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Economic inequality continues to be one of the most hotly debated topics in America, but there has been relatively little discussion of the fact that black-white gaps in joblessness, income, poverty, and other measures were shrinking prior to the pandemic.
Why was it happening, and why did this phenomenon go unacknowledged by so much of the media?
In The Black Boom, Jason L. Riley—acclaimed Wall Street Journal columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute—digs into the data and concludes that the economic lives of black people improved significantly under policies put into place during the Trump administration. To acknowledge as much is not to endorse the 45th president but rather to champion policies that achieve a clear moral objective shared by most Americans.
As Riley argues in The Black Boom: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, the economic fortunes of blacks improved under Trump to an extent that was not only unseen under Obama but unseen going back several generations. Black unemployment and poverty reached historic lows, and black wages increased at a faster clip than white wages.”
Less inequality is something that everyone wants, but disapproval of Trump’s personality and methods too often skewed the media’s appraisal of effective policies advocated by his administration. If we want to make real progress in improving the lives of low-income minorities, says Riley, we must look beyond our partisan differences at what works and keep doing it. Unfortunately, many press outlets were unable or unwilling to do that.
As The Black Boom notes: “Political reporters were not unaware of this data. Rather, they chose to ignore or downplay it because it was inconvenient. In their view, Trump, because he was a Republican and because he was Trump, had it in for blacks, and thus his policy preferences would be harmful to minorities.
To highlight the fact that significant racial disparities were narrowing on his watch—that the administration’s tax and regulatory reforms were mainly boosting the working and middle classes rather than ‘the rich’—would have undermined a narrative that the media preferred to advance, regardless of its veracity.”
As with previous books in our New Threats to Freedom series, The Black Boom includes two essays from prominent experts who take issue with the author’s perspective. Juan Williams, a veteran journalist, and Wilfred Reilly, a political scientist, contribute thoughtful responses to Riley and show that it is possible to share a deep concern for disadvantaged groups in our society even while disagreeing on how best to help them.
The Black Boom exemplifies the calm, rational dialogue that Americans want and need at this moment in our history to understand which public policies best promote upward mobility for everyone.
"I don't know what I liked more about The Black Boom: Jason Riley's persuasive, provocative, and counterintuitive analysis of how racial inequality decreased during Donald Trump's divisive presidency. Or the fact that the volume includes powerful critiques of Riley by Juan Williams and Wilfred Reilly. What I do know for sure is that this volume is a model for serious policy discussions in a country filled with shallow partisans more interested in talking past one another rather than fixing real problems."—Nick Gillespie, editor at large, Reason
“Jason Riley’s commitment to facts, impartial analysis of the data, and dedication to principled public policy has made him one of America’s foremost thought leaders. Each of these traits is on full display in The Black Boom, in which he argues that minorities enjoyed real economic progress during the Trump administration. His case is nonpartisan, sharply reasoned, and deserving of serious attention. I highly recommend it and hope that it inspires productive dialogue that moves us beyond our divisiveness.”—Dr. Arthur B. Laffer, economist and Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient
“This important and explosive little book provides stimulation and provocation on every page, demolishing conventional wisdom about black progress in the process. Riley insists recent history demonstrates that black families have benefited far more from the opportunities provided by free-market economics than from government programs and the over-valued acquisition of political power. He writes with a combination of grace and force that may change some minds while opening many more.”—Michael Medved, nationally syndicated radio host and author of God’s Hand on America
“[A] concise, refreshing take on the pre-pandemic Black economy during the Trump presidency. . . . [T]his brief primer does an excellent job of reminding us that economic freedom benefits the poor and marginalized the most and that minorities can be progressing economically despite the tasteless rhetoric of our political class. The takeaway? Focus on principles, not personalities, and don’t believe the hype about a thousand new targeted programs to address inequality. Good old tax cuts and simplified regulation may sound boring, but sometimes the exciting part isn’t the process, but the outcome.”—Law & Liberty
“Jason Riley deserves congratulations for writing a book that, despite some flaws, presents a dispassionate and mostly evenhanded discussion of a phenomenon that remains mysterious and at this point still unknowable: the effect of Trump’s economic policies on blacks and on America as a whole. Our divided media have cast a dim light on this important subject; Riley has let in the sunshine.” –Commentary Magazine
“In his fact-filled and beautifully terse 2022 book, The Black Boom, Riley, shows that incomes for every demographic and every part of the income distribution grew during Trump’s first three years. My independent data check shows that Riley is right.” –Defining Ideas.(Hoover Institution