As the Congress careens toward passing a multi-trillion dollar “omnibus” spending bill before adjourning sine die, at least two states – California and New York – are preparing their own massive spending sprees, called “Reparations.”
If such multi-hundred-billion-dollar packages are enacted in these two most populace of states, it will lead to one of the biggest runs on government treasuries in American history – far more expensive and expansive than President Biden’s paltry-by-comparison “student loan forgiveness” program.
While the concept of reparations – paying former slaves and their descendants for the horrors of slavery in centuries past – has been around since the end of the Civil War (and resurrected occasionally since then), it is only in the past several years that it has taken hold as a serious policy discussion at the federal and state levels.
Considering that slavery has been outlawed in the United States by constitutional amendment and statutory law for more than a century and a half, and with the last actual slave having died in 1940, a threshold question to be posed to those officials pressing for reparations is, on what basis should those living today with no conceivable relationship to slavery be compensated?
As with all things racial these days, the answer is, of course, “equity.
A 2020 policy paper published by the Brookings Institute, Why we need reparations for Black Americans, makes the liberal case for mandating that governments and private entities pay reparations for every “Black person who can trace their heritage to people enslaved in the U.S. states and territories” as well as for all “Black people who can show how they were excluded from various policies after emancipation.” Just try and place any meaningful limits on those two categories of persons.
Brookings expressly includes among recipients of this largesse, former president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle (who have made millions since leaving the White House in January 2017), current Vice President Kamala Harris, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
The Brookings proposal does not detail how these oh-so-necessary reparations would be funded, but with equity as its foundation even raising the question of funding likely would be deemed racist.
Undaunted by the monumental cost of reparations proposals, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has placed a preliminary price tag of $559 billion on the payment plan that has been recommended to him by the California Reparations Task Force. Newsom’s estimate is based on giving qualified recipients (every Black California resident who descended from enslaved persons) $223,200 cash. Considering how virtually every public program in the Golden State balloons in cost many times beyond original estimates, the $559 billion must be considered a mere starting point.
Legislators in New York have jumped on the reparations bandwagon in the wake of California’s big-hearted proposal, with one Assemblywoman, Taylor Darling of Long Island, scoffing that Newsom’s $223,500 payout was “too low.” While the Empire State’s Gov. Kathy Hochul has not yet fully joined the reparations chorus, with Assemblywoman Darling challenging her that failing to do so would be a “slap in the face,” it is only a matter of time before Hochul locks arms with Newsom on the issue.
Officials in other states have not gone as far as California or New York in pressing the reparations button, but considering the lure of “free money” for large voting blocs that the idea represents, they will likely start joining the parade. The NAACP has been on record for years supporting reparations, and when one of its local chapters in North Carolina recently called formally on the local government to establish a reparations commission, the city of High Point quickly fell in line and did so.
Where this clamoring for current-generation Blacks to receive cash and other pecuniary benefits such as free tuition and housing payments as recompense for wrongs committed against enslaved peoples eight or more generations ago winds up, is unclear.
However, with the divisive issue of race being pressed to the forefront of so many public concerns and policies, and with Democrat officials at all levels of government exhibiting a breathtaking disregard for fiscal responsibility, it is easy to foresee reparations becoming the next great New Deal, robbing American taxpayers (who would never dream of enslaving someone and who would be committing a crime if they did) of even more their hard-earned money.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.