White: So were you surprised by the outcome of the election, or not so much?
Darity: I was not surprised. Trump’s triggers for overt expressions of white nationalist sentiment made transparent the depth of white tribalism in America—and suggested that his election was a realistic possibility. Marginalized social groups frequently have been chastised for overemphasizing “identity politics,” but the election was thoroughly about “identity politics” by the dominant social group. So I was not surprised, but I still was dazed on the morning of November 9th.
White: Trump has promised that some of his economic policies—his big infrastructure plans for instance—will help middle- and lower-class Americans, which, in theory, would help some minority populations. Do you think those changes and their suggested benefits will come to pass?
Darity: The effectiveness of the big infrastructure plans for job creation and growth are contingent on the response of the private sector to the tax and regulatory incentives that Trump plans to enact. Of course, these types of measures seek to bribe the private sector into doing the right thing. A number of economists, including Darrick Hamilton at the New School, Pavlina Tcherneva at Bard College, and L. Randall Wray at University of Missouri at Kansas City, and myself, have advocated the direct implementation of big infrastructure plans by the public-sector provision of an employment guarantee—a direct route to full employment. The Trump approach is indirect, with consequences that are less certain.
White: And what about proposed tax cuts?
Darity: Trump has proposed the use of tax incentives and reduced regulations to stimulate private-sector expansion of investment and employment. If those measures are genuinely effective, the impact on income inequality could be marginally positive or negative depending upon the impact on wage income versus profit income. However, these measures are highly unlikely to alter the degree of wealth inequality. And the major wealth-redistribution measures that will be needed to close the wealth gap also are highly unlikely to be implemented under a Trump regime.
White: During the campaign, Trump routinely lamented the plight of black Americans, but often cast them in scenarios that aren’t wholly accurate—for instance, the black-Americans-in-inner-cities trope from one debate. How do you think Trump’s understanding of black America’s economic circumstance manifests in presidential policy?
Darity: My impression, especially from listening to an interview of one of Trump's black surrogates Darrell Scott, is that Trump’s proposal to address black economic deprivation is to “gild the ghetto.” Again, using incentives like subsidies or tax breaks, Trump seems to intend to pursue a program of intense business expansion in black urban communities. This, of course, harkens back to urban development projects pursued by the federal government in the 1970s, particularly under the Nixon administration. Those projects did not solve the problem of urban black poverty, and I’m doubtful that it will solve the problem now. If the Trump administration is successful in gilding the ghetto, in all likelihood it will accelerate processes of gentrification now underway, displacing the current residents of these neighborhoods altogether. If it is not successful, the lack of economic opportunity in those communities will remain unchanged.