On CNN, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro took a few shots at Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, the current Democratic frontrunner, over his opposition to reparations:
On Sunday, Castro contrasted his own openness to the possibility of paying reparations to the descendants of slaves to a recent ABC interview
where Sanders said there were better ways to address the issue than “just writing out a check.”
“To my mind that may or may not be the best way to address it,” Castro said. “However, it’s interesting to me that when it comes to Medicare for all, health care, you know, the response there has been we need to write a big check, that when it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been we need to write a big check.”
With respect to “writing out a check,” it’s important to remember that there actually have been a number of government transfer payments and private sector programs aimed at African Americans
since the Great Society and reforms of the 1960’s. Some of these programs worked, others didn’t. What Sanders is essentially arguing with his programs like single-payer is that the institutions themselves should be transformed, rather than writing one-time cash payments. Castro is obscuring the difference.
But it’s also important to remember that Castro himself has a very bad record when it comes to black wealth. He oversaw the Housing and Urban Development agency at a time when black wealth in the US was being decimated. A number of activists complained
about this record at a time when Castro was being considered for a vice presidential pick:
By the coalition’s calculations, HUD under Castro has sold 98 percent of the long-delinquent mortgages it acquired through a program aimed at preventing foreclosures to Wall Street banks under Castro’s watch, without anywhere near the number of needed strings attached. (HUD says that figure is way off.) And Nelson and Walters say that for a politician who’s aiming to be considered the vice presidential prospect for both progressives and minorities, Castro has done too much to help private equity firms like Blackstone, instead of black and Latino communities.
“If Secretary Castro fails to create significant momentum in terms of stopping the sale of mortgages to Wall Street, then I do think it disqualifies him. But there’s time left on the clock,” said Jonathan Westin, the director of New York Communities for Change, which was formed out of the remains of the community activist group ACORN. “I think a lot of the progressive movement would not be in support of a Castro ticket if he fails to make traction here.”
Let’s be clear. There’s one candidate, Marianne Williamson, who has drawn up an actual reparations plan. Everyone else is basically talking about the issue without proposing any solution. Williamson’s solution would allot $100 billion over ten years for jobs and education programs, which is actually in real terms a lot less money than has been aimed at distressed African Americans over the course of Great Society and post-Civil Rights Era programs. Sanders’s plans to make college and health care free, as well as robust government hiring with living wages, would be far more effective in reducing inequities.