A prominent economist has laid out the case for reparations for the black descendants of slaves in the U.S., estimating payments of up to $12 trillion would be needed to atone for the historical injustice.
Duke University professor William Darity Jr and his wife Kirsten Mullen co-authored the report for the Roosevelt Institute arguing that the U.S. government should pay ‘systemic reparations’ for slavery.
It comes amid fresh calls for reparations, with 142 members of Congress backing a bill to study and put forward reparations proposals, and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden voicing support for the idea.In his report, Darity argues that reparations should be designed to eliminate the gap in mean net worth between black and white households, arriving at a figure of about $800,000 per black household as sufficient.
The bold proposal is not without its skeptics, however, as fiscal conservatives question whether the federal government could shoulder the cost, which amounts to roughly half of annual U.S. gross domestic product.
In fiscal 2019, the government spent $4.4 trillion, amounting to 21 percent of the nation’s $21 trillion GDP, with about $1 trillion of that federal spending adding to the national debt.
‘Our national debt is already now up to around $26-27 trillion given the money we’re spending on Covid,’ Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told CNBC.
‘And we’re losing more money because we’re not picking up the revenue because economic growth is so slow right now. This hardly seems the time to burden the economy with more debt, more taxes. Essentially what you want to do is stimulate economic growth for all our benefits,’ he added of reparations proposals.
Darity, however, argues that reparations for slavery are not only feasible, but necessary.
The Samuel DuBois Cook distinguished professor of public policy at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, Darity has devoted much of his career to studying the rationale and design of reparations.
In his new report, adapted from his book From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, he argues that only financial payments made by the government to the descendants of slaves can provide acknowledgement, redress and closure for the crime of slavery.