I read Sheryll Cashin’s piece in Politico on addressing the problem of systemic racism with alacrity, hoping to see some specific, pointed, and effective proposals. I was disappointed but not particularly surprised at how limited her suggestions were. These are about as specific as they get:
Advocates have argued that because redlined federal mortgage-insurance programs invested hundreds of billions (in present dollars) in pro-white wealth-building, new investments should be allocated now to Black communities. A $60 billion investment in communities hit hardest by Covid-19 could be financed by repealing the tax breaks for large corporations that were included in the first federal Covid-19 relief package. Alternatively, Senator Cory Booker and others have proposed focusing on targeted investment in redlined communities, including by providing “baby bonds” to every child born in the United States.
Bolder still, Congress could atone for the federal legacy of promoting segregation by enacting a law that bans exclusionary zoning—local laws that privilege single-family homes and exclude denser, affordable housing. Congress could also condition federal infrastructure or other spending on measurable local progress in creating affordable housing in high-opportunity areas. Biden has promised to back similar legislation sponsored by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Booker.
Booker and Clyburn also proposed a bill in 2018 that would achieve racial equity in federal spending by applying a formula across all federal programs to ensure targeted spending in census tracts with persistent poverty. Biden backed the bill in his campaign platform. He also proposed to eliminate the $23 billion gap in what America spends on white vs. nonwhite school districts by nearly tripling existing funding for the Title I program for high poverty schools—an infusion that would require increased appropriations from Congress.
Does “systemic racism” really mean we don’t spend enough at the federal level on programs that specifically benefit black people?
But for its constitutional problems I would be tempted to support the banning of “exclusionary zoning” if only for the amusement value of watching Contra Costa County, Westchester County, or towns like Malibu, lily-white places that reliably support progressive causes, dash to get themselves exempted from the provisions. I can only characterize believing that you can equalize the disparity in educational spending of “white vs. nonwhite school districts” by additional federal spending as tremendously naive. State and local spending on K-12 education in 2020 will be around $800 billion—more than ten times present federal spending on education. That’s more than is spent on Medicare or Defense and nearly as much as Social Security. Suffice it to say that you can’t get there by repealing Trump’s personal and corporate income tax cuts. Or, indeed, by taxing the rich unless you stretch your definition of “the rich” to include anyone earning more than $80,000 per year.
I think it is far more likely that hopeful blacks will be disappointed by the Biden Administration’s actions on racial equity just as they were with those of the Obama Administration. It’s like Lucy and the football. As long as blockhead Charlie Brown keeps trusting Lucy to hold the football while he kicks, he shouldn’t be surprised when she pulls it away at the last moment.
I also wonder when people will figure out that studies like the one I linked to yesterday are to systemic racism what the Michelson-Morley experiment was to the ether?
I hasten to point out that whatever my views of “systemic racism” I think that anti-black racism is real and requires policy to remediate it. I have seen it first hand, both 60 years ago and much, much more recently.