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“Taking Black Jobs”? Economists Darrick Hamilton & Dean Baker on Inflation & Taxes in Pres. Debate

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We speak with two leading economists about Thursday’s CNN debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, where the candidates sparred over tariffs, taxes, inflation and more. Trump repeatedly claimed that immigrants coming to the United States are stealing “Black jobs,” which is a “fascist notion,” says Darrick Hamilton, founding director of the Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy at The New School. Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says Biden has much to boast about, including strong job growth and falling inflation, but that Biden’s delivery was “very muddled.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

During Thursday night’s debate, former President Trump slammed President Biden for causing inflation, allowing migrants to take, quote, “Black jobs.”

DANA BASH: President Biden, while Black unemployment dropped to a record low under your presidency, Black families still earn far less than white families. Black mothers are still three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes. And Black Americans are imprisoned at five times the rate of white Americans. What do you say to Black voters who are disappointed that you haven’t made more progress?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: They acknowledge they made a lot of progress, number one. The facts of the matter is more small Black businesses that have been started than any time in history. Number two, the wages of Black — Black unemployment is the lowest level it’s been in a long, long time. Number three, we’re trying to provide housing for Black Americans and dealing with the segregation that exists among these corporate — these corporations that collude to keep people out of their houses.

And in addition to that, we find that the impact of — on the choice that Black families have to make relative to child care is incredibly difficult. When we did the first major piece of legislation in the past, I was able to reduce Black child care costs. I cut them in half. In half. We’ve got to make sure we provide for child care costs. We’ve got to make sure, because when you provide those child care protections, you increase economic growth, because more people can be in the — in the job market.

So, there’s more to be done, considerably more to be done. But we’ve done a great deal so far, and I’m not letting up, and they know it.

DANA BASH: You have 49 seconds left. What do you say to Black voters who are disappointed with the progress so far?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I say I don’t blame them for being disappointed. Inflation is still hurting them badly. For example, I provided for the idea that any Black family, first-time home buyer should get a $10,000 tax credit to be able to buy their first home, so they can get started. I made sure that we’re in a situation where all those Black families and those Black individuals who provided — who had to take out student loans, that were ballooning, that if they were engaged in nursing and anything having to do with volunteerism, if they paid their bills for 10 years on their student debt, all the rest was forgiven after 10 years. Millions have benefited from that. And we’re going to do a whole lot more for Black families.

DANA BASH: Thank you. President Trump?

DONALD TRUMP: And he caused the inflation. He’s blaming inflation. And he’s right: It’s been very bad. He caused the inflation, and it’s killing Black families and Hispanic families and just about everybody. It’s killing people. They can’t buy groceries anymore. They can’t. You look at the cost of food, where it’s doubled and tripled and quadrupled. They can’t live. They’re not living anymore. He caused this inflation.

I gave him a country with no — essentially no inflation. It was perfect. It was so good. All he had to do is leave it alone. He destroyed it with his green new scam and all of the other — all this money that’s being thrown out the window. He caused inflation.

As sure as you’re sitting there, the fact is that his big kill on the Black people is the millions of people that he’s allowed to come in through the border. They’re taking Black jobs now. And it could be 18, it could be 19 and even 20 million people. They’re taking Black jobs, and they’re taking Hispanic jobs. And you haven’t seen it yet, but you’re going to see something that’s going to be the worst in our history.

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Trump and President Biden debating last night in Atlanta, Georgia, a CNN debate that was moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

We’re joined by Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, author of Rigged: How Globalization and Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer. He’s joining us from Astoria, Oregon. And joining us in our New York studio is Darrick Hamilton, founding director of the Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy at The New School, also a Henry Cohen professor of economics and urban policy.

Welcome, both, to Democracy Now! Darrick Hamilton, let’s begin with you.

DARRICK HAMILTON: Well, clearly, Trump is a more effective messenger. But if we look at substance of policies, his policies are dramatically framed in a fascist notion of relative status, whether he’s looking at Black Americans versus white Americans or trying to message to Black Americans. He presents a zero-sum scarcity framework, a threat of another group coming and taking your jobs, as opposed to an economy that flourishes, where there’s plenty, where there’s investments in our productive capacities, which obviously spills into democracy.

On the other side, the bravado, the messaging of, basically, “Here’s what my administration — all these great things we did,” that’s problematic when people’s lived experiences clearly aren’t feeling that. A more effective message would be one where: “Here are the trajectories and directions in which we’re going. We are affirmatively thinking about race when we do our Inflation Reduction Act. We are affirmatively thinking about race when we consider cancellation of student loans, student loan debt.” That would be a more effective message.

And last thing I’ll say, really quick, is, beyond either one of the candidates, how we got some of the interventions we got during the pandemic, like moratoriums on foreclosures, moratoriums on evictions, like sending checks directly to the American people, was through political movement, was through agitation. I want to be in a place where we’re not reliant on any of these candidates, but we have momentum, we have paradigm change for a new economy that’s productive and inclusive for all of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Dean Baker, if you can share your thoughts on last night’s debate? I think The New York Times put the number of lies at several dozens by President Trump. What do you think was the message of Trump and Biden?

DEAN BAKER: Yeah, well, the Biden message, unfortunately, was very muddled. I mean, he does have a lot to boast about. I mean, we did get the lowest unemployment rate we’ve seen in over 60 years. We’ve had, for Blacks, Black teens, the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded. Same for Hispanics. I mean, it’s still way too high, but that’s real progress. We saw good wage growth up and down the income ladder, and the strongest at the bottom. So, workers of the bottom decile saw 12% real wage growth since the pandemic. This was really extraordinarily good.

Also, really important point, the inflation was caused by the pandemic. You had inflation in Germany and France roughly the same as the U.S. You know, I know Donald Trump likes to say Biden’s plan was awful, but pretty impressive if you brought about inflation all over the world with his plan.

As far as what Trump did — maybe he doesn’t know — when he left office, unemployment was around 6%, and jobs were not bouncing back. This is a really important point. We were creating 140,000 jobs a month his last three months. It’d take us five-and-a-half years to have gotten back the jobs we lost with that rate of job growth.

The other things he was saying, close to incoherent. He said them very confidently. But the greatest economy — again, the economy he had, you know, was a decent economy. It continued the growth rate that we saw under President Obama. So, that’s good. I mean, but it’s hard to really boast about that when he was handed an economy that was growing while the unemployment rate was coming down.

So, yes, it was, to my view, very painful and really unfortunate that President Biden wasn’t able to stand up and, you know, both take credit for what are really impressive accomplishments and point out that Trump was lying.

AMY GOODMAN: Saying, for example, that he had created — Biden created — said 15,000 jobs rather than 15 million. He was his own worst enemy.

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