Issues & Insights

Reparations Derangement Syndrome

A panel in California, where rotten public policy ideas metastasize like a fungus growing in dark, slimy conditions, has approved paying reparations to descendants of slaves. It is impossible to overstate just how insane this is.

The reparations task force, appointed by Boy Gov. Gavin Newsom, voted Saturday to recommend the state pay out as much as $800 billion to the descendants of enslaved or free black people who were in the U.S. by the end of the 19th century. That’s 2.5 times the size of California’s annual budget. Recipients could rake in as much as $1.2 million each.

Or more. Much more. Because San Francisco’s reparations advisory committee has recommended the city’s qualified African American residents be given a $5 million lump sum.

The committee also proposed “the elimination of credit card debt, car and student loans; a string of tax breaks; and 250 years of special benefits for African Americans such as a  guaranteed income of $97,000 a year (adjusted for inflation); and the ability to buy homes for $1,” says Rowena Itchon of the Pacific Research Institute.

The cost of this largess, says the Hoover Institution’s Lee Ohanian, will be “​​on a per-household basis … nearly $600,000 per non–African American San Francisco household.”

Let’s not pretend this is about justice, fairness and decency. It’s a shakedown – aided and abetted by rich, white, guilt-ridden, virtue-signaling progressives – that not even Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton could have envisioned a decade ago.

The case against reparations is irrefutable. Or would be in a sane world, which we no longer live in.

Despite the lunacy that has a grip on our politics, we will lay out the arguments.

First, no taxpayer in California or the U.S. was alive when slavery was allowed in this country, and none of those who were enslaved are alive either. Anyone who doesn’t think this is irrelevant is neither a clear nor honest thinker.

Second, we go to Andreas Koureas of The Spectator, who brings up an unpopular but salient point: “Ultimately, the great evil of slavery was practiced by all inhabited continents and all races.” Consequently, nearly every human on the planet has “an ancestral link to the slave trade.” 

History, perpetually in conflict with “The Narrative,” tells us that “indigenous Africans, would capture slaves in village raids or as prisoners of war, and they would be sold at the African coast to outside traders or fellow Africans within the subcontinent.”

“​​Long before the transatlantic slave trade began, slavery was commonplace in many parts of the globe,” Koureas adds. “The further you go back in history the longer the list of slavers grows, including everyone from the Ancient Egyptians to the Shang dynasty in China.”

Our third exhibit, which is inextricably linked to the first two, is the impossibility of identifying who is eligible. For instance, would radical Marxist Angela Davis be eligible? The University of California, Santa Cruz professor has for more than five decades passed herself off as an oppressed person of color. But it turns out the Black Panther and Soviet apologist is a descendant of a Puritan who arrived on the Mayflower. As some wags have asked, does this mean that, having both slave and white settlers in the family tree, she has to pay herself reparations?

Of course, she wouldn’t be the only person with such a mixed background who would confound any calculation on the way to deciding who gets the checks and who doesn’t. And given the number of impostors who have tried to pass themselves off as black in recent years, it’s a certainty that we’ll see a sudden and sharp upsurge of non-blacks identifying as black so they can get in on the reparations racket.

And finally, California was not a slave state. At least not before politicians in recent decades have burdened residents and businesses with punitive taxes, suffocating regulations, a long string of prohibitions, and authoritarian mandates that have made tens of millions subjects of the state.

While Kalifornia Krazy is clearly at work here, the madness is taking hold elsewhere.

“Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is one of 11 mayors across the country who are also forming task forces,” says Itchon. “Already, the Evanston, Illinois, city council voted to pay $25,000 to qualifying black households for payments on homes or make repairs. That city pledged to spend $10 million on the program over the next 10 years.”

Meanwhile, the appalling Barbara Lee, who represents a House district in Oakland, has cosponsored a bill in Congress to study reparations. It should never get a hearing, but we live in unhinged times, so it will get much more than that.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


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  • Those seeking other peoples’ money via ‘reparations’ should be required to name the person who owned them and his/her location so they can be tracked down and dealt with.

  • What about those of us whites who had an ancestor die in the service of the US freeing the slaves? Do we not deserve as much consideration as the descendants of the slaves?

  • The California Committee On Reparations composed of all but one black members voted to give themselves (save for the one Asian) a fortune. How surprising.

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