The Racial Wealth Gap, and Congress' Ignorance

| Mon Apr. 13, 2009 11:00 AM EDT

The Washington Independent tackles an important issue -- the wealth gap.

As Washington policymakers screamed bloody murder last month over bonus payments for a few hundred AIG employees, another much larger scandal flew virtually unnoticed on Capitol Hill: The divide between the wealth of blacks and whites — already gaping — grew again.... According to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of the typical African American family in 2007 was just 10 percent of the net worth of the typical white family — down from 12 percent in 2004. Put another way: For every $1 held by whites five years ago, blacks had 12 cents. Three years later, they had a dime....

The staggering statistic has taken some powerful lawmakers by surprise. Participants in a wealth gap summit on Capitol Hill last month said that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who attended the event, was shocked to learn the extent of the disparity.

There's a lot more in the Independent article; little of it is new. The fact that the average black family in America has a fraction of the assets of the average white family is well known to the activist and policy communities, and the governmental policies, past and present, that have contributed to that phenomenon have been reported out in this magazine and others. The fact that anyone in Congress, particularly Democrats, is surprised by this is pretty shocking.

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