Democratic Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson Supports Spending Up To $500 Billion For Reparations

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Should the United States offer the descendants of slaves reparations?

One Democratic presidential candidate thinks so.

Marianne Williamson, a 70-year-old former pastor and spiritual psychotherapist, announced her 2024 presidential bid last week. She ran for president during the 2020 Democratic primary but dropped out before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. She has never held elected office.

Assuming President Joe Biden seeks a second term, Williamson will be primarying Biden from the left. While she supports some economic proposals that are popular in progressive circles — like Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal — she also backs a proposal that receives less attention from Democrats in national politics:  reparations.

During her last presidential bid, Williamson received attention for proposing a reparations plan that called for “economic and educational renewal.” She estimated that the plan would cost somewhere between $200 billion to $500 billion over 20 years, according to CNN

Unlike some other reparations plans, Williamson’s did not provide direct cash payments to black Americans.

Additionally, she would leave the specifics of the plan up to an appointed reparations council, letting it decide where to direct the funding. 

“I want a reparations council made up of 30 to 50 people who themselves are descendants of American slaves – they come from culture, they come from academia, they come from politics. They are people who have a background of deep understanding and research on this topic,” Williamson told CNN’s John Berman on New Day in August 2019. “I have proposed $200 to $500 billion to be disbursed over a period of 20 years. It would be this reparations council that decides how is the money disbursed within the context of the stipulation on the part of the U.S. government that the money is be used for economic and educational renewal.”

Her 2020 campaign web site noted that paying the victims of past wrongs has happened before.

“The issue of reparations is not a fringe notion,” her web site pointed out. “Germany has paid over $89 Billion to Jewish organizations since the end of WW2 and, while they do not erase the horror of the Holocaust, reparations have gone far towards establishing reconciliation between Germany and the Jews of Europe. Similarly, in 1988 Ronald Reagan signed the American Civil Liberties Act assigning between $20,000 to $22,000 to surviving prisoners of the Japanese internment camps during WW2. The idea that a people which has wronged another people should then pay economic restitution as payment for that wrong, is a civilized notion long considered reasonable.”

As Williamson noted, the United States provided surviving Japanese internment camp victims with $20,000 each ($1.6 billion total) in redress payments with the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. And the German government paid $86.8 billion in restitution and compensation to Holocaust victims and their heirs from 1945 to 2018.

In both cases, victims of adverse government policies were still alive.

A June 2020 poll conducted by Reuters found that only about 20 percent of the country supports using “taxpayer money to pay damages to descendants of enslaved people in the United States.” About half of black respondents supported the idea compared to only about 10 percent of whites.

Supporters of reparations argue they are necessary to address wealth and health disparities between blacks and the larger population.

Opponents argue that there are no living former slaves and that there are better ways to address social inequalities. Additionally, some opponents argue that many people’s families never owned slaves or immigrated to America after the slaves were freed, so it would be unfair to make their tax dollars pay reparations for something their family never did.


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