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Federal spending has the capacity to perpetuate racial inequality, not simply through explicit exclusion, but through choices made in the legislative and institutional design of spending programs. Drawing on the lessons of New Deal and postwar social programs, this Essay offers an account of the specificfeatures offederal spending that give it salience in structuring racial arrangements. Federal spending programs, this Essay argues, are relevant in structuring racial inequality due to their massive scale, their creation of new programmatic and spending infrastructures, and the choices made in these programs as to whether to impose explicit inclusionary norms on states and localities. Exploring these features has relevance for understanding the current stimulus. Key aspects of the stimulus entrench funding and programmatic structures that promote racial inequality, defer to states and localities rather than advance explicit civil rights rules and norms, and miss key opportunities to innovate to promote racial inclusion and equity.

Yet, this Essay argues that even with these limitations, the stimulus presents opportunities for civil society groups to learn from the lessons of New Deal and postwar programs by using the stimulus to promote racial inclusion and equality. Indeed, this Essay shows that the magnitude of the stimulus is generating a new set of laws and regulatory institutions designed to promote transparency and accountability in federal spending. These interventions, this Essay suggests, provide promise for interrupting the mechanisms through which federal spending perpetuates inequality, and for leveraging the stimulus to advance racial inclusion.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Law | Law and Economics | Law and Race | Social Welfare Law