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National Commentary

ELECTION 2020: For Many Voters, “It’s [Still] the Economy, Stupid…”

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

During the heated 1992 presidential race, James Carville, who was then a strategist for the Bill Clinton campaign, coined the phrase used in our headline to remind those working in Clinton’s campaign headquarters of what is really important to voters.

However, for most Americans who have either already voted, or are still on their way to the polls, today’s economic situation is significantly more nuanced than the ’92 economy.

For example, as a result of the coronavirus-induced recession and budget cuts by the Trump administration, millions of government jobs in the U.S. Postal Service and state and local governments are in danger of disappearing, according to a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the National Advisory Council on Eliminating the Black-White Wealth Gap.

The brief finds that the disappearance of these jobs would disproportionately hurt Black workers while Black Americans are facing disproportionately bad economic and health outcomes from the coronavirus crisis.

“Today, nearly 1-in-5 Black workers are employed in the public sector. The legacy of Black government workers is particularly strong in the Postal Service, where 27 percent of postal workers are Black – more than double the share of Black workers in the civilian workforce,” the report

“And while the numbers of Black employees in state and local governments are harder to measure, they are a substantial portion of the workforce in states and municipalities around the country.”

The authors continued:

“Decades of organizing by Black people in the labor movement have made public sector work a way for Black workers to build personal economic security through better wages, benefits, and job security than are often available in the private sector while serving their communities.

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“While public sector work cannot solve structural racism or close the Black-white wealth gap, the gap in the public sector is much smaller.”

For example, in the private sector, white households have as much as $10 of wealth for every $1 Black households have; in the public sector, white households hold closer to $2 for every $1 of wealth for Black families.

Simultaneously, the Trump administration’s cuts to the Postal Service and budget cuts by state and local governments threaten this path to stability for Black workers. Over the past six months, 1.2 million state and local government jobs have disappeared.

Data show 211,000 fewer Black workers were working for governments in September 2020 than in September 2019.

“As policymakers from school board members to the Federal Reserve chairman look for ways to address structural racism, it’s important they do not undermine one of the few long-standing paths to financial stability for Black workers: government jobs,” Anne Price, president of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and co-author of the brief, stated in a news release.

“Without significant action from the federal government to address the budget shortfalls in both the Postal Service and state and local governments, the economic security of millions of Black Americans may be in danger for the second time in a decade,” Price declared.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has proclaimed building the greatest U.S. economy.
He’s often denigrated his predecessor’s accomplishments, Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president.

However, economists agreed that the U.S. remains amid its most significant economic contraction and the highest unemployment rate in nearly a century.

Figures show that during Trump’s first three years in office, the annual average economic growth stood at 2.5 percent.

In the final three years of Obama’s presidency, the growth was 2.3 percent, including a significantly higher figure of 5.5 percent in 2014.

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Checking other claims, the BBC notes that the Obama administration added more jobs to the economy, comparing similar timeframes.

Under Trump, in the three years before the pandemic, there were an additional 6.4 million jobs.

I n the last three years under Obama, 7 million jobs were added.

“It’s true that the job record under Trump so far is better than the job record during Obama’s first 35 months in office,” CNN added.

“But, Obama inherited an economy in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. In comparison, Trump took office with a string of 76 straight months of job gains. Job creation under the Trump administration is a continuation of an improving job market, not the turnaround that occurred in the early years of the Obama administration.”

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