Donald Trump’s effort to woo black voters has gotten off to a rocky start. The GOP nominee’s main argument — that black communities have been poorly served by Democratic leaders — is certainly powerful. But, as recent polls have shown, this strategy has yet to move the needle with African Americans.
What’s missing from Trump’s appeal is a positive vision for how he will improve the lives of black Americans. And a Republican proposal for creating stable inner-city jobs is exactly the plan the Trump campaign needs.
From Detroit to Washington, DC and Chicago, years of progressive policies have produced black communities plagued by dismally high levels of unemployment and crime.
Look at the West Baltimore neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester. This is the birthplace of Freddie Gray, the young black man whose death while in police custody sparked the riots that ravaged the city last year. Half of the households in this area earn less than $25,000 a year, and the local murder rate is double the citywide average.
Over the last decade, state and municipal officials have poured $130 million into Sandtown, specifically to spur local business growth and create jobs. Their investments failed horribly. Unemployment didn’t budge. The number of black-owned businesses actually fell.
It’s precisely these sorts of efforts that have created a sense of despair in many black communities. Trump has a chance to replace that dreary narrative with a hopeful vision that promises to put black Americans back to work. Oddly enough, in crafting that plan, he’d do well to take his cue from the dreaded Carter Administration.
Back in 1977, the federal government experimented with a tax credit that rewarded employers for making new hires. Every company that had expanded its workforce by at least 2 percent over the previous year was awarded a tax credit worth up to $2,100 per employee — about $8,400 in today’s dollars.
This credit goosed job growth. But since it expired after one year, it didn’t make a substantial dent in the ranks of the unemployed.
In 2010, federal lawmakers briefly resuscitated this idea specifically to address the problem of the long-term unemployed. That program offered a $1,000 credit for hiring workers that had been jobless for at least 60 days.
Now imagine a permanent policy that combines elements from both of these initiatives. This new tax credit would cover the long-term unemployed for the first five years after they’ve secured a job. It would offset fully 100 percent of wages — up to, say, $24,000 — for the first year and gradually taper off over the following four.
Such a credit would defray the costs of hiring and encourage companies to expand. The policy would generate the kinds of long-term employment that can transform the lives of inner-city residents.
To pay for the tax credit, Trump can propose targeted cuts to progressive programs that aren’t working.
It’s not enough for Trump to criticize the progressive programs holding back black communities. He needs to offer a hopeful vision of his own. A tax credit that grows jobs from the bottom-up would provide inner city communities with the opportunity and self-respect that Democratic leaders have failed to deliver.
Thomas Tucker is the co-founder of The New Majority. Yuri Vanetik is a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute and serves on the national board of Gen Next and the Gen Next Foundation.