Weekend Jolt: The Reparations Movement Is Sabotaging Itself

Dear Weekend Jolter,

With a single document, a San Francisco committee has managed to warp ...

WITH JUDSON BERGER January 21 2023
WITH JUDSON BERGER January 21 2023

The Reparations Movement Is Sabotaging Itself

Dear Weekend Jolter,

With a single document, a San Francisco committee has managed to warp the common understanding of reparations beyond recognition and damage the cause the authors aim to advance.

A city advisory panel's draft recommendations on reparations, released last month but getting noticed this week, not only would expand eligibility for individuals who are not descendants of slaves but put to paper an astronomical monetary figure that, if honored, would necessarily open new wounds in the attempt to heal old ones. From Brittany Bernstein's news report:

[The San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee] has recommended paying out hefty reparations to the city's longtime black residents, including a $5 million payment per qualifying person and a supplemental income to low-income residents for 250 years.

One problem with this exercise is there's always a higher number. Two years ago, Evanston, Ill., became the first U.S. city to approve reparations-style payments to black residents, aiming to distribute $25,000 to qualifying households for home repairs or down payments. Now the going rate is $5 million, proving inflation is still with us. The San Francisco proposal, if taken national, would blow out of the water BET founder Robert Johnson's once-shocking reparations estimate of $14 trillion. If one were to send the San Francisco sum to even half of black Americans, the cost would exceed $100 trillion.

Why not $200 trillion?

The San Francisco plan is discrediting to a movement that has encountered a difficult enough time attracting commitments from policy-makers — even if most accept that the stain of slavery, segregation, and discrimination has disadvantaged many Americans of color, disadvantages that persist to this day. Does anyone truly believe that the typical financial advantage enjoyed by white families is anywhere near $5 million? One need only look at household-finance data for clarity: Most white people aren't sitting on that amount of money. The 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances found that white households had a median wealth of $188,200, compared with $24,100 for black households. The gap is stark, to be sure; but as that same survey notes, it is also observable in comparison with Hispanic families (median wealth: $36,100) and other minority groups.

If the goal is to redress discrimination and resultant disparities in wealth, and not just slavery, then by that logic they too should be made whole. Herein lies another big problem. As California was not a slave state, the San Francisco draft proposes reparations to a range of people affected by repression in various forms (the document leans on a United Nations definition of reparations as measures that "redress violations of human rights"). So, descendants of slaves along with many others would be eligible; applicants would have to be black, 18 years or older, and meet any two of a list of other criteria ranging from having been born in the city between 1940 and 1996 and lived there for at least 13 years to having been incarcerated by the "failed War on Drugs."

While the San Francisco committee is not the only group taking a flexible view toward reparations eligibility — Evanston also did — such interpretations leave unclear where to draw the line. Presuming one is drawn, the massive payouts would be invidious and give rise to new grievances, especially among immigrant taxpayers with no generational link to slavery.

NR's editorial elaborates:

If reparations are based on injustices and discrimination other than slavery, there is a far weaker case for singling out a single group for benefits. If anything, California and San Francisco have a much more egregious history of injustices done by the government towards Native Americans and people of Chinese and Japanese descent. Those injustices include laws that prevented Asian Americans from owning guns or testifying in court.

Then, there are the legal and moral problems with giving people money on the basis of race without requiring them to show that they have ever suffered injustice. . . . Its list of proofs of suffering past injustice is quite elastic, including black immigrants from foreign countries to San Francisco as late as 1996 and those who were "Personally, or the direct descendant of someone, incarcerated by the failed War on Drugs." Giving someone $5 million for being a heroin trafficker does not seem like justice.

The obligatory caveat is that this proposal is a draft (prepared by city Human Rights Commission staff) and represents recommendations only. Other places are similarly exploring the issue: Cities from Boston to Kansas City have moved recently to study reparations; California has its own task force; Representative Sheila Jackson Lee continues to push for a commission in Congress; and Jen Psaki said in 2021 that President Biden would support a study. The Biden administration has not gone beyond that statement, though the president has a poor track record lately of saying "no" to the most ambitious progressive projects imaginable.

Still, the latest proposal is so ludicrous that even San Francisco could turn it down.



Governor Youngkin is right about the mess in Fairfax County: The Virginia Schools Scandal

That full editorial on San Fran's reparations scheme, again, is here: San Francisco's Insane 'Reparations' Program


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Douglas Murray: Right and Wrong on Ukraine

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A new issue of NR is out, with much to say and much to convey about Ukraine, "disinformation," the U.S. House, and more — complete with a special Capital Matters section on economic issues, not the least of which is electric cars. From Andrew Stuttaford's cover story:

"The more the state 'plans,'" wrote Hayek, "the more difficult planning becomes for the individual." This may resonate with the driver of an electric vehicle (EV) who has pulled up at a charging station in the middle of nowhere, only to find it broken.

In January last year, Carlos Tavares, the CEO of Stellantis, the world's fifth-largest carmaker (it was formed by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot), described electrification as "a technology chosen by politicians" and said it was "imposed" on the auto sector. By contrast, the triumph of the internal-combustion engine (ICE) over a century ago was organic. Human ingenuity and the power of markets led to a product that swept almost everything else off the road. EVs (which first had a moment around 1900) were not banned, and neither was the horse. In due course, ICE horseless carriages for the Astors were followed by the Model T and its kin. The automotive age had truly arrived.

The surge in demand for EVs (albeit from a low base) in Europe and the U.S. could be seen as evidence that, with the assistance of some taxpayer cash and nudges from government, EV technology could flourish without state interventions to either close down or hobble its wicked rival. But some policy-makers, faced with what they claim (and some may even believe) is a climate "crisis," have clearly not been persuaded that EVs, for all their loudly touted wonders, should be relied on to overtake conventional autos. That has left coercion, and with it the opportunity to redesign much of everyday life in ways more in keeping with the standards of those who know best. The switch to EVs will lead, in the end, to a shrunken role for the car, a machine long resented by a certain type of authoritarian for the untidiness it creates, for the space it takes up, and for the autonomy it offers.

Bans on the sales of new ICE vehicles will be coming into force from 2035 in Europe and, with California having taken the lead, in parts of the United States. Europe's ban will also cover hybrids, one of the better, less disruptive pathways to lower greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. But like many of the religious cults it resembles, climate fundamentalism is characterized by a perpetual quest for purity. Tainted by gasoline, the hybrid had to go. Japan is taking a different course. Its hybrids have done well, and their manufacturers argue that their technology has more to offer. Like, for instance, the chairman of India's largest automaker, the Japanese tend to be skeptical that there is only one route to a more climate-friendly automotive future. Toyota, for example, sells a hydrogen-fuel-cell car. (BMW has also begun small-scale production of a hydrogen-fuel-cell SUV.) Hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles have zero GHG tailpipe emissions and would be permitted under both European and Californian rules. Massive investments in EVs, though, will leave relatively little left over for hydrogen in Europe and the U.S.

Meanwhile, the West's turn to EVs has given Chinese car manufacturers a chance to penetrate markets where they have never done well. EVs, basically a battery and a computer housed in a four-wheeled box, are fairly easy to make. They have eliminated much of the edge that the ICE had given long-established Western incumbents.

The Biden documents scandal gets curiouser and curiouser. Andrew McCarthy breaks down the latest developments:

If only we could indict the Department of Justice for felony mishandling of classified documents.

Attorney General Merrick Garland and his accomplices at the FBI appear to deserve it, at least if an eye-popping Wall Street Journal report published Tuesday has it right. The report harpoons a dubious defense President Biden's apologists have floated: the notion that Biden did not know about the classified documents he was illegally retaining, notwithstanding that he — not an aide, not a lawyer, but he himself — is the common denominator tying together the multiple locations where classified intelligence has been found (his office, his homes, his garage, his library).

The Journal reports that the Biden team decided to have aides who did not have security clearances search the president's private residences for additional classified documents after the first batch was found. Perhaps even worse, the Biden Justice Department declined to have the FBI present and overseeing these searches, even though it had abundant reason to know more secret intelligence would be found, as well as a duty to ensure that the bureau both preserved evidence and protected national security. . . .

Whatever he may have known or not known before November 2, [Biden] surely knew as of that date that he was in possession of at least some highly classified information, that he had been for about five years, and that there was reason to believe he was retaining still more classified information. With that knowledge, he arranged to have aides who did not have security clearances — i.e., who were not authorized to possess the documents — search for the additional documents.

Worse yet, Biden's Justice Department knew the same things Biden knew, and still decided that Biden aides without security clearances, rather than the FBI, should conduct searches that were virtually certain to turn up — and, in fact, did turn up — more classified documents that those aides were not authorized to possess.

What a mess.

A Senate race to watch is forming in Indiana, where Republican Jim Banks just entered and Mitch Daniels is contemplating a bid. Jack Butler makes the case for Mitch here. And Nate Hochman lands the interview with Banks upon his campaign announcement:

Banks's public profile will make the 2024 GOP primary in Indiana's U.S. Senate race a study in contrasts. If Daniels does enter the race, the 73-year-old former governor — who recently retired from a nine-year run as president of Purdue University — would likely be Banks's most formidable rival, and Banks his. In many ways, Daniels embodies the traditional GOP that Banks counsels a departure from — a recent Politico report on the looming "Republican free-for-all" in the 2024 Indiana Senate race described the former governor as "a classic Reagan conservative with mainstream moderate impulses known for advocating a truce on the culture wars and being critical of Trumpism." (And a recent Club for Growth ad preemptively slammed Daniels as "an old-guard Republican clinging to the old ways of the bad old days.") Banks, on the other hand, has pushed for the GOP to engage more aggressively on culture-war issues: "This is a war that's being waged for the future of this country," he told me. Wokeness "is a cancer that will kill America if we don't fight back against it. . . . And for too long, we've had a generation of establishment Republican leaders in this country who turned a blind eye to the culture fight. I'm not one of them. I'm never going to be one of them."

Notably, there might be less daylight on fiscal issues between the two primary front-runners. Daniels's famous comments calling for a "truce" on social issues were made in the context of his staunch fiscal conservatism: In 2010, Daniels told John McCormack that "maybe these [culture-war issues] could be set aside for a while" so that the nation could concentrate on the "genuine national emergency" surrounding the budget. But Banks, too, has routinely enjoyed top rankings from fiscal-conservative groups, and repeatedly emphasized reining in out-of-control spending in our interview — a break from some of the more economically heterodox strains of conservative populism. "I'm a conservative. I've always been a conservative, I'll always be a conservative," he told me when asked about how his fiscal philosophy squares with his populist streak. "I just think we've got to do the tough work and cut wasteful spending to protect the financial health of our country."

The culture war, then, should be watched closely as it is debated within the confines of the Indiana Senate primary: The result could shape the GOP's political future.

Dominic Pino takes a closer look at the CPSC and finds its inclination for overreach goes beyond gas-stove bans:

The CPSC is currently in the process of harassing a small-business owner whose product has been used safely by thousands of people since 2009. Leachco, an Oklahoma-based firm founded by Jamie and Clyde Leach, manufactures the Podster, a lounge pillow for infants. The pillow has sides that cup babies to keep them in place. Over 180,000 have been sold since the product first came to market.

In 2015, a day-care worker broke state law and the day-care center's rules by leaving an infant unattended in a Podster for over an hour and a half. In 2018, two parents accidentally smothered their baby in bed while co-sleeping. Both those infants tragically died.

The CPSC is using those cases to warn consumers to "immediately stop using the Podster." Both babies were in a Podster when they died, but anyone with common sense can see that the negligence of adults, not the safety of the product, was the likely culprit. Those are the only two infant deaths the CPSC cites as being associated with the Podster, which has otherwise been used safely by thousands of parents.

The CPSC's administrative proceedings against Leachco acknowledge that in those two instances, adults were using the product improperly. It says, "The Podster is not and has never been advertised by [Leachco] as a sleep product" and that "the Podster contains warnings that the product should not be used for sleep and that adult supervision is always required." Nonetheless, the CPSC says that "it is foreseeable that caregivers will use the Podster without supervision."

If an agency can ban any product that, even with proper warnings, could possibly be misused by two people, then no product is safe.


Billy Binion, at Reason: They Fell Behind on Their Property Taxes. So the Government Sold Their Homes—and Kept the Profits.

Susan Crabtree, at RealClearPolitics: Democrats' Dark-Money Devotion

Anders Hagstrom, at Fox News: National Archives dismissed claims of mishandled Obama-Biden documents weeks before first batch was found


Following up on last week's call-out for great grooves, I'll include some reader nominees here (thanks for the responses, everyone): Kevin in St. Petersburg writes in with an enthusiastic defense of Steely Dan, their musicianship, their sound-engineering — and the title track, "Aja." No argument here. Kevin Antonio shifts gears with Kool & the Gang's "Summer Madness." Yeah, it feels right. And Nick Sayer is speaking my language, offering up Primus, and "Erin on the Side of Caution." Funky, and fresh.

Have a great weekend.


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