Viewpoint - Donald Trump: social justice president
August 28, 2020
President Donald Trump’s accomplishments establish him as an effective social justice president. He speaks proudly and joyfully of results — not platitudes: improving the lives of minority communities through increased employment, reducing income disparity by bringing highly paid manufacturing jobs back to the USA, giving offenders a second chance at life through criminal justice reform, securing ongoing funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and supporting parents in their efforts to get a good education for their children through school choice.
President Trump’s greatest social justice accomplishment was achieving record low unemployment (until the coronavirus pandemic) for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asians, and women. He achieved this by reducing regulations that hampered business expansion; persuading employers, through corporate tax cuts and other measures, to expand their businesses here and hire Americans; negotiating trade deals with foreign countries that were fairer to U.S. producers; and incentivizing companies to bring back profits “parked” overseas and invest them here to increase production of goods and services and grow employment. President Trump’s policies produced the largest percentage income gains for low-wage workers.
President Trump’s tough stance against illegal immigration also helped to increase minority employment. Illegal immigrants accept lower wages for low-skill jobs than would be paid to American citizens. For example, a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal reported that a chicken processing plant in Virginia, whose illegal immigrant workers were removed, had to offer higher wages, transportation, and health care in order to recruit American citizen employees from surrounding communities.
President Trump’s 2017 tax reform was a progressive change, in which the top 1 percent of taxpayers received the smallest percentage cuts. In April 2018, a Cato Institute article showed that the largest percentage cuts in individual federal income taxes went to the middle 20 percent of earners. The bottom 40 percent of earners, who don’t pay individual income taxes, got larger refundable credits — federal subsidies. The law advanced a stated goal of social justice activists: higher earners paying a larger share of the overall tax burden.
President Trump’s 2017 tax law also created Qualified Opportunity Zones. These zones are designed to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities by providing tax benefits to investors who invest in these areas. President Trump’s Opportunity and Revitalization Council has identified over 180 federal programs where targeting, preference, or extra support can be provided to Opportunity Zones.
President Trump signed major criminal justice reform, for which he lobbied hard. It has been widely argued that under the Criminal Justice Act of 1994 our legal system discriminated against minorities. The First Step Act of 2018 is a start at rectifying this, which past presidents could have done, but didn’t do. It gives federal judges more leeway in sentencing drug offenders and reduces life sentences for some prisoners. President Trump took visible pleasure in returning one such prisoner, African-American grandmother Alice Johnson, to her family. The First Step Act allows other drug offenders to seek a reduced penalty and incentivizes rehabilitation with the opportunity for many prisoners to earn early release.
President Trump signed a bipartisan bill to provide, permanently, more than $250 million per year to the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, as well as other institutions serving primarily minority students. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, thanked President Trump and advocates who lobbied Congress to support the bill. It restores annual funding that had lapsed after Congress failed to renew it. Some schools had started planning deep cuts, including telling some staff that their jobs or programs would be eliminated. President Trump said he didn’t believe these schools should have to return to Washington every year, hat in hand, to secure renewal of essential funding.
President Trump is fighting for school choice, which he calls “the civil rights [issue] of all time in this country.” In June he said, “A child’s ZIP code in America should never determine their future, and that’s what was happening.” He added that “All children deserve equal opportunity because we are all made equal by God.” He called on Congress to pass school choice “to revitalize America’s underserved communities.”
President Trump’s actions since he took office have improved the lives of racial and ethnic minorities and low- and middle-income workers. He has made the “playing field” more level in terms of employment and income, taxes, criminal justice, and education. President Trump has established himself as a true social justice warrior with performance, not platitudes. This is one of many reasons why he deserves our support.
Rabbi Sanford Olshansky is a member of the National Leadership Circle of the Republican Jewish Coalition.