Long before being implemented, the $700 billion financial bailout package agreed to by Congress and President Bush late last month has already had dramatic effects on world markets and the global economy, not to mention the U.S. presidential campaign.

(This was true even before the bailout package morphed from a scheme to purchase distressed mortgage-backed securities into a plan centered on pumping money directly into banks by investing $250 billion in ownership interests, which is what many economists have been recommending, often since the start of the crisis. All of this, however, has raised the potential cost of the bailout to taxpayers to $2.25 trillion.)

One interesting result of all this has been complaints from bloggers and others that Congress appears to be willing to offer Wall Street a $700 billion handout, while politicians insist that there would be no money available to pay reparations for slavery.

The flip side of this is the myth currently making the rounds of conservative bloggers and talk shows that the mortgage crisis was somehow caused by government policies which forced banks to make loans to unqualified black applicants. The general argument seems to be that provisions in the Community Reinvestment Act, which were aimed at preventing discrimination against qualified black applicants, instead forced banks to offer sub-prime mortgages to minority applicants who didn’t meet the standards applied to white mortgage applicants. Needless to say, this notion is entirely wrong, but many fine bloggers have been forced to spend time refuting these claims.

For a particularly interesting discussion of the “implosion of the free market” and black America, see “The Pedagogy of Hip Hop,” here and here.

6 Responses to “The financial bailout and slavery reparations”

  1. bobbo says:

    I take this entry as meaning that since the government is going to spend $700 Billion that we DON'T have on a bank bailout that that means we do have the money to spend another $700 Billion for reparations? Is that the calculus here?

    Well, we then we also have the money to spend another $700 Billion on each and every other request that anyone can make up? Healthcare, Education, Space Program- – – – – -etc.

    Seems to me the threshold to be met in this funding decision is does failure to pay reparations most likely result in a credit freeze and financial meltdown of the entire economy. Does it?

    Silly post.

  2. James says:

    I didn't actually intend this entry to mean what you suspect it means, bobbo.

    The first half of the entry merely makes the point that the ability of the U.S. government to justify spending $700 billion (boy, those were innocent days last fall, weren't they?) has given ammunition to those who argue for reparations. Putting it another way, this development has made it easier for those advocates to counter the argument that reparations can't be paid because the country simply can't afford the sums involved. The fact that the government arguably didn't have the money for the bailout, and had to borrow it, merely strengthens their argument, I think.

    I agree with you, in fact, that the justification for spending $700 billion on a bank bailout was to avoid much worse consequences for the national economy, and that slavery reparations don't raise the same type of concern at all.

    However, for those who believe that reparations represent a long-overdue debt to American citizens, paying reparations isn't exactly last on the list of government priorities, either, even if the money needs to be borrowed and then paid back over time.

  3. bobbo says:

    James, I have only read 5 threads so far==got off on tangents googling certain issues, but let me stumble off in this direction about your supposed neutrality on reparations: you post a bunch of articles that are supportive of the concept, even entirely defective silly articles like this one, then you step back and say you didn't mean or say this and that. You are correct–you didn't say this or that but look at what you HAVE done by exercising the filter you use in selecting/posting these articles?

    This probably isn't by design, but that pattern will have to show a few exceptions in the next few reads, otherwise you do indeed reveal your subconscious leanings==and they form an advocacy that influences your readers.

    And as you would say: I'm not criticizing you nor the issue of reparations, just reporting on what this blog presents.

    You'll prove me wrong if there is an entry here from the KKK or other equally mindless anti-reparation group as the mindless pro-reparation attitude you have culled here. In my mind, this raises an interesting issue which is the "purpose" of this blog==a resource, an advocate, a collection point, variable?

    I would say you should remove this silly thread not because it is pro or anti reparations, but because it is totally silly. I don't think "showing the bias of various groups" is useful unless you plan on covering all the groups==but is that really informative, really a resource?

    That, or perhaps more engagingly, you can disabuse yourself of your neutrality and add some of your comment/review/expertise/humanity by a 1-2 sentence review/intro/post scrip on your take of the item? I'd very much like to see that approach–I hunger for your expertise to be put on display rather than spotted only in its snarky exercise.

    I don't know, just a first-time commenter and I have much more to read.

  4. James says:

    Bobbo, what I've tried to do on the issue of reparations is to provide a source of information about that debate, in the context of providing information about a variety of historical, legal, and political issues related to the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination. To avoid the subject of reparations would, in my view, be to ignore a critical aspect of how our society is struggling to think about this legacy.

    I think that to suggest that I must, therefore, support one particular side in this struggle, merely by providing this information, amounts to claiming that the entire issue is so illegitimate that to even raise the question or pass along news about it is to take a side.

    Am I judging you unfairly on that? Were you offering a more specific objection to how I'm going about this?

    As you know, I believe strongly that it is important for us to understand the full and balanced history of this nation, both good and bad, and to appreciate and acknowledge the consequences of that history for ourselves and our society today.

    Inevitably, this means that I will grant credence to some of the arguments of reparations supporters. This does put me in a different camp than those opponents who, for instance, deny vehemently that the descendants of American slaves could possibly still be suffering harm from that history, or that other Americans could derive benefits today from past slavery and discrimination.

    However, I can believe that these objections to reparations are entirely without merit, while still not agreeing with all of the arguments necessary to conclude that reparations must be offered for slavery and discrimination.

    You’ll prove me wrong if there is an entry here from the KKK or other equally mindless anti-reparation group as the mindless pro-reparation attitude you have culled here.

    Here may be where we part company, bobbo. I do not believe that I am reporting favorably on "mindless" attitudes in favor of reparations. I do not agree with every argument offered in favor of reparations, and I am quick to say as much. Just observe that I spoke on this page of "complaints" from bloggers who favor reparations, and when you suggested the bailout was more easily justified than reparations, I took the time to clarify that I agreed with you on that issue.

    I would be happy to report on any "mindless anti-reparation group," if there is a benefit to my readers from doing so. I am certainly interested in illuminating the debate on this issue, both pro and con, and on singling out interesting arguments and opinions with broader relevance.

    However, as I've said, I do take a position on this issue. While I don't support the various proposals which have been floated for reparations, I do believe strongly in much of the underlying rationale in terms of the nature of our history and its effect on the present day. As a result, I would not comment neutrally on denials of this by opponents of reparations, but would instead report on such denials as flaws in their opposition.

    I don’t think “showing the bias of various groups” is useful unless you plan on covering all the groups

    I'm not here to reveal the bias of various groups on this, or any other, issue. I'm not sure where you got that idea, bobbo.

    I do believe that it's important for anyone thinking about the subject of this blog (as summarized in the banner at the top of every page) to consider not just where public opinion stands on contemporary political debates, but also what attitudes and assumptions seem to underlie that opinion.

    In other words, in this case, do Americans oppose reparations because they judge that this remedy would be fiscally irresponsible? Or because they doubt that particular proposals would be sufficiently fair to all citizens to merit implementation? Or do many Americans perhaps oppose reparations because they have mistaken beliefs about our history of slavery and discrimination and its impact today?

    perhaps more engagingly, you can disabuse yourself of your neutrality and add some of your comment/review/expertise/humanity by a 1-2 sentence review/intro/post scrip on your take of the item?

    That's certainly a constructive suggestion, bobbo.

    I don't want to inject my opinions in a quick summary at the start of every entry which touches on, say, the subject of reparations. I do believe that it makes sense to examine particular issues without each time getting into broader questions and matters of opinion. My assumption is that anyone who wants to explore the issue more broadly, or learn my personal opinions on the subject, will browse the blog and quickly find what they're looking for. That's my hope, at any rate.

    It's interesting to me, though, that you find an entry like this to be "snarky." Was I being snarky towards the reparations advocates who, I reported, found the financial bailout to help justify calls for reparations? Or was I being snarky towards the conservative pundits who were advancing those ridiculous claims about minority home buyers being responsible for the Wall Street meltdown? Or both?

  5. bobbo says:

    I withdraw my comment re "snarky." I remember having some hesitation about it at the time, and now I can't remember what I was thinking about. Reviewing the blog, nothing looks snarky to me.

    From the 20-25 blog entries I have reviewed you are NOT providing "a source of information about that debate (reparations)" because it is ONE SIDED in favor of reparations, directly or by immediate implication.

    I'll keep looking but is there a SINGLE anti-reparations entry? Does a blog that posts only one side of an issue stand as an information resource–or an argument for or against?

    Now–I'm going to project here as I could see my self doing the same thing. The agitation, such as it is, is FOR reparations, and the arguments are engaging. There are much fewer people against reparations and because the issue is near dead (I'm talking about myself now) the anti-side is harder to find, and when you do its from a group of white supremacist making really ugly arguments. So, I can see having a blog that is pro-reparations while personally being against the cash to those claiming injury type of reparations.

    I do think after some time if I noticed that EVERY ARTICLE I POSTED was pro-reparations or neutral, I would start to actively look for acceptable anti-reparations articles? Like where is Horowitz's Rebuttal??????????????

    Its not enough to let contrarians like me go off half cocked.

  6. James says:

    I'm interested in your comment, bobbo, that you believe the information in this blog to be one-sided with regard to the reparations issue.

    For instance, you ask whether there are any "anti-reparations" entries on this blog. Since I do not endorse reparations in any entry, the entire blog takes an anti-reparations stance.

    Do you mean that I am clearly sympathetic to certain factual assumptions made by reparations advocates, specifically those concerning our history of slavery and discrimination, and their legacy today? If so, then I certainly tend to agree with those views, and to promote them on this blog. (The heading at the top of each page, indicating that the blog is about "the Legacy of Slavery and Race in the United States," is certainly an indication of this.) I do hope, however, that I present any available counter-arguments, and if I don't agree with them, that I offer them seriously and take the time to engage with them.

    However, as I've explained to you before, there is no automatic connection between recognizing how much our present situation is affected by the past, and believing that reparations must be granted for that situation.

    Do you mean that I present arguments by reparations advocates uncritically on this blog, and do not discuss the arguments of reparations opponents? If so, then I must point out that an entry like this one was not intended to suggest that the reparations viewpoint presented here was correct. I also do present the views of reparations opponents, for instance, in this entry on Walter Olson's views, where I agree with some of what he has to say, and disagree with other points.

    As for Horowitz's screed against reparations, that was offered many years before this blog began, and I haven't seen signs that it's being read and taken seriously by many people. Do you think it woudl be worthwhile for me to write about it?

Leave a Reply