According to one billionaire, the price for ending the riots is $14 trillion
Writing at National Review Online on Wednesday, national correspondent Kevin Williamson poses an interesting question about the rioters: What if they don’t want anything?
“We desperately want this to be about poverty, housing prices, unemployment, wages — anything that would provide us the opportunity to buy off the riots,” Williamson wrote. “That is not a dishonorable thing to do, necessarily, or an imprudent one, necessarily. We are a very, very rich society, and the best kind of problem for us to have is a problem that we can throw money at.”
But, he noted, “many sons and daughters of privilege are prominent in the current disturbance,” which has set its sights on plenty of upscale targets. If the answer to his opening question, he added, “is something poorly defined and amorphous — capitalism, white privilege, inequality, etc. — then the answer may as well be imps or evil spirits or the Bilderberg group.” During the unrest of the 1960s, Williamson wrote, some “thought the answer was free school lunches. We have those, and breakfast, too, but the discontent endures.”
Well, America’s first black billionaire believes we can throw money at the current “discontent” and buy our way out of it, and he has a price in mind: $14 trillion.
In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Robert Johnson, founder of the cable network Black Entertainment Television, said “now is the time to go big” in the effort to reduce racial inequality, and $14 trillion in reparations to black Americans for slavery is the cost.
“I’m talking about cash. We are a society based on wealth. That’s the foundation of capitalism,” Johnson said.
“Wealth transfer is what’s needed,” he maintained. “Since 200-plus-years or so of slavery, labor taken with no compensation is a wealth transfer. Denial of access to education, which is a primary driver of accumulation of income and wealth, is a wealth transfer.”
“Damages is a normal factor in a capitalist society for when you have been deprived for certain rights,” said Johnson, who maintains the money would be pumped back into the economy and help create more black-owned businesses.
According to Fox Business, Johnson is arguing for each black person in the U.S. to receive $350,767 through direct cash payments spread out over 10 to 20 years.
A couple of obvious questions pop up.
The first is why should white people who have no link to slavery, including millions who immigrated to America after 1865, see their tax dollars shifted or pay higher taxes to black Americans who have never been enslaved. Poverty, across all demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds, largely has a common ancestry: single-parent households, lack of education, rampant drug or alcohol abuse and criminal activity. Most sociological data tell us that if those things are avoided, people don’t wind up poor.
Another is why should wealthy black Americans, whether accomplished business people like Robert Johnson or prominent athletes and entertainers, receive checks when they clearly don’t have to worry about poverty.
In addition, why should America as a nation spend more tax money when past anti-poverty programs have done little to alleviate the situation. In 1963, according to the website FederalSafetyNet.com, the U.S. government spent $631 per person to fight poverty. In 2018, that amount had mushroomed to $9,152, which was 73% more than it would have been had those programs simply been indexed for inflation. “Yet,” the website notes, “despite the increase in spending, the poverty level has remained fairly constant at between 11% – 15% of the population. We have spent more and more money but have not lessened the number of people in poverty.”
Johnson is a smart and highly successful entrepreneur and clearly he believes his idea, which is increasingly popular among Democratic politicians, would help black Americans overcome some disadvantages they face.
But it’s also an expensive, unaffordable solution that not only offers no guarantee of accomplishing what he thinks it will do, but will only worsen America’s racial division and class-based strife.
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