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Assault on America, Day 99: Does anyone think Oprah or LeBron deserve slavery reparations?

Democrats Slavery Reparations
It’s almost been a quarter century since finishing law school but I recall we legal plebes spent a great deal of time discussing restitution and compensation in those three years of torture (I meant study). Not necessarily the big bucks most students expected to earn once we graduated, passed a state BAR exam and got to work toiling for a prestigious law firm, but on how much deserving plaintiffs should receive to make them whole again.

Additionally, what amount punishes perpetrators in civil suits where punitive damages enter the picture? The Julia Roberts movie “Erin Brockovich” talked a lot about them -- punitive damages arise when some entity’s done something really, really bad to someone (or a class of people) and then lied about it or covered up the wrongdoing. Bad news for the guilty party. Ouch.

So with Democrats passionately advocating for slavery reparations these days, glaring problems arise before the legislation even arrives at the drawing board. There are an infinitesimal number of things that could go wrong here, but enormous complexity, morality and practical considerations aren’t stopping some Democrats from pursuing the impossible nonetheless.

Mike Lillis and Scott Wong reported at The Hill, “House legislation to form a commission to study whether black Americans should receive reparations for slavery is getting a significant boost from Democrats on the presidential campaign trail.

“Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), suggested that action on a reparations measure sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is all but certain, with Democrats now in control of the lower chamber and the idea gaining prominence on the national stage…

“The support from presidential candidates highlights how the idea of reparations is spiking in popularity in Democratic circles — particularly as a large field of candidates jockeys for support from African-American voters.”

There you have it. Democrats usually go to great lengths to disguise their barefaced pay-for-vote schemes but apparently slavery reparations is one place where the scam is right out in the open for all to see. “Vote for me and get your fee” is a catchy slogan, isn’t it? With several of the Democrat 2020 hopefuls seemingly mired in the low single digits in polls, they could use the giveaway notion to break out.

The House bill’s sponsors insist their legislation is all about analyzing the concept (The proposal would establish a committee charged with studying the institution of slavery in the U.S. — from its inception until the end of the Civil War in 1865 — and recommend ways to compensate living descendants) and has nothing to do with Uncle Sam -- or anyone else -- immediately cutting checks to people of African descent. But they also maintain they’re serious about the subject and the movement is here to stay. Yes, that’s right, the sponsors swear slavery reparations are inevitable.

Backing up the absurdity is several 2020 Democrat presidential candidates, including (but not limited to!) Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren and more recently Texas lightweight “Beto” O’Rourke, who admitted to Rev. Al Sharpton that he’s all-in on reparations after formerly acting like he was against them. Perhaps “Beto” is vying for the John Kerry slice of the Democrat Party pie next year, but this time being against something before he was for it.

The notion also enjoys the backing of Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- so with the Democrat bigwigs onboard, expect a hearing sometime soon! Just who Nadler and cohorts would call as witnesses for a hearing is a mystery considering anyone remotely connected with slavery has been dead for at least half a century. Even if a baby was born into slavery in the waning days of the Civil War he or she would’ve had to live until the Johnson Administration to reach a hundred years.

Besides, why this issue, why now? History tells us 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of Africans on the North American continent, with the first 20 unfortunate souls having arrived at Jamestown in 1619 (on a Dutch ship). At least initially the Africans were treated little differently than indentured servants or Native Americans. It wasn’t until later in the 17th century that children born to enslaved women were automatically considered an owner’s property (the child’s status was determined by the mother’s -- if she was enslaved, so was the child). Then there’s the issue of blood mixes, since many contemporary dark-skinned people aren’t 100 percent of African descent.

So it’s complicated. Not all Africans in America in those days were slaves or born into the system (though most were). Further, most captives were taken from Africa directly to the Caribbean sugar plantations and only a much smaller proportion were transported to the continent, where lifespans were considerably longer (diseases and the hot climate in the Caribbean meant the mortality rate was extremely high down there).

Further, another fact that’s not well-known, many African tribes were complicit in the slave trade, often sending captive enemies to the ships for irreversible banishment from their homelands. No one’s innocent here, including a great many Africans themselves. Would slavery’s descendants have a case against certain classes of Africans today?

Assuming it could even be sorted out who came from where, which African-Americans would merit compensation? And who would pay?

It's hard enough trying to set compensation in an injury case, since there’s a virtually endless number of factors to weigh. Naming just a few, there are medical bills, time off work, age of the victim, degree of fault in causation, intent, negligence, pain and suffering (how do you figure this?) and if there’s a death involved, projected earnings over a lifetime. In other words, it’s not like adding two and two together to equal four. There’s quite a bit of judgment involved in the most basic of disputes, and if you’ve got a jury assessing the elements, the sky’s the limit.

Would juries similarly be tasked with setting slavery reparations awards? If so, an entire industry would sprout up, with sleazebag trial attorneys specializing in getting the largest settlements for a big cut of the victim’s dough. The lawyers would undoubtedly use DNA evidence to prove their clients came from a specific region of the country (if that’s even possible).

Lastly, would punitive damages be appropriate for anyone proven to be a descendant of a slaveowner? Again, no one living has “owned” anyone. And what if a one-time slave owner freed his slaves before emancipation? Is there a statute of limitations? And since many of the original paper records were destroyed in the Civil War (especially here in Virginia when Richmond burned in 1865), how could evidentiary standards ever be satisfied?

It'd be a huge mess. The practical maze alone would overwhelm the system, and that’s even before the court challenges began. Talk about opening Pandora’s Box.

No matter! Democrats forge ahead undeterred by reality. Elizabeth Warren recently said (taken from a story by CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson), “’Because of housing discrimination and employment discrimination, we live in a world where the average white family has $100 (and) the average black family has about $5,’ she said at a CNN town hall in Jackson, Mississippi.

“’So, I believe it's time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country,’ she said. ‘And that means I support the bill in the House to appoint a congressional panel of experts, people that are studying this and talk about different ways we may be able to do it and make a report back to Congress, so that we can as a nation do what's right and begin to heal.’”

Heal? Heck, if this farce ever sees the light of day -- or law -- it’ll rip the country to shreds. Just imagine the uproar if/when wealthy and famous black Americans receive checks because they were somehow shown to be descended from enslaved ancestors. It’ll be pandemonium.

It isn’t often we foresee the negative consequences of a government policy as clearly as we do with slavery reparations. The individuals who suffered under the “peculiar institution” -- and those who inflicted the pain -- are long since beyond reach. No “compensation” today would make anyone whole.

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