Despite government data supporting Donald Trump’s claim that blacks are worse off under President Obama, the White House insisted Thursday that blacks have made progress under the first black president and that the Republican nominee would reverse those gains.
Mr. Trump’s pitch that black Americans have “nothing to lose” by voting for him is clearly irritating the White House, which tried but failed to muster much convincing evidence that life for blacks in America has improved over the past eight years.
“I think you’d be very hard-pressed to make the case that somehow the African-American population in the United States is somehow not better off,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
The black unemployment rate in July was 8.4 percent, compared with 12.6 percent when Mr. Obama took office in January 2009. But the jobless rate for whites, now at 4.3 percent, has fallen slightly more than it has for blacks in the past eight years — down 37 percent for whites and 33 percent for blacks.
On a range of other government data, blacks are faring worse under Mr. Obama. The black labor force participation rate has fallen from 63.2 percent in 2009 to 61.2 percent last month.
Black homeownership last month was 41.7 percent, down from 46.1 percent in 2009 — a drop of nearly one-tenth.
The percentage of black Americans living below the poverty line has risen from 25.8 percent in 2009 to 26.2 percent in 2014, according to the most recent Census Bureau data. The number of black food-stamp participants increased 58 percent, from 7.3 million to 11.7 million.
Confronted with such statistics, the White House said it is important to for Americans to elect Hillary Clinton as president so she can build on Mr. Obama’s legacy.
“The president’s never made the case that the work is finished, that the job is done,” Mr. Earnest said. “The point is, President Obama’s interested in being succeeded in office by someone who is committed to building on the progress we’ve made thus far as opposed to tearing it down.”
Black leaders are hitting back at Mr. Trump’s claim that he will improve conditions for black Americans.
“Donald Trump is dancing around on race and immigration, because his racism and xenophobia is threatening to trump the GOP’s chances to hold on to the Senate let alone take back the White House,” said Ben Jealous, former president of the NAACP. “This election will prove to be a referendum. If a wave of racist, xenophobic and unlikely voters turn out, then Ann Coulter and Breitbart win the argument. But if the election goes the way we predict it will and Trump is defeated, then the whole country will be affirmed that we are moving forward, together.”
Although there is little evidence that Mr. Trump’s plea to black voters is changing minds, dissatisfaction among blacks with the lack of progress under Mr. Obama has been no secret.
Broadcaster Tavis Smiley said earlier this year, “Sadly — and it pains me to say this — over the last decade, black folk, in the era of Obama, have lost ground in every major economic category.”
The Urban League’s National Equality Index has found blacks losing ground, from 57.4 percent equality with whites in 2009 to 56.2 percent this year. This year’s rating represented a slight improvement from 55.8 percent in 2015.
“The increase in the economics index [since 2015] came primarily through progress in closing the digital divide as well as lower denial rates for African Americans seeking mortgage and home improvement loans,” the group’s report said. “The unemployment and homeownership gaps remained unchanged from the previous year.”
The report lamented “an all-too-familiar story of persistent racial disparities in American life, making clear that the historic Obama presidency has not been a panacea for America’s long-standing race problem.”
The White House is arguing that, with Mr. Obama having lowered jobless rates dramatically for whites and blacks, Mrs. Clinton has better proposals than Mr. Trump to benefit all workers.
“The kinds of proposals that have been put forward by the other side would have the effect of eroding our progress, primarily because they would have a devastating impact fiscally and economically doling out significant tax cuts to those at the top of the income scale and leaving the rest of us to pay the tab,” Mr. Earnest said. “The president believes that’s a strategy we have tried and it has not worked. To go back to that strategy now would make the situation worse for everybody in America, including African-Americans.”
Mrs. Clinton moved more aggressively Thursday, using a campaign ad and a speech, to link Mr. Trump to white supremacists such as former KKK figure David Duke. She said Mr. Trump is “helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.”
Mr. Trump said Mrs. Clinton is trying to appeal to black voters with “race baiting.”
“But they know she is all talk and no action!” he said on Twitter.