With all aspects of reparation considered, the estimated total cost could be anywhere between $9 and $17 trillion.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held the first hearing in a decade on H.R. 40, or the “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.” One vital element of these decisions is a proposed source for the immense sum required to fulfill the full definition of those reparations.
Economist James Marketti estimated in 1983 that the cost of unpaid wages to slaves totaled between $3 and $5 trillion. Thirty-six years of inflation later, that is closer to $13 trillion.
Still, that number does not, according to “The Economics of Reparations” by professors William Darity and Dania Francis, consider the “lingering economic impact of Jim Crow and current discrimination that black people face in the labor market, health care system, or education and criminal justice systems.” That can easily bring the estimate up to the aforementioned sum.
“Suffice it to say,” Darity and Francis wrote, “the damages to the collective well-being of black people have been enormous and, correspondingly, so is the appropriate bill.”
The United States has paid reparations to Japanese families kept in internment camps and to decimated and displaced Native American tribes. But “almost 250 years of domestic enslavement of African people and their descendants have not elicited a similar response from the U.S. government.”
But who will foot the bill? The research points to issuing bonds, creating trust funds, or collecting it in taxes, though that last measure could prove self-sabotaging. In the end, Darity and Francis wrote, “African-Americans should not bear the tax burden of financing their own reparations payments.”
The matter of reparations is deeply unpopular nationally. Only an estimated 26 percent of Americans support the idea of slavery reparations. Those opposed include roughly 80 percent of white and 40 percent of black Americans. Regardless, despite the attention it is now receiving, it is not an issue close to resolution.