AFRICANGLOBE – This weekend, ever-opinionated billionaire candidate for president Donald Trump lowed the boom on President Obama on the often discussed issue of what the first Black President has done for African Americans.
“He has done nothing for African Americans. You look at what’s gone on with their income levels. You look at what’s gone on with their youth. I thought that he would be a great cheerleader for this country. I thought he’d do a fabulous job for the African-American citizens of this country. He has done nothing,” Trump said.
“They have problems now in terms of unemployment numbers, look at their unemployment numbers. And you have— here you have a Black president who’s done very poorly for the African Americans of this country,” Trump added.
But is Trump correct? It depends on whether you can blame the President for every single role the federal government may or may not have in the specific lives of all Americans. It’s also hard to deny the role of discrimination in hiring and opportunity in America — a point that was made by Hillary Clinton at the National Urban League Conference last week.
Let’s take a statistical look at seven major issues that have always been important in the African American community and what the numbers were as President George W. Bush left office and what they are now.
Unemployment — According to the Department of Labor, when President Obama took office in January 2008, the Black unemployment rate was 12.7 percent. The best Black unemployment number during the Obama Administration so far was in June 2015 at 9.5 percent. The best Black unemployment rate during George Bush’s presidency was 7.7 percent in August 2007. The worst number under Bush was 12.1 in December 2008. The worst Black unemployment under Obama was 16.8 in March 2011 — a 28 year high — according to the Department of Labor.
But the landscape is a bit more complicated than the numbers. In 2011, evidence of a so-called “Black Manession” emerged. In September 2014, reports on the Black female unemployment rate showed at 10.6 percent, the same as it was the year before. Many assert that hiring discrimination and the fact that many have left the job market all together are factors for high Black unemployment overall.
Poverty — The poverty rate for African Americans has become worse over the past few years. It was 25 percent when President Bush left office. It rose to 28 percent in 2013 — the most recent stat available. One out of three Black children, 38 percent of all African American children, lived in poverty in 2013, as reported by PEW on July 14. Overall, there are more people living in poverty in the U.S. than at other time in U.S. history at 45 million people.
Education — There has been major progress under President Obama in education with regard to high school dropout rates. According to the Department of Education, High School dropout rates are at a historic low, with the greatest progress seen among African Americans and Hispanics. Overall the national high school graduation rate hit an all time high in 2013 of 81.4 percent.
Between 2010-11 and 2012-13, graduation rates for Hispanic students increased by over four percentage points from 71 percent to 75.2 percent, and Black students increased by nearly four percentage points from 67 percent to 70.7 percent. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.
Health Care — President Obama’s victories in Congress for comprehensive health care coverage as well as his recent win in the Supreme Court, means that many African Americans will benefit. By March 2015, over 16 million Americans had enrolled in Obamacare. Because of Obamacare, the rates of uninsured Americans have fallen to 11.9 percent after being at 16 percent when President Bush left office.
Over 3 million poor Americans, including hundreds of thousands of African Americans in the South would be covered if not for Republican governors blocking the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. In 2014, many health care advocates worked to get around the the attempts to block coverage.
Justice — President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 which narrowed the penalty between crack and powder cocaine from 1:100 to 1:18. Last year, President Obama established a task force on policing and this year he rolled back the use of certain military equipment by local police — a Black Lives Matter related demand.
During the Obama presidency, the Department of Justice has investigated several police departments including Ferguson, Cleveland and Philadelphiaunder former Attorney General Eric Holder and current Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Income Inequality — Income inequality between Black and white is at its widest point in 25 years. According to a study by PEW in 2014, the average white household is worth $141,900, while the average Black one is worth $11,000.
The foreclosure crisis that hit hardest in 2007 and 2008 disproportionately hurt Black homeowners because they were targeted by banks for subprime loans. (In 2008, the cities of Cleveland and Baltimore sued Wells Fargo over those practices.)
Focus on Black Males — In February 2014, President Obama introduced My Brother’s Keeper, to specifically focus on improving the lives of young African American males. The initiative is encouraging nonprofits to raise $200 million in five years for programs focused on young Black men. Though My Brother’s Keeper is not a federally funded government program, no such effort has existed before under any American President. President Obama is said to be planning to make My Brother’s Keeper a major part of leaves office.
Trump’s critique of President Obama comes at a point when the President is entering the fourth quarter of his presidency. In recent months he has spoken bluntly on racism and the lack of opportunity in America and he has announced programs and initiatives geared toward minority communities. With 16 months left, President Obama appears to be well aware that he needs to push more on African American issues.
By: Lauren Victoria Burke