I was disappointed to read the commentary regarding reparations for slavery by Joel N. Morse and Jetaime Ross (“A forensic economics approach to reparations,” Jan. 6). While I’m sure that Mr. Morse found the calculation of the potential amount of reparations due to be an interesting intellectual exercise, I hope that Ms. Ross realizes that there is absolutely no chance that this matter (HR 40) will ever get out of the committee where it was justly sent to die. The calculation done in the commentary of potential damages may be the easier part of the problem; the difficult parts are the determination of an individual’s eligibility for the receipt of reparations and the determination of those who are responsible for paying them.
How many degrees of separation could a descendant have and still be eligible? For instance, most Native American tribes require a specific percentage of Native “blood,” called blood quantum, in addition to being able to document which tribal member they descended from. Some tribes require as much as 25 percent Native heritage, and most require at least 1/16th Native heritage, which is one great-great grandparent. Assuming a generational time of 30 years, who would be eligible, since the cut-off date in the bill is 1865 when slavery was abolished?
Who is responsible for paying these reparations? Certainly not anyone whose ancestors came to this country after 1865, and especially not those from non-European ethnic groups. How will this information be verified? We would need genealogical information from everyone in the entire country. The bill authorizes $12 million to carry out the provisions of this act, by a committee of 13 members whose salary will be equivalent to the annualized basic pay rate for a GS-18 employee (approximately $200,000). It appears that the committee members will be the primary beneficiaries of any reparations, in addition to the fact that $12 million could be better spent in innumerable better ways.