By Dr. Thomas Patterson |
When the notion of race-based reparations was first advanced, I didn’t take it seriously. Surely, something so costly and unhelpful would never gain traction with the American public, so why worry about it?
But on further reflection, it seems several ideas have graduated from the unthinkable to reality over the last few years in today’s America. The idea that reputable physicians would actively encourage even pre-adolescents to retard their sexual development and permanently mutilate their bodies, based on nothing more than a probably transient feeling of gender dysphoria, would have seemed absolutely bizarre not long ago.
So would the idea that schoolchildren should learn to reject the teachings of Martin Luther King and instead be taught that there were irreconcilable inborn racial differences that warranted further discrimination. Spending trillions of dollars we don’t have on unnecessary programs. Allowing immigrants by the millions to illegally breach our border. Even allowing a top government official to walk after intentionally destroying thousands of evidentiary emails during an active investigation. We can no longer count on rational thought to prevail.
Thus, the drive for race-based reparations continues to advance. Nearly every year, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee introduces a bill calling for a commission to compile documentary evidence of slavery(?), analyze its effects and recommend ways to remedy the effects of servitude including an apology and, of course, cash.
Now others are joining the chorus. California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African-Americans issued a detailed calculation of recommended awards. They include $13,619 for each year of residency in the state for healthcare disparities, $3,336 per year for housing discrimination, and $2,532 per year for over-policing and mass incarceration. That’s up to $1.2 million for each of the 2.3 million black residents of the state.
Determined not to be outbid, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed a proposal to provide a $5 million payment to each black resident to compensate for past wrongs. Each would also receive forgiveness of all loans including credit cards and income subsidies for the next 250 years to bring them to the median city income, currently $97,000.
Two years ago, Evanston, Illinois became the first American city to actually pay racial reparations, $2,500 to each black resident to pay for housing improvements.
But the notion of reparations awarded to all members of a racial or ethnic group contains no guardrails to determine where the practice logically starts and stops. While reparations for specific incidents like the Holocaust and Japanese internment are easier to define and limit, abuse by and against races has been virtually constant in human history.
Slavery has been widely practiced for millennia. That doesn’t excuse it, but it does make just compensation awards more problematic. Do all the nations who practiced, or are still practicing, slavery owe compensation? Should descendants of the tribal chieftains who fueled the African slave trade by capturing and selling fellow Africans into bondage be liable? Should people whose ancestors never owned slaves have to pay anyway? Once the foolish principle is established, we’re just quibbling about amounts.
But the ultimate objection to raced-based reparations isn’t affordability or morality. It is that reparations are economically devastating to the recipients.
Think of America’s own history. Our modern relationship with the indigenous peoples was based on promises to atone for our admittedly shabby treatment of them. They were soon transformed from proud, capable human beings to highly regulated dependents who couldn’t build a bridge, provide their own housing, or obtain medical care without federal government permission and aid.
Black Americans were making significant social and economic progress until the entitlements of the Great Society in the 1960s broke up their families, robbed them of self-sufficiency, and preempted their prospects for prosperity. Many sank into dependence, criminality, and despair.
The newly proposed reparations would likely be just as toxic, killing the incentives for self-sufficiency. The greatest gift we could give to lagging minority groups would be to double down on equipping them with the tools to fully participate in the American dream.
Helping them to rebuild families, schools, and social structures, although difficult, would be helpful. Reparations and more entitlements are the road to nowhere.
Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.