In her Politico article, “Reparations bill tests Biden and Harris on racial justice: The House proposal has been introduced in every Congress for more than three decades and would establish a commission of experts to study direct payments to African Americans.,” Maya King writes, “Despite the enormity of the task behind the legislation known as H.R. 40 — named for the “40 acres and a mule” that has come to symbolize the post-Civil War government’s failure to help formerly enslaved people — the bill has new political momentum since its last introduction in 2019, when the GOP controlled the White House and Senate. The nationwide protests last summer following George Floyd’s killing have raised public awareness of racial injustice and kick-started a national conversation that advocates for a reparations dialogue see as valuable….What no one knows yet is how committed the White House is to the specific House legislative vehicle, which has been introduced in every Congress for more than three decades and would establish a commission of experts to study direct payments to African Americans….If the legislation passes, it would create a commission of more than a dozen experts to review the United States government’s role in supporting enslavement of African Americans from 1619 to 1865 from financial and legal perspectives. It would then recommend to Congress ways to both educate Americans on the legacy of slavery and alleviate its harms.”
However, “Americans are growing increasingly aware of racial inequality in the United States, but a large majority still oppose the use of one-time payments, known as reparations, to tackle the persistent wealth gap between Black and white citizens,” Katanga Johnson reported at Reuters last June. “According to Reuters/Ipsos polls this month, only one in five respondents agreed the United States should use “taxpayer money to pay damages to descendants of enslaved people in the United States…A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday showed clear divisions along partisan and racial lines, with only one in 10 white respondents supporting the idea and half of Black respondents endorsing it…Republicans were heavily opposed, at nearly 80%, while about one in three Democrats supported it. The poll did not ask respondents why they answered the way they did. Other critics have said too much time has passed since slavery was outlawed, and expressed confusion about how it would work.” Yet, “The failure of efforts to offset inequality, beginning with broken promises of farmland for freed slaves after the Civil War, “laid the foundation for the enormous contemporary gap in wealth between Black and White people in the U.S.,” Duke University economist William Darity and writer A. Kirsten Mullen argued in their April book “From Here to Equality.” It appears that any form of cash grants to individuals are a non-starter, politically. But “too bad about your enslaved ancestors, but that was then and this is now” is also a non-starter. While compensatory programs for horrific historical injustices are justified, the term “reparations” remains a tough sell. However, large grants to HBCUs and tuition grants for Black students may be a more promising approach.
In his post, “The Democrats Have An Ambitious Agenda. Here’s What They Should Learn From Obamacare” at FiveThirtyEight, Dan Hopkins writes, “Democrats are back in the driver’s seat, with unified control of the federal government thanks to their Senate wins in Georgia. So, what lessons from their 2010 signature accomplishment should they apply to their efforts to pass legislation in 2021, whether it’s on COVID-19 or climate change?….As a political science professor studying public perceptions of the ACA, I see two core lessons for Democrats to keep in mind. First, to stop high-profile laws from becoming unpopular, it helps to keep them simple. And the ACA was anything but: It sought to increase access to health insurance through a complex patchwork of regulations and other policies, which included creating new health insurance exchanges, expanding Medicaid, adding new rules to guarantee insurance access regardless of preexisting conditions, and mandating that all Americans obtain health insurance….Second, when the public evaluates a complex, multifaceted policy, like the ACA, there is a tendency to focus on its least popular parts. Most of the ACA’s major provisions were actually pretty popular. In a January 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation poll, for instance, 67 percent of respondents said that they were more likely to support health care legislation that created insurance exchanges, while 62 percent said the same about expanding Medicaid. Yet, Obamacare as a whole was viewed unfavorably from 2011 until 2017. That was, in large part, due to one unpopular provision in the law: the individual mandate. In that same 2010 KFF poll, 62 percent said that the health insurance mandate made them less likely to support the bill. And for millions of Americans, the ACA became synonymous with the individual mandate.” Perhaps another lesson is that big package reform is possible only when 60 Senators are in favor of it or with budget reconciliation.
Dylan Scott makes the case that “The Covid-19 relief bill is also an Obamacare expansion bill: Millions of Americans could gain health coverage under the Democrats’ stimulus bill” at Vox. As Scott observes, “The Covid-19 relief package proposed by President Joe Biden and being considered by Democrats in Congress could expand health care coverage to millions of people, the most significant step in the last 10 years toward patching up some of the holes in the Affordable Care Act….The ACA led to a historically low uninsured rate in the US — 8.6 percent in 2016 — but the number of uninsured Americans started ticking up again during the Trump administration, rising to 9.2 percent by 2019. Then millions of people lost their insurance (along with their jobs) during the coronavirus pandemic….The Covid-19 relief plan is trying to move the rate back in the other direction. The most effective provision would be a two-year expansion of the ACA’s premium subsidies, which Americans can use to purchase private health insurance on the marketplaces the law established….Completing the work of universal coverage, which is what Biden’s campaign platform amounted to, will almost assuredly not be accomplished in the president’s first big legislative package. Democrats will likely face a lot of pressure from progressives to go bigger in the next reconciliation bill they pull together….But this is, nevertheless, a start.”