The Candidates’ Reparations Proposals

Last week I promised to examine the various proposals that the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates are proposing.

Cory Booker is proposing “baby bonds,” a savings account for every newborn, with preference to those in poverty. This would amount to $1000 for each child, to be added to by “as much as” $2000 each year until the age of 18. Now it’s true that black families are disproportionately below the poverty line, but if black families aren’t singled out racially, it isn’t reparations, it’s just another anti-poverty program, maybe even a good one, but call it what it is. His proposal as far as I can tell makes no apology for enslavement or subsequent discrimination.

Kamala Harris is proposing a “Lift the middle class” bill, which will “offer a sizable cash payment to most middle-class households. Single people would get $250 per month or $3,000 a year, married couples would get $500 per month or $6,000 a year, and it would phase out for singles without kids making $50,000 or more, and for married couples or single people with kids making $100,000 or more.” Again, no racial targeting, which also makes this an anti-poverty program, not reparations.

Julian Castro hasn’t made any specific proposal but criticizes Bernie for not endorsing the concept of reparations in the form of writing a big check to people. He points out that Sanders is willing to write big checks for many other programs. “If under the constitution we compensate people because we take their property, why wouldn’t you compensate people who actually were property?”

Elizabeth Warren is backing the passage of HR 40, introduced every legislative session since 1989 by John Conyers and currently sponsored by Shirley Jackson Lee: “To address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies.”

Passing HR 40 is of course the place to start. I’m not breaking up with Bernie over this issue. He has been highlighting the 10 to 1 ratio of white family wealth to black family wealth and promises to do something about it, while questioning what people mean by reparations. That’s precisely what the HR 40 commission would deliberate, and I am waiting hopefully for Bernie to endorse this essential bill himself.

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