The California State Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of establishing a task force to study how the state contributed to slavery and what, if anything, it could recommend in the way of reparations. In a rare bipartisan effort, a consensus was reached to install the panel that will recommend as to the who, what, and how no later than 2023.
State Senator Holly Mitchell, a Democrat who represents a Los Angeles district, spoke eloquently of what she perceives as a necessary action: “Let’s be clear: Chattel slavery, both in California and across our nation, birthed a legacy of racial harm and inequity that continues to impact the conditions of Black life in California.”
The bill calls for, in part:
“To assemble a colloquium of scholars to draft a research proposal to analyze the economic benefits of slavery that accrued to owners and the businesses, including insurance companies and their subsidiaries, that received those benefits, and to make recommendations to the Legislature regarding those findings.”
Short of an outright no by the state assembly, a nine-member task force will be empaneled as the legislature adjourns for the year. State Senator Steven Bradford, also a Democrat, offered his perspective on the vote: “If the 40-acres-and-a-mule that was promised to free slaves were delivered to the descendants of those slaves today, we would all be billionaires.”
He is correct – but can the clock be turned back to 1865?
Andrew Johnson Screwed the Pooch
Bradford invokes a promise that General William Tecumseh Sherman made and kept for about a New York minute issued on Jan. 16, 1865. It was Field Order No. 15, approved by President Abe Lincoln after both Lincoln and Sherman met with black community leaders to discuss reparations. The order was to confiscate Southern planter lands and redistribute 40-acre plots to newly freed slaves. So freed people flocked to the South, and initially roughly 40,000 blacks on 400,000 acres, that stretched from Georgia to Florida, set up a provisional government.
By April 1865, Lincoln, a Republican, was dead from an assassin’s bullet, and his vice president, Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, took over. For those not studied up on Johnson, he and Lincoln ran on the National Union ticket attempting to heal the war-torn country. Bygones. But by the autumn of 1865, Johnson’s loyalty and sympathy for Southern planters returned, and he restored all lands to the original owners.
Why California is invoking Field Order 15 is unclear, but it is impossible to replicate in today’s America. Liberty Nation’s economic sage, Andrew Moran, bluntly explains:
“The U.S. couldn’t even afford this progressive feel-good policy if it wanted to. The national debt has topped $22 trillion, unfunded liabilities and expenditures total $200 trillion, and interest payments will soon reach $1 trillion. By adding trillions more to the public purse, in addition to the other trillions proposed by the 2020 Democratic field, the U.S. turns into a fiscal wasteland.”
And today California is already a financial wasteland, marked by a growing population of homeless people, a dead-and-gone middle class, attributes of a near police state, and raging wildfires engulfing communities up and down the middle coast. Current estimates put the state’s debt at around $149.88 billion. It can’t even pay for printer ink much less billions in payouts to black residents.
But America will wait and see what the affirmative action 2.0 plan is, and perhaps other states will follow suit. But for now, it isn’t much more than a political talking point for the Democrat descendants of the likes of Andrew Johnson. If I were on the esteemed “colloquium of scholars” committee, I’d track Johnson’s family line before much of anything else, just to prove a point.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.