Black Americans Crushed Under Obama

Slow growth, joblessness vexes well-being of African-Americans

If you don’t want to believe Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump when he says African-Americans have done poorly under President Obama’s policies, you can check with another source — African-Americans.

On Tuesday, Gallup released results of a poll of Americans across four racial categories (white, black, Asian, and Hispanic). Gallup inquired about well-being. Gallup found that fewer African-Americans feel they are “thriving” since a recent peak in 2010.

As President Obama continued to serve, however, black adults’ evaluations of their well-being began to drop.

To be fair, African-Americans have seen a rise in well-being sentiment since 2008. Then, 46.8 percent of African-Americans said they were thriving. In 2010, that number rose to 59.7 percent.

As Obama continued to serve, however, black adults’ evaluations of their well-being began to drop. The number fell to 53.2 percent this year. That was the lowest percentage of the racial categories. In fact, whites who say they are thriving increased in number, from 51.8 percent of those polled in 2012 to 55.7 percent this year.

It’s little wonder, then, that Trump is targeting black voters, asking them what they have to lose by taking a chance on the Republican billionaire businessman. Recent statistics give urgency to Trump’s question.

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For one, gross domestic product has been sluggish in Obama’s second term, despite the president’s frequent proclamations that he steered American out of the worst recession since World War II.

In reality, the economy under Obama is the weakest recovery since the 1940s, according to The Wall Street Journal. And on Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the GDP expanded at an annual rate of 1.1 percent in the second quarter of this year. In the first half of 2016, the economy only grew at a rate of 1 percent.

Such meager GDP growth compares poorly to the expansion after the 1981-1982 recession, or the Dot-Com-fueled growth after the 1990-1991 recession. Keep in mind, too, that the Great Recession of 2007-2009 ended seven full years ago.

Valerie Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank, concedes in her studies that black and Latino unemployment rates remain high relative to white unemployment rates — but says overall improvement continues.

Wilson also told LifeZette that the Gallup poll measures a general feeling of well-being. Unemployment has gone down since 2010, she said, giving social unrest as a possible reason for the downward drift in African-Americans’ well-being sentiment.

Still, an examination of Wilson’s unemployment data for the second quarter of 2016 shows Trump could capitalize in some key swing states on the issue of black unemployment. (Most states do not gather sample sizes large enough to make accurate estimates about black unemployment, but EPI was able to estimate for 24 states.)

[lz_table title=”Black unemployment in four states” source=”EPI”]
Black and white unemployment in 2Q of 2016
Black, 9.3%
White, 3.8%
Black, 10.3%
White, 4.4%
Black, 15%
White, 4.8%

In the key state of Pennsylvania, black unemployment was 12.3 percent — compared to 4.4 percent for whites.

In Ohio, the mother of all swing states, black unemployment was 10.3 percent — compared to 4.4 percent for whites.

And while regular unemployment data by race for Wisconsin isn’t available, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on a study done by Wilson and EPI in early 2015. It found Wisconsin’s black unemployment in 2014 was the highest in the nation, at 19.9 percent, much higher than the national black unemployment rate of 11 percent.

Oddly enough, the state with the highest recorded black unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2016 is President Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois. Illinois recorded 15 percent black unemployment, compared to 4.8 percent white unemployment.

While Wilson and EPI say the recovery continues to lift black and Latino workers, there are other problems beyond unemployment.

In a damning report by Richard V. Reeves and Edward Rodrigue, produced for the Brookings Institution in 2015, the authors lay out the serious problems with black opportunity in America.

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The authors found that half of black Americans born poor stay poor; that seven out of 10 middle-class black Americans later fall into the two lowest income brackets; that black median wealth was only $11,000 in 2013, reduced by $8,200 since 2007; that most black families are headed by a single parent; and that black students are much more likely to attend mediocre or bad schools.

When Trump asked black voters on Aug. 19 for their vote, and to turn away from the Democrats, he was typically blunt — perhaps to a fault.

“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed,” Trump said at a speech in Dimondale, Michigan. “What the hell do you have to lose?”

His question was widely mocked by a hostile liberal intelligentsia eager to boost Hillary Clinton. Jamelle Bouie of Slate wrote: “Somewhere in the multiverse is a world where black voters have warmed to Donald Trump. It’s not this one.”

But Trump is on to something because these wretched numbers truly do exist — in this reality.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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