Economists Say California Reparations Could Amount to $800 Billion for Black Residents

Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

California could pay more than $800 billion in reparations to Black residents for generations of housing discrimination, disproportionate incarceration and over-policing, economists told a state panel on Wednesday, March 29th.

The preliminary estimate reportedly is more than 2.5 times California’s $300 billion annual budget and does not include a recommended $1 million per older Black resident for health disparities that have shortened their average life span.

Additionally, the figure doesn’t count compensating individuals for property taken from them by the government or Black businesses being devalued, two other things the taskforce said the state did.

Black residents may not receive cash payments anytime soon, if ever, because the state may never adopt the economists’ calculations.

The proposed number comes from a consulting team of five economists and policy experts.

“We’ve got to go in with an open mind and come up with some creative ways to deal with this,” Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who is on the taskforce, said, according to The Guardian.

Before any reparations could become a reality, the taskforce must get support from state legislators and the California governor.

Before the meeting, The Guardian reported that Jones-Sawyer said he needed to talk to other legislators, budget analysts and the governor’s office before he could decide how much money should be spent.

The taskforce must now settle on a cash amount as it nears a July deadline to recommend to lawmakers how California can atone for its role in perpetuating racist systems that continue to undermine Black people.

Economists suggest underscores the long-lasting harm Black Americans have endured, even in a state that never officially endorsed slavery.

Critics argue that California never participated in the slave trade, so current taxpayers should not be responsible for damage linked to slavery.

Taskforce recommendations are just the start because ultimate authority rests with the state assembly, senate and the governor.

“That’s going to be the real hurdle,” said California senator Steven Bradford, who sits on the panel, told The Guardian.

“How do you compensate for hundreds of years of harm, even 150 years post-slavery?”

Separately, an advisory committee in San Francisco has recommended $5 million payouts, as well as guaranteed income of at least $97,000 and personal debt forgiveness for qualifying individuals.

Supervisors expressed general support and will take up the issue later this year.

The statewide estimate includes $246 billion to compensate eligible Black Californians from 1970 to 2020 whose neighborhoods were subjected to aggressive policing and prosecution of Black people.

That would translate to nearly $125,000 for every person who qualifies.

The economists also included $569 billion to make up for the discriminatory practice of redlining in housing loans.

Such compensation would amount to about $223,000 per eligible resident who lived in California from 1933 to 1977. The aggregate is considered a maximum and assumes all 2.5 million people who identify as Black in California would be eligible.

Redlining officially began in the 1930s. At that time, the federal government gave mortgages to help people buy houses, but some neighborhoods were marked red on government maps.

On the federal level, Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has continued to push H.R. 40, a bill that’s intended to continue the national conversation about how to confront the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the enduring structural racism that remains endemic in American society.

While a specific monetary value on reparations isn’t outlined in the bill, it would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for providing reparations to African Americans.

The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and on society.

“Since its introduction in 1989 by the late Chairman John Conyers, and now through its continued introduction,

H.R. 40 has galvanized governmental acknowledgment of the crime of slavery and its continuing societal impact,” Jackson Lee remarked.

“The markup of H.R. 40 by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals.”

She continued:
“Through this legislation, we will finally be able to confront the stark societal disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions.

“By passing H.R. 40, Congress can also start a movement toward the national reckoning we need to bridge racial divides. Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future.”

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