During his 2018 State of the Union address, President Donald Trump tried to take credit for the rise in black employment.
But the Congressional Black Caucus knew better, refusing to stand up and clap for Trump’s half-truth, applause-seeking talking point.
It’s not that black lawmakers don’t want to celebrate actual historically low unemployment; it’s that they knew Trump was falsely trying to take credit for something that was already happening years before he became president.
He’d tried to do the same just two days earlier on Twitter, too, when responding to — wait for it — Jay-Z.
Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2018
But it turns out that black and Hispanic unemployment numbers were in steady decline for several years before Trump took office.
The numbers proving that aren’t exactly hard to dig up. Gene Sperling, a former economic adviser to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, had a hunch Trump might try to take credit for the drop in black and Hispanic unemployment, so he tweeted them out right before Trump’s address.
Black & Hispanic Unemployment: Facts for when Trump tries to take credit for continuation of Obama trend:
Black Unemployment Had Already Been Cut More than Half:
Hispanic Unemployment Had Already Been Cut More than Half
— Gene Sperling (@genebsperling) January 31, 2018
Those numbers show that after the Great Recession peaked in 2009, black and Hispanic unemployment began to naturally decline, much like the overall unemployment rate. By the time Trump took office in January 2017, those numbers had dropped from 16.5% in 2010 in the black community to 7.8%. Likewise, Hispanic unemployment numbers had gone from a high of 12.9% in 2010 to 5.9%.
A more detailed chart from FactCheck.org shows the same results, with the added sting that black unemployment rates have actually hit a noticeable lag since Trump has come along.
The Congressional Black Caucus wasn’t buying it.
And at least one other reason members of the Congressional Black Caucus chose to sit is that the talking point isn’t totally accurate. Despite reaching new lows, black unemployment numbers continue to lag far behind those in white communities — something Trump failed to mention.
The unemployment rate as of December 2017 for white Americans is at 3.7% according to Bureau of Labor Statistics information, compared with 6.8% for black Americans.
The group additionally appeared to be aiming a message at Trump with their attire, wearing Afro-centric clothing in protest of Trump’s recent comments about immigrants coming to America from “shithole” countries.
Politicians should share credit where it’s due while also not ignoring the real challenges that remain.
Progress has been made in minority communities. But tying those gains to recent political elections sends a misleading message about who deserves that credit and what work still remains ahead. So, if you hear someone complaining about black lawmakers not standing to cheer for Trump’s rhetoric, remember it’s because they know where things truly stand and how they came to be.