New York Representative Jamaal Bowman has put forward a proposal for the federal government to implement a $14 trillion reparations program.
The proposal is intended to address the historical and ongoing impact of slavery and its aftermath in the United States.
The plan, encompassed in the H.R. 414 bill, seeks to distribute this amount to support the descendants of enslaved Black people and those of African descent.
Bowman highlights the government’s ability to fund such reparations, drawing parallels with the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the space race.
He argues that the government can invest in reparations without increasing taxes.
“When COVID was destroying us, we invested in the American people in a way that kept the economy afloat,” Bowman told the Journal News.
He added, “Where did the money come from? We spent it into existence.”
In 2020, the federal government allocated approximately $7 trillion for the pandemic, accounting for 28% of the nation’s $25 trillion economy.
The reparations bill, introduced in 2023, aims to establish that the U.S. has a moral and legal obligation to provide reparations.
It is designed to tackle issues such as racial disparities in housing, mass incarceration, and educational outcomes.
The bill states, “Eliminate the racial wealth gap that currently exists between Black and White Americans.”
Bowman also emphasizes the importance of voting rights for the incarcerated, advocating for their enfranchisement upon release.
The lawmaker suggests that the reparations could be distributed over the years rather than in a single payment, providing a practical approach to the financial implications of the measure.
He said, “Who says the $14 trillion needs to be paid out in one shot? It might be possible for it to be paid out over five or 10 or 20 years.”
Bowman continued, “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.”
The bill is grounded in historical data, citing scholars’ estimates of the immense economic contribution of forced labor during slavery, valued at around $97 trillion today.
“There were 246 years of free labor that produced trillions or hundreds of trillions of dollars for the U.S. economy,” Bowman remarked, emphasizing the foundational role of slavery in building the nation’s economy.
This proposal is part of a broader movement seeking reparations at the federal level, with similar efforts occurring in various states, including New York, where a commission has been established to explore reparations methods. However, the bill currently lacks sponsors in the Senate.