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President Trump’s claim that he has done ‘far more than anyone’ for ‘inner cities’

(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me. And it’s very important.”
— President Trump, remarks during a news conference on infrastructure, Aug. 15, 2017

After delivering remarks on an infrastructure plan, President Trump spoke about violence at the Aug. 12 white supremacist rally and counterprotest in Charlottesville, where a woman who was protesting racism was killed.

When asked whether he is concerned about race relations in the United States, Trump said race relations have “gotten better or the same.” Trump claimed his administration is “spending a lot of money on the inner cities,” and that “fixing the inner cities” is a priority. Is that the case?

The Facts

First, let’s set the record straight on “inner cities.” Trump constantly — and incorrectly — uses the term as a synonym for black Americans, and as areas ravaged by crime and poverty. “Inner cities” generally is used to describe low-income urban neighborhoods. But there was a big shift among black residents in recent decades, out of urban cities and into the suburbs. And it ignores the large black population in the rural South.

“Using ‘inner city’ as a stand-in for ‘black’ is even less accurate than using ‘suburban’ as a stand-in for ‘white,’” The Washington Post reported during the campaign. “When Trump addresses black America by talking about urban centers, he overlooks the diversity of America’s black population and the unique issues that affect the millions who live in the rural South and the suburbs.”

The White House and the Office of Management and Budget did not respond to our request for an explanation of how Trump has prioritized black Americans or increased federal spending on programs that benefit low-income Americans, a disproportionately large number of whom are African American. So we looked at some major programs that benefit such populations.

Trump’s budget would increase defense spending by $54 billion and offset that with money taken from 18 other agencies. To put this figure in context, there is a backlog of about $225 billion in various projects that would help rebuild the country’s inner cities. This includes projects to repair public housing, fix aging infrastructure, invest in schools and job training, and more, PolitiFact found.

Trump’s proposed budget plan included stark reductions for programs that help minorities, the poor, seniors and those with disabilities. Congress has not finished appropriations for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, although House and Senate appropriations committees have approved certain agency budgets. Some agency budgets were approved at higher levels than Trump’s proposals, but still lower than fiscal 2017 levels.

Let’s start with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Trump proposed a $6.2 billion decrease to the HUD budget, broadly resulting in a nearly 12 percent reduction, targeting programs that support revitalization of lower-income and urban neighborhoods, and also support affordable housing for poor American families.

Trump’s proposal for HUD would result in the largest reduction the agency has seen since the 1980s, according to Solomon Greene, senior fellow at the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has raised eyebrows for his use of the term "inner city." Janell Ross explains how the inner city came about. (Video: Claritza Jimenez, Danielle Kunitz/The Washington Post)

Trump’s HUD budget would include eliminating the $3 billion Community Development Block Program, which gives federal money to states and local governments to revitalize and rebuild their communities. It would eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the Choice Neighborhoods Program, HOME Investment Partnership Program, and more.

Trump also proposed to reduce rental assistance programs for the poor. Among those who receive HUD rental assistance, 64 percent of households and 73 percent of individuals are minorities, according to data analyzed by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

How about education? Trump would reduce spending on the Education Department by 14 percent. Among its effects, this would downsize or eliminate a series of grants, including ones that provide aid to low-income and minority college students.

Although Trump promised to make funding for historically black colleges and universities a “priority,” his budget called for less discretionary spending than the schools now receive, and there was no mention of any new federal investments that the school leaders requested.

The list goes on. For the Labor Department, Trump proposed shrinking Job Corps, a job-training program for disadvantaged youths. Trump would eliminate federal funding for after-school programs, which mostly help children of poor families. And he would eliminate the Minority Business Development Agency, which boosts businesses owned by minorities and are in minority communities.

Meanwhile, Trump has started using unemployment figures that give the impression that employment among black youths has substantially improved under his presidency. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly used a striking and misleading measure of black youth unemployment to make a case to black voters: “Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed, what the hell do you have to lose?”

Yet now, Trump brags he reduced black youth unemployment, using a totally different measurement that he abandoned during the campaign to exaggerate black youth unemployment. We awarded Trump an Upside-Down Pinocchio for this cynical flip-flop.

The Pinocchio Test

Trump was asked whether he has concerns about race relations — particularly between black and white communities, in the context of Charlottesville. His answer was that he was spending more money to fix and prioritize “inner cities.” This is incorrect on many levels.

“Inner cities” is not synonymous with black communities, so he gets a basic fact wrong about where black Americans are concentrated in this country. Moreover, Trump proposed steep reductions to a variety of programs that disproportionately affect minority communities and lower-income Americans, from education to housing. There is a $225 billion backlog to fix America’s inner cities, yet Trump’s budget does not reflect a genuine prioritization of projects to reduce this backlog.

Trump’s claim reflects a misunderstanding of black communities and is incongruous with his budget proposals. Actions speak louder than words.

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“I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me. And it’s very important.”
remarks during a news conference on infrastructure
Tuesday, August 15, 2017