From criminal justice reform to how to best teach American history, race continues to be one of the most contentious issues in American politics. In the midst of this volatile debate, many cities and states have started debating compensation. Compensation is a form of compensation paid to African Americans for slavery and other past abuses.
Just recently, California’s task force released a report calling for cash payments of up to $1.2 million for millions of African Americans who live or have lived in the state. This largely follows a similar recommendation in San Francisco, where the local board of oversight made a more lavish proposal to provide a one-time $5 million payment and other benefits to all black residents of the city. Approved unanimously.
This idea may seem far-fetched, but reparations should not be blindly refused. Some suggestions are hard to take seriously, but the idea that America owes a moral debt to African-Americans who have suffered centuries of abuse has persisted. The past impacts the present, and inequalities of opportunity remain for descendants of victims of slavery and racism.
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These persistent inequalities contribute to why 26% of African Americans live in poverty compared to just 10% of white Americans, and why 36% of African American children are poor. It has become.
Poverty rates for African Americans exceed those for white Americans, regardless of education, work effort, or family structure. Of course, the United States has gone to great lengths to address its history of unequal treatment of African Americans. However, the gap in economic opportunity has not been eliminated.
Moreover, the payment of reparations does not impose collective guilt on white Americans.Rather, they are proposing reparations to black Americans for crimes apparently committed or tolerated. by the government. Collective liability for government misconduct is a longstanding principle of law.
To give a common example, if someone’s car was damaged by a pothole that the city didn’t repair, the car owner would have to pay taxes paid by residents who weren’t involved in road maintenance. You can ask for damages. Government actions in the treatment of African Americans likewise impose collective responsibility.
But whatever the moral justification for reparations, reparations are an ineffective way of bringing real and lasting improvement to African Americans. The practical difficulties of a large-scale reparation plan, with serious questions about who should be compensated, how much, and how, would be virtually impossible to overcome.
Most of the proposals on the table are just plans to redistribute wealth through taxes and spending, without dramatically expanding economic opportunity. The long-term solution to the plight of poor African Americans will go beyond what has been done in the name of reparations.
Most importantly, the taxes and debt required to pay billions or trillions of dollars in reparations will seriously damage the economy and reduce economic growth for all Americans. is.
African Americans are unlikely to benefit from the resulting rise in unemployment, slowing wage growth, and declining entrepreneurship. The goal of any compensation policy should not be to slow economic growth per se, but to move poor people of color into the mainstream of a growing economy.
Finally, we need to recognize that reparations are a highly contentious issue, partly because those who are called to pay for past sins are not directly responsible. While 80% of white Americans oppose reparations, 77% of black Americans support reparations.
Most white Americans oppose reparations, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, education, or political affiliation. Moreover, both Asian Americans and Latinos are largely opposed to reparations.
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Politics need not be zero-sum, but political capital is not infinite. Is the bizarre push for reparations the most productive use of that capital?
A smarter move aimed at overcoming the downstream effects of slavery and racism, leveling the playing field, and increasing opportunities for African Americans, especially those at the bottom of the economic ladder today. I have a policy.
Such reforms include eliminating no-go zones, reforming police and reducing mass incarceration, giving parents greater choice and control over schools, and encouraging black entrepreneurship.
Importantly, while these reforms are particularly beneficial to African Americans, they also have the added benefit of helping low-income and distressed Americans of all races. Therefore, they have the potential to build a large multi-ethnic and cross-ideological constituency.
African Americans clearly have a moral debt, but reparations are not the way to pay it.
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