It’s not surprising that he is gaining among Blacks and registering significant support in these final days. If they view this race in light of their gains, rather than rhetoric, the choice becomes clear.

Patrice Onwuka is a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Voice in Washington. Follow her on Twitter: @PatricePinkFile

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: In the Trump years, African Americans have thrived economically