Obama was caught during his speech to minority journalists making noises that sounded remarkably like reparations talk:
“I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said.
“I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.”
There was immediate speculation about whether he really meant to have the US pay reparations, not to still-living former slaves (since there are none), but to the descendants by several generations of former slaves.
Unwittingly, the New York Times has provided further insight into the answer to that question. In a long article describing Obama’s years teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, this little bit leaped out at me (and I probably wouldn’t even have noticed it if I hadn’t first seen this story about the reparations talk):
Mr. Obama was especially eager for his charges to understand the horrors of the past, students say. He assigned a 1919 catalog of lynching victims, including some who were first raped or stripped of their ears and fingers, others who were pregnant or lynched with their children, and some whose charred bodies were sold off, bone fragment by bone fragment, to gawkers.
“Are there legal remedies that alleviate not just existing racism, but racism from the past?” Adam Gross, now a public interest lawyer in Chicago, wrote in his class notes in April 1994.
If Obama had raised that as a hypothetical legal question in the context of an abstract talk about race relations in America, I could conceive of it being a truly open-ended discussion. However, given that he paired it with requiring his students to read about the horrors African-Americans suffered generations ago, it’s easy to see that, lawyer-like, he is pushing his impressionable students to an affirmative answer to the question he asked of them.
James Taranto gives a good run-down of why reparations are a bad idea:
The idea of reparations is highly unpopular, and with good reason. Unlike the Japanese-Americans who in 1988 received compensation for their internment by a Democratic administration in the grips of wartime hysteria, no one alive today has ever been a slave. The idea of the government cutting checks to compensate people for a wrong that they did not personally suffer is unlikely to appeal to anyone except perhaps those who stand to receive those checks.
Taranto goes on to wonder why Obama would be making reparations an issue anyway? African-Americans will vote for him regardless, and reparations are unpopular with anyone else. What Taranto misses is that he provided the answer in the material I quoted above: it’s about receiving checks.
To the extent that Obama seeks to raise taxes, not to fund the government (whether for popular or unpopular initatives), but instead to redistribute wealth a la the Communists, reparation is yet another tool in that arsenal. That is, it’s not about race qua race, it’s about painting a sympathetic victim face on a socialist wealth grab.