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Trump’s ‘New Deal’ Offers Little More Than Rhetoric

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It’s not really necessary to repeat the criticisms of Donald Trump that have come from the left and the right. How his comments have given new life to misogyny in politics; how his racial rhetoric has somehow managed to offend anyone who identifies as anything; how Republicans can’t believe how much more embarrassed they can be by him.

But when it comes to “the African-Americans” with whom he has in the past said he has “great relations” with, Trump has failed to reach the community at large because he apparently has a superficial understanding of what has been happening in Black America over the time that he spent making himself uber-wealthy.

At a campaign rally this week he offered a “new deal” to Blacks in which cities and states could declare certain communities disaster areas, offer microloans to small businesses to spur job creation, and bolstered his position and plans for school choice.

It was a departure from simply saying that Black communities need “law and order” the way he did in previous debates.

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s and remember the worst of the crack epidemic, it’s no secret what disaster areas some neighborhoods became, not just because of the drug itself, but because of the divestment and lack of opportunity offered to its working-age adults. Depression became dysfunction and most of these areas have never really recovered.

This was during the time Trump was building up his real estate empire with little understanding of what was happening to people who lived in urban areas. That was evidenced when he publicly called for five teenagers to be executed for a rape that it turned out they didn’t commit.

In the case of offering microloans, it’s not a new idea and certainly not a bad one. But Trump did not define who he would have be responsible for extending microcredit. Would it be major banks who have not only been historically reluctant to extend credit in the Black community, but also played a significant role in the housing crisis that has rolled Black wealth back over the last decade? How about the Federal Reserve which keeps us teetering about interest rates, making it harder for African-Americans to secure mortgages?

As far as school choice, he called it “the great civil rights issue of our time.”

But his school choice plan has been picked apart by Chad Miller, the educational director of the conservative American Action Forum:

The Trump education proposal can be summarized in two parts. One, create a $20 billion dollar block grant to entice states to adopt school choice programs, and two, use the bully pulpit of the executive office to browbeat states that are not motivated by federal funds into implementing school choice programs.

As a history buff, it was hard for me to listen to Donald Trump’s “new deal” speech given on Wednesday that he tailored for African-Americans—given to a mostly White crowd—and not think of another plan by the same name.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression, a time when millions of Americans worried about where their next meal would come from. Almost immediately, he proposed what came to be known as “The New Deal,” which literally took the country from a rural, agrarian way of governmental thinking to an industrialized perspective that caught up with nations that were growing through mass production.

The result was programs ranging from the Tennessee Valley Authority, to the Works Progress Administration, to the National Labor Relations Board. There were at least a dozen other laws and acts passed that ultimately turned the entire nation around. Not a moment too soon, either. World War II was around the corner.

Trump is not Roosevelt.

Sure, maybe they might come from the same blue blooded background, but Roosevelt understood what poverty, joblessness and blight were doing to the country. They were more than just political talking points. They were real.

In Trump’s case, in dealing with the African-American community alone and stereotyping our communities as hopeless urban wastelands of poor education and lawlessness, what he offers is not a new deal, it’s the same lack of understanding that politicians – both Democrat and Republican – have offered us for generations.

Madison J. Gray is Managing Editor of EBONY.com and JETMag.com. Follow him on Twitter @madisonjgray.