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By Bethan Sexton | January 18, 2024 | MSN
- Lawmaker tabled bill H.R. 414 in 2023 claiming the US has a ‘moral and legal obligation’ to make restitution to the descendants of slaves
- Bowman believes $14 T should be distributed to black people who make up 12 percent of US population
- Money could be paid out over five or 10 or 20 years in weekly or monthly checks, according to law maker
A New York lawmaker is calling for every black person in the US to receive $333,000 as reparations for slavery.
Jamaal Bowman is among nine backers of federal bill H.R. 414, which states there is a ‘moral and legal obligation’ to make restitution to the descendants of slaves.
The legislation would force the government to distribute $14 trillion between almost 42 million black Americans.
The figure is based on academics’ estimates of the amount the US benefited from forced labor between 1619 and the end of slavery in 1865, according to the bill.
Yonkers representative Bowman, a member of the so-called ‘Squad’ of young controversial Democrats in Congress, also suggested ‘creative’ ways of paying, including staggering the payments over a number of years.
He also claims the federal government’s response to the pandemic and the space race prove it has the capacity for the program.
‘When COVID was destroying us, we invested in the American people in a way that kept the economy afloat,’ Bowman told the Journal News. ‘The government can invest the same way in reparations without raising taxes on anyone.’
‘Where did the money come from?’ Bowman said. ‘We spent it into existence.’
In 2020, the federal government spent about $7 trillion, equivalent to 28 percent of the country’s $25 trillion economy.
‘Who says the $14 trillion needs to be paid out in one shot?,’ said Bowman.
‘It might be possible for it to be paid out over five or 10 or 20 years. You could take that $333,000 and break it up into monthly checks over X amount of time. There are creative ways to do the right thing and do what needs to be done.
‘There were 246 years of free labor that produced trillions or hundreds of trillions of dollars for the US economy. The economy wouldn’t exist in the way it does today if slavery hadn’t built it.’
The bill, which is co-sponsored by Bowman, currently lacks a Senate sponsor which means it cannot advance even if it passes.
It comes 35 years after a bill to set up a federal commission to study reparations was first introduced. The proposal is still pending and was reintroduced this year.
Bowman hopes his measures could address racial disparities across a range of issues including, housing, education and incarceration.
It aims to ‘eliminate the racial wealth gap that currently exists between Black and White Americans’ according to the bill.
Bowman added that the ‘incarcerated should be able to vote.’
‘And I definitely think that when they come out, they should automatically be enfranchised,’ he said.
The bill is the latest attempt to secure reparations from the government and follows similar efforts in Dem-led cities.
Evanston, Illinois, became the first city in the country in 2021 to actually pay reparations to its eligible black residents, with $10 million over a decade through $25,000 housing assistance grants.
The grants are given to black residents of the city – who can prove their long-term residency – and can be used for down payments, repairs or mortgage payments to atone for racist housing polices in the past. Funding comes from taxes on cannabis and the sales of homes costing more than $1 million.
An advisory group in San Francisco recommended that qualifying black adults receive a $5 million lump-sum, guaranteed annual income of at least $97,000 and personal debt forgiveness.
In San Francisco, a reparations office had been set up, although Mayor London Breed recently announced it would no longer be funded.
While in December, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the bill to create a commission tasked with considering reparations.
Bowman, 48, has been campaigning for legislation to create a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for black Americans in 2021.
He hit headlines last year when he was censored by Congress for pulling a fire alarm while the House was in session.
The alarm went off and triggered an evacuation as Democrats were trying to stall a vote to avert a government shutdown in September.
Bowman denied that he had done it deliberately, but video footage suggested otherwise.