By Frederick H. Lowe
These are the best of times for black workers, President Donald Trump claimed Tuesday night during his first State of the Union Address in which he recognized two black/Hispanic couples and a black welder while taking a veiled swipe at the National Football League players who took a knee during the national anthem to protest widespread police brutality.
The speech, which was an hour and a half long —- one of the longest on record —- also touched on a number of subjects including trade, immigration, defeating ISIS, investing $1.5 trillion in the nation’s infrastructure, the recent tax cut, companies building new plants in the U.S. and the creation of 2.4 million new jobs including 200,000 new manufacturing jobs.
Trump billed the speech as a unifying address but Sen. Cory Booker said the speech was anything but unifying.”He kept hitting hot button after hot button, exaggerating and lying,” Booker said.
The audience responded to the speech mostly along party lines. Republicans stood, clapped and chanted ‘U.S.A.,’ but Democrats mostly sat silently. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the speech and women members of Congress wore black to protest Trump’s history of sexual harassment. Melanie, the First Lady, wore a white pants suit. She also arrived for the occasion separately from Trump.
Trump said the African-American unemployment rate is the lowest ever recorded. He did not say what it was, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in December the black unemployment rate was 6.8 percent. For black men, 20 and over, the jobless rate in December was 6.6 percent, compared to 7.6 percent a year earlier.
The jobless rate in December for black women 20 and over was 5.8 percent compared to 6.2 percent a year ago. Still, the black unemployment rate is much higher than that of whites, Hispanics and Asians. Overall jobless is at a 45 year low, Trump said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics will report January’s unemployment rate Friday, February 2.
Trump recognized Corey Adams, who was seated in the First Lady’s box for working as a welder at Staub Manufacturing Solutions, which is based in Dayton, Ohio. His employers gave workers a bonus as a result of the tax cut and Adams will save the money for his two daughters college education. Trump touted his administration’s support of small businesses.
Trump also recognized two couples—Elizabeth Alvardo, Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuervas—whose teenage daughters, Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas– were murdered by members of MS-13, a gang from El Salvador that has been able to gain admission to this country.
Trump used this event to warn of the dangers of immigrants entering the country, clearly playing to xenophobic fears and ignoring America’s history as an immigrant nation.