To offer a few points on top of Tim's post, it's worth noting the extent to which this recession is still nearly a depression for people of color. Among African Americans, the unemployment rate for October was 15.7 percent, a small change from September's rate of 16.1 percent, but still 6 points higher than the total rate, and close to double the rate for white Americans.
The picture is far worse for African American men and teenagers. Black men have an unemployment rate above the average for the population as a whole -- 16.3 percent for October -- and for black teenagers, the unemployment rate is 48 percent (by contrast, the rate for white teenagers is 23.6 percent). To repeat a point, the recession has virtually wiped out the last two decades of income and employment gains by African Americans. The sensible thing to do would be to just give money to disadvantaged African Americans -- and other poor people -- so that they can spend and bring the economy up with them. Of course, a reinvigorated Republican Party makes this impossible; more so than the minority, the new anti-government House majority will be absolutely opposed to further spending on food stamps, unemployment insurance, and other benefits. Spending on rich people is fine, but stimulus for the so-called undeserving is verboten.
To take the longer view, I'm afraid that this recession will make permanent the growing class divide in the black community. Twenty years from now, even after this setback, middle- and upper-class African Americans will have the resources and social capital to navigate the economy and carve out a place for themselves. Rates of college education will likely go up, and these African Americans will grow as a share of the professional class. Those left behind will continue to languish in social and economic isolation, thanks to failing schools and years of persistently high youth unemployment. An underclass of poor and struggling African Americans -- confined to the inner cities and the rural South -- is not only possible but very likely given our government's complete inability to act.
-- Jamelle Bouie