Four Reasons Reparations Don’t Make Any Sense
Liberals never let go of a bad idea. Even when it seems to die, the next time Democrats get into power, it always returns like Jason from Friday the 13th. The same flimsy arguments, the same “you’re a racist if you don’t do what we want,” the same refusal to address any of the counterarguments. It’s always the same, but they hope that this time, they’ll be a little more ideologically united, people will be a little dumber, and everyone will forget the reasons people have always rejected their bad ideas in the past. Reparations for slavery are one of those ideas.
Now that Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the White House, it’s back on the agenda. Currently, there’s a “study” of the idea in the House sponsored by Sheila Jackson Lee that will ultimately conclude it’s a great idea before Democrats in Congress vote for it. Barack Obama even came out recently and said reparations were “justified” (we’ll get back to that in a second).
Of course, this is just another way for Democrats to do what they love to do best, which is to give away tax money to people that may vote for them in exchange for it. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Why? Well…
1) America’s wealth was not built on slavery: One of the arguments Barack Obama recently made for reparations was bad, but a common one. It was that America’s wealth was built on slavery.
“There’s not much question that the wealth of this country, the power of this country was built in significant part — not exclusively, maybe not even the majority of it — but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves.”
This is unconditionally, inarguably not true and anyone that says that it is, is either ignorant or a liar. Make your own call about which one of these best fits Obama in this case.
During the mid-1800s, America was a much smaller, much poorer country than it is today. Back in 1860, America’s population was about 31 million people and in 1870, after the war, per capita income per person was $2,445. Today, America’s population is roughly 328 million people and per capita income is $65,297. Additionally, keep in mind that the industrial north rather famously had a much stronger economy than the slaveholding south. Put another way, the wealth generated by slaveholding states was an insignificant part of America’s economic success and you could even make a decent argument that slavery retarded America’s growth, not helped it.
2) They’ve already been paid: We already had a Civil War where 620,000 Americans died fighting over slavery. That level of bloodshed should have been enough to pay any debt that may have been owed. However, it’s also worth asking why don’t welfare, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid, government housing, and other similar programs count as reparations? Granted, they do go to anyone that needs them, but black Americans have always partaken in these programs in much greater numbers than their percentage of the population. So, if your argument is that there are black Americans that have gotten behind because of racism or slavery, haven’t they already been compensated? Per the Cato Institute, we’ve spent more than 23 trillion dollars fighting the “war on poverty” and if we were being honest, we’d note that poverty won that war. Handing out more welfare isn’t the solution.
3) What living Americans have been hurt or benefitted from slavery? The whole idea behind reparations generally is that people that have been harmed are paid compensation by the people that harmed them. The problem with this is that you have to really reach to come up with anyone on either side of that equation that has been impacted this long after slavery happened. Depending on how you count them, there have been 7-8 generations since the Civil War. Do most people even know the names of their ancestors from that long ago or have a single keepsake from them of any kind? The people who profited from slavery, undoubtedly lost most of their gains when the south lost the Civil War. So, is there anyone still fiscally benefitting from slavery today? If there are any at all, their numbers are tiny. Additionally, while slaves certainly had it hard, the vast majority of people were poor back then and had very little to pass on to their children. Just because you had an ancestor that had hard times doesn’t mean you will have hard times 156 years later.
4) Who would even be eligible to receive it?: If you were trying to decide who should be eligible for reparations, the obvious answer would be “slaves.” Since there are no living slaves and very, very few children of slaves left alive, the answer becomes almost completely arbitrary. The general answer that people seem to have settled on is “black” Americans, but what does that even mean these days? Is Rachel Dolezal black because she identifies as black? Is Kamala Harris, who had two Indian parents, black? Barack Obama and Colin Kaepernick both had white parents. Do they qualify? Per 23andme, I’m 1.1% black. If they give out reparations, I’m applying.
What about white people that came here from South Africa? What about people whose family members came here after slavery was over? For that matter, what about black immigrants that arrived here last year? How about rich, black Americans? Do Oprah, Jay Z, and LeBron James deserve to be paid reparations that come out of the tax dollars paid by people who make a teeny, tiny fraction of their incomes? What it all comes down to is that any payments would, by necessity, be completely arbitrary and would have nothing to do with anyone deserving some kind of reparations.
John Hawkins is the author of 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know
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