Robert Johnson Capes for Trump Over Black Unemployment Numbers (or Something)

Then-President-elect Donald Trump greets Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, at Trump International Golf Club on Nov. 20, 2016, in Bedminster Township, N.J.
Then-President-elect Donald Trump greets Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, at Trump International Golf Club on Nov. 20, 2016, in Bedminster Township, N.J.
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

America’s very first black billionaire out here caping for Donald Trump, ostensibly to finagle some deal that will make a very rich man richer. Or maybe he just likes being in proximity to power.


On Friday the BET founder appeared on CNBC, saying that black folks should be dancing a little jig for the “growing economy” under Trump, citing the jobs numbers for December, when black unemployment hit its lowest rate ever: 6.8 percent. In the latest report, for March, it was 6.9.

Small caveat: Black unemployment numbers are still double those for white unemployment, though creeping incrementally toward parity.

“Something is going right,” Johnson began during his appearance on Squawk Box. 

“When you look at African-American unemployment, in over 50 years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping the numbers, you’ve never had two things: African American unemployment this low and the spread between unemployment among whites and African Americans narrowing,” he added.

Johnson laid the responsibility for the good news squarely at the current president’s feet: “If you take into account the Trump tax cut [for corporations] … I believe the economy is on a strong growth path.”

According to the Washington Post, the December tax cuts were the largest one-time reduction in the corporate tax rate in U.S. history, something the CEO of RJL Cos.—which holds interests in hotel real estate, private equity, consumer financial services, asset management, automobile dealerships, entertainment and video lottery terminal gaming—must be black-capitalist-happy about.


The Post also reports that the black unemployment rate had steadily declined during President Barack Obama’s two terms, down to 7.8 percent by the time Trump took office in January 2017.

“A 6.9 percent unemployment is perhaps, in a historical sense, something to be happy about, but if the white unemployment rate were at 6.9 percent, we would consider this catastrophic and be very alarmed,” said Darrick Hamilton, an economics and urban policy professor at the New School.


Trump reportedly offered Johnson a Cabinet position shortly after the election, according to CNBC, but Johnson said he didn’t want to work for the government.

Johnson also bragged that he has the president’s ear and uses it to advocate for African Americans, particularly on the issue of keeping black-owned banks solvent.


Johnson, who bills himself a Democrat, did raise a good point in 2016 when he said that African Americans need to be a little less rigid in their political loyalties.

“Why shouldn’t we, as Black voters, reject the notion that we are locked into one party which undoubtedly limits and dilutes our voting power? We should, instead, use the power of our vote to support and elect whichever party that best serves our interests,” Johnson said in a 2016 essay.


But I think we’re all clear that the rich go wherever the money is, regardless of political party. Or race.


Mortal Dictata

Ah the good old “growth and low unemployment, be grateful” spin.

Of course they never want to talk about how those new jobs all those nice corporations are creating pay fuck all and you can’t live on the wage (thereby simply hiding poverty traditionally associated with unemployment) while economic growth is so completely unconnected to everyday life now it’s an effectively worthless metric.