By Louis Jacobson, Linda Qiu and Katie Sanders
Just four days before the first primetime debate of the 2016 cycle, famously blunt GOP frontrunner Donald Trump portrayed himself Sunday as the target of vicious attacks from his competition.
But it didn’t take long in an interview, one of three he gave by phone, for Trump to insult one figure who definitely won’t be on stage Thursday: President Barack Obama.
ABC This Week’s Jonathan Karl asked Trump about comments on Twitter in November that Obama has done “such a poor job as president, you won’t see another black president for generations.”
Trump explained that Obama failed African-Americans:
“You look at what's gone on with their income levels. You look at what's gone on with their youth. I thought that he would be a great cheerleader for this country. I thought he'd do a fabulous job for the African-American citizens of this country,” Trump said. “He has done nothing. They are worse now than just about ever. ... They have problems now in terms of unemployment numbers. … Here you have a black president who's done very poorly for the African-Americans of this country.”
Trump’s claim that African-Americans are in a worse spot “now than just about ever” in terms of income and unemployment levels rates False.
Trump is wrong by several economic measures.
The African-American unemployment rate when Obama entered office was 12.7 percent. By June 2015, it had fallen to 9.5 percent, a drop of about one-quarter. And compared to its Obama-era peak of 16.8 percent in March 2010, the unemployment rate has fallen by about 43 percent.
But what about a longer historical look? The black unemployment rate was higher than its current rate between May 1974 and June 1997, and between November 2001 and June 2005. In all, since May 1974, black unemployment was higher than today’s rate in 328 months, and lower than today’s rate in 87 months. So it’s been higher than today 79 percent of the time since May 1974. So Trump's point here is wrong.
The pattern is similar for the unemployment rate of African-Americans ages 16-24, down from 31 percent in June 2009 to 23.4 percent in June 2015. Historically, the rate has been higher than the most recent rate 84 percent of the time in 43 years.
Trump is still incorrect even when using one of Obama’s weaker statistics: the black poverty rate. The poverty rate rose from 25.8 percent in 2009 to 27.2 percent in 2013, the most recent year available. That’s about 5 percent higher than it was when Obama took office, and it’s also higher than at any time prior to the Obama presidency going back to 1996. Still, today’s higher black poverty rate is hardly unprecedented: It was higher than it is now between 1959 and 1996 — a 38-year period.
Household median income for African-Americans shows a similar pattern to the poverty rate: Inflation-adjusted incomes have worsened during Obama’s tenure, but they are hardly the worst rates in history.
While Trump was attacking the president, one of his competitors just outside the 10-person debate cutoff took a last-effort punch at the loud guy in the lead.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has been trading jabs with Trump in recent weeks, stood by his critique of Trump as a “cancer on conservatism,” saying on Fox News Sunday that Trump doesn’t share Republican principles.
“He's for single-payer. I mean, how can anyone who is a conservative stand up and say, ‘I am for a single-payer for health care,’ ” Perry said. “I mean, that is anathema for my perspective of an individual who wants to have the banner of the Republican Party, the banner of conservatism.”
The claim rates Half True.
During his short-lived 2000 Reform Party presidential bid, Trump supported universal health care without ambiguity, and he voiced support for a single-payer system in several instances.
"The Canadian plan also helps Canadians live longer and healthier than America. … We need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing," Trump writes in his 2000 book The America We Deserve.
The problem for Perry’s claim is that it suggests this is Trump’s current position, and that is far less clear.
Over the past few months, Trump has said he admires Scotland’s single-payer system and dissed the Affordable Care Act as incompetently implemented.
In a July radio interview, Trump avoided his previous position and instead talked about a totally different approach. Calling himself a "conservative with a heart," he described his alternative to the Affordable Care Act as being "great (private) plans" made through "deals with hospitals" that allow the government to help people "at the lower levels."
A Trump spokesman denied that the candidate supported "socialized medicine” but is for "a universal ‘market-based’ plan that would offer a range of choices."
Health care experts said that sounds a lot like, well, Obamacare.
Other than that, the Trump campaign has been silent about what his specific health care policies are. Whether Trump reveals more about his health care policy may come in Thursday’s debate.
Staff writers Will Cabaniss and Jon Greenberg contributed to this report.