On many measures, it is clear that blacks are being hit the hardest by the declining American economy. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies had already informed us that blacks and Hispanics were about twice as likely as whites to receive a subprime loan. This would lead one to think that blacks would have about twice the foreclosure rate as whites. If that were true, that would be bad enough. But a new report (PDF) by AARP finds that blacks and Hispanics have foreclosure rates about three times that of whites.
Since 2000, the white family poverty rate is up 0.5 percentage points. The black family poverty rate has risen 2.8 percentage points. For white children, the poverty rate is up 1.0 percentage point; for black children, 3.3 points. The most startling rise is for black families headed by an unmarried male—yes, male. These families have experienced an increase in their poverty rate of 9.4 percentage points. White single males heading a family have only seen a 1.1 percentage point increase in their poverty rate. Americans of all races are hurting, but the level of economic pain is above average in many black communities.
Now that the Wall Street bailout has passed, the issue for blacks to be especially concerned about is that fiscal conservatives from both political parties will use the immediate cost of the bailout as a justification to cut programs that directly benefit average Americans. The argument will be that we cannot afford program X or spending Y because we are $700 billion dollars deeper in debt. This argument is not acceptable.
We still need to effectively address the foreclosure crisis, and we still need economic stimulus policies that will help pull the country out of the current economic recession. Economic growth is ultimately necessary for the country to regain financial stability. Economic growth that reaches black communities is desperately needed.
For a very long time black communities have needed investments, job creation and economic development. The government finds money for bridges to nowhere, missile defense shields of dubious effectiveness, ill-advised wars, Wall Street bailouts and everything else deemed too important to fail. When will our leaders decide that black communities are too important to fail economically?