Reparations and the Key Question in Restorative Justice | A Long Repentance Post #15 | The Anástasis Center for Christian Education & Ministry: Sangwon Yang & Mako Nagasawa


“The Ugly Duckling” is a story about belonging and community.  This illustration, “Ugly Duckling” by Milo Winter, was first published in 1916 in the U.S. in the book Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales.  Public Domain.

The Purpose of A Long Repentance Blog Series

People talk about issues of race and justice in the United States as issues of ‘justice and injustice.’  Sometimes we launch into debates about ‘the proper role of government.’  But is that the original framework from which these issues were asked and debated?

The purpose of the blog post series called A Long Repentance: Exploring Christian Mistakes About Race, Politics, and Justice in the United States is to remind our readers that these issues began as Christian heresies.  They were at variance from Christian beliefs prior to colonialism.  Since Christians enacted and institutionalized what we believe to be heretical ideas, they were very destructive and harmful, then as now.  And we bear a unique responsibility for them.  As a result, we believe we must engage in a long repentance.  We must continue to resist the very heresies that we put into motion.  Thus the title of this blog series, A Long Repentance.  The journey is long and challenging.  It may be impossible to see the end.  But along the way, it is also inspiring and sometimes breathtaking.

We also encourage you to explore this booklet, A Long Repentance: A Study Guide, for further reflections and discussion questions.

In Post #2 and Post #5, we explored how white American Protestants promoted the heretical view of Genesis 1 taught by John Locke, that the productive can take land/property from the unproductive.   Setting themselves up for deep anxiety, they also maintained that the social system they set up was fair and ‘meritocratic’ – as opposed to blatantly racist.  They tended to believe that their ‘individual success’ was the result of their ‘personal hard work.’  White Americans even hid from themselves the fact that they used massive government intervention to set up a deeply unequal and racialized social system that continues to this day.  Instead, we advocate building a social system around a Christian restorative justice paradigm.


The Surface Questions of Reparations

“You think this country owes reparations to Native Americans and black Americans?” Michaela asked.

“I’d get more specific than that, but in principle, I do,” Brian replied.  “For example, why not offer loans to people whose parents and grandparents were denied home loans on account of race?  They could get loans from the Federal Reserve at the same interest rate commercial banks get.  There’d be real accountability and symmetry.”

“So it wouldn’t be money raised by taxes per se,” said Michaela.  “That makes sense, since banks ultimately profited from slavery and low wage labor.”

“Reparations could take different forms,” said Brian.  “First, they could be loans, representing opportunities denied long ago.  Second, they could be compensation for past theft or civil rights violations, like restitution to Japanese Americans during World War II, or recent victims of the Chicago Police Department’s malpractice, or the “forty acres and a mule” denied to freed slaves.  That fits with my Christian faith because thieves had to repay more than they stole, expressed by Jewish law in Exodus 22:1 – 14 and reinforced by Jesus in Luke 19:1 – 10.  Third, reparations could be a public investment long delayed.  But there’s a bigger question underlying the opposition to all of those categories.”

“What’s that?” asked Michaela.

“Community.  Do white Americans see people of color as equal members of the body, endowed by the Creator with the same inalienable rights as them?  And reflected in the Fourteenth Amendment by the clause, “equal protection of the laws”?  Because white Americans are certainly fine with using big government to develop themselves, and pass down wealth to their children and grandchildren.”[1]

Reason #1:  We Already Have “White Socialism”

“What?  What do you mean?” Michaela asked.

“For example,” Brian continued, “elite white people gave themselves socialized health care through the corporate tax code.  Forbes writer Chris Ladd calls this “white socialism”:

“My family’s generous health insurance costs about $20,000 a year, of which we pay only $4,000 in premiums. The rest is subsidized by taxpayers. You read that right. Like virtually everyone else on my block who isn’t old enough for Medicare or employed by the government, my family is covered by private health insurance subsidized by taxpayers at a stupendous public cost. Well over 90% of white households earning over the white median income (about $75,000) carried health insurance even before the Affordable Care Act. White socialism is nice if you can get it.

“Companies can deduct the cost of their employees’ health insurance while employees are not required to report that benefit as income. That results in roughly a $400 billion annual transfer of funds from state and federal treasuries to insurers to provide coverage for the Americans least in need of assistance. This is one of the defining features of white socialism, the most generous benefits go to those who are best suited to provide for themselves.”[2]

“I think calling this “white socialism” is absurd,” Michaela objected.

“I agree it’s an overstatement, because working class white people didn’t benefit in the same way as the elites,” said Brian, “but here is why Chris Ladd says that”:

“Until the decades after the Civil Rights Acts, very few women or minorities gained direct access to this system. Unsurprisingly, this was the era in which white attitudes about the social safety net and the Democratic Party began to pivot. Thanks to this silent racial legacy, socialism for white people retains its disproportionately white character, though that has weakened. Racial boundaries are now less explicit and more permeable, but still today white families are twice as likely as African-Americans to have access to private health insurance. Two thirds of white children are covered by private health insurance, while barely over one third of black children enjoy this benefit.

“White socialism has had a stark impact on the rest of the social safety net, creating a two-tiered system. Visit a county hospital to witness an example. American socialism for “everyone else” is marked by crowded conditions, neglected facilities, professionalism compromised by political patronage, and long waits for care. Fall outside the comfortable bubble of white socialism, and one faces a world of frightening indifference.”[3]

Brian said, “This American version of the social safety net becomes more generous as incomes rise.[4]  So it’s deeply regressive.  Citizens don’t get “equal protection of the laws.”  Some get protection from medical debt and health uncertainties.  Others don’t, even though they help pay for others to have “protection” they don’t.  The government-corporate industrial complex disguises what kind of “meritocracy” this really is:  A “meritocracy” where you get benefits you didn’t earn, funded by taxpayers who don’t uniformly benefit as citizens.  And you get to claim that you “earned” all this.”

Reason #2:  We’ve Already Paid, We’ve Already Invested

Brian continued, “So back to your question about taxes.  Taxpayer-funded, big government programs were central to developing people and our economy, especially from WWII on.”

Michaela disagreed.  “But as a whole, our system works because it incentivizes hard work, smart risk taking, and keeping the fruit of your labor.  It’s not big government.  It’s meritocracy for individuals.”

“Meritocracy for individuals?” said Brian.  “Almost every part of your iPhone was made by the military;[5] we paid for it, but Apple profits.  The Internet began as ARPAnet in the Department of Defense;[6] we paid for it.  Google’s search engine was supported by the National Science Foundation;[7] we paid for it.  The computer was developed by the U.S. military and IBM for World War II;[8] we paid for it.  When companies hire people, do the companies educate those people from scratch?  No.  Our public schools helped train them.  We use banks protected by security.  But did we personally invent ways to make our financial system safe?  No.  The public pays for all these things.  How many ways are the so-called “job creators” just free-riders on that system?”

Michaela laughed.  “You’re saying the libertarians in Silicon Valley are hypocritical?[9]  They’ve never been my type of conservative.”

Brian agreed.  “Silicon Valley started as a military research complex.  Not only were they seeded and funded by the government, they were protected by it.  Remember the 1980’s, when Reagan raised tariffs on cheaper Japanese cars,[10] motorcycles[11] and then computer chips[12] to protect American companies?  The question is:  Whose failures are cushioned by the government or their parents’ proverbial garage?”

“Yes,” said Michaela, “but handouts and taxation cut into people’s incentives, and job growth.  And Americans want jobs – especially good manufacturing jobs.  They want the dignity of work, not the indignity of welfare and protections.”

“They want jobs that pay for their health insurance,” Brian retorted.  “There’s a deeper point here about people’s self-concepts:  Most of those jobs didn’t come from “individual hard work” or “bold entrepreneurs” with venture capital.  They came from big government through WWII[13] and the Cold War.  U.S. policymakers and corporate leaders rebuilt Europe and Japan, which meant jobs in America:

“By 1963 American firms controlled more than half the British auto industry, 40 per cent of the German oil industry, 40 per cent of the telegraph, telephone, electronic, and statistical business equipment in France.”[14]

“The auto industry depended on roads, like Davison Highway in Detroit, the first urban freeway, which was 97% paid for by state and federal governments in 1941.[15]  Not coincidentally, black homeowners in Detroit saw their property values drop to nothing when the National Housing Act of 1949 allocated money to tear down their homes to build more highways; in other cities, black land ownership was often destroyed when land was paved over.[16]  White socialism again.  Truckers and shipping companies depended on Eisenhower’s 1950’s interstate highway system, which was built for the military, just like Sears depended on the federal mail system to become the first “Amazon” with their mail-order retail catalog.[17]  White socialism.  Not to mention how many jobs depended on cheap raw materials from Guatemala,[18] Cuba,[19] and other Latin American countries because the U.S. military propped up dictators who held doors open for American companies.[20]  GM, Ford, and Chrysler depended on big government for roads and oil.[21]  Oil companies like ExxonMobil, Gulf Oil, Texaco, and Chevron depended on government subsidies[22] and access to the Middle East.[23]  For that, the CIA did things like overthrow the democratically elected Shah of Iran in 1953 to hold open British Petroleum’s access to oil for the West.[24]  Lockheed-Martin and Boeing depended on government contracts, too.[25]  Is that individual meritocracy or big government?”

“You’re arguing,” said Michaela, “that meritocracy is a myth?  That the reality is big government?”

“Exactly,” said Brian.  “America’s manufacturing economy was based on war.[26]  For the four decade Cold War, the government pumped $13 trillion into the economy,[27] which was a redistribution of taxpayer money.  So jobs didn’t spring up because of individual “job creators.” Even recently, look at all the things the government developed or funded:  voice recognition, Siri, artificial intelligence, seismic imaging, hydraulic fracturing, LED lighting, MRI’s, advanced prosthetics, the Human Genome Project, kidney matching, and lactose-free milk.[28]  Big pharma depends on taxpayer funding from the National Institute of Health, which we already helped pay for.  That justifies government caps on drug prices.  Bankers and brokers sit on top of all these benefits; they completely depend on (1) high-tech, (2) government to stabilize international markets,[29] and (3) the U.S. military to advance U.S. business interests and keep the dollar stable.[30]  We, the public, paid for all of that; we keep paying in.  So why shouldn’t bankers pay high taxes on capital gains?  Stock trades?  We paid for natural resources, tech, education, jobs, and systems with our taxes.  So-called “job creators” free-ride on all this public investment.  Paying taxes – especially progressive taxes – could reflect the fact that the public should share in the accomplishments.  So in principle, taxes can and should reflect what is fair.”

Michaela added, “You define fair that way because the public is a shareholder who invested equity in a company, or owns part of a patent?  So taxes can represent the public taking their fair share of the earnings?”

“Yes,” said Brian.  “Taxes represent the public’s investment already,” said Brian.  “We the public already helped pay for lots of things that a few individuals now profit from, but the myth of meritocracy[31] disguises that fact.”

“So you think even if reparations involves raising taxes to give money to others, raising taxes can be fair, in principle?”

“Yes,” said Brian.  “Black Americans paid their taxes, too.  But did we get the same law enforcement as white Americans, so we could feel safe, too?  Or the same home loans, so we could move out to the suburbs, too, and pass down wealth to our children and grandchildren?  Or the same big government support for our schools and businesses?”

The Key Question in Restorative Justice:  Do We Develop and Invest in All People?

“Fundamentally,” continued Brian, “reparations have to be more than a calculation about fairness.  It’s about whether we believe in investing in people – all people – as part of a body.  When I say I take a Christian restorative justice approach, it’s not just to address when a wrong is done.”

“Why do you call it restorative justice, then?” asked Michaela.  “What are you restoring?”

“We are restoring relationships to the way Jesus intends,” Brian replied.  “Jesus’ vision for relationships is proactive, like in our conversation about housing.  Do we see one another as worthy of investment and development, especially when a person fails, or hits hard times?  Like Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan helping the man on the road in Luke 10.  Racism damages those relationships.  In many ways, racism and the myth of meritocracy go together and feed each other – repenting of one helps you repent of the other.  We all depend on each other.  The facts of history show it.  Public investment in people pays off.  By contrast, for instance, deep poverty persists in the South not because black people in the South are lazy, but because white racism in the South blocks public investment for all.[32]  Some white people would sooner hurt themselves than help a black person.”[33]

“I know people who acknowledge that,” said Michaela.  “What’s at stake is people’s vision of community.  It’s easier for people to help others if they believe “they” are part of “us.”  I don’t think Trump’s $28 billion subsidy to farmers[34] is a long term solution, but non-farmers didn’t complain about that big government move.  We sympathized.”

“It takes people a while to admit that race plays a factor,” said Brian.  “As a society, we’ve accused black people of being “culprits” when they do the same things that make white people “victims.”  For decades, we’ve said drug problems in the black community makes them “addicts” or “criminals.”  But when drug problems hit the white community, we call them “victims” of the opioid crisis.[35]  When black youth protest gun violence in their schools, the country ignores them, sometimes even writing them off as the perpetrators of the gun violence.[36]  But when white youth in Parkland, Florida protest, every media outlet in the country sees them as victims of gun violence (and rightly so) and amplifies their voices.  When manufacturing jobs leave black communities like Detroit[37] or Baltimore,[38] we call that “the free market,” call them “lazy” for not following the jobs elsewhere, and dismiss their anger as calling for special privileges.  But when jobs leave the white community, we call them “victims of globalization,” call their anger “economic populism,” and try “place-based economics.”[39]  When black people distrust institutions, we call it “un-American,”[40] “disrespecting the police,”[41] “not trusting the doctor,”[42] or “self-sabotage” pure and simple.  But when white people do it, rich white liberals call shorter life spans for white people “deaths of despair,”[43] question their own media biases,[44] read J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy,[45] and call people “disaffected voters.”  When we address problems afflicting the black community, we call it “preferential treatment.”  When we address the same problems among white people, we call it “nation-building” and finding new solutions to solve “problems that afflict us all.”  When will we see that the black American experience has always served as an early warning sign for how capitalism and militarism-for-the-sake-of-capitalism will one day affect us all?”[46]

“I’ll chew on that,” said Michaela.  “I can see this also relates to jobs.”

“Right,” said Brian.  “Our politicians don’t tell us the truth about jobs.  Like why did we have so many middle-class-paying manufacturing jobs once upon a time?  And can we bring them back?”

“A timely question,” said Michaela.  “Some people say that immigrants and bad trade deals caused the decline in jobs.  You’re saying, though, that once we see our big warfare-state government, we have to ask deeper questions.  Like, how long could America dominate the world in manufacturing?[47]  Did we expect other countries to never develop?[48]  Did we expect robots to never take our jobs?[49]  Since we ignore the past, do we have unrealistic expectations in the present, especially about whether “meritocracy” alone “works”?”

“Yes, and I also want to stress,” said Brian, “that as we step back from the question of jobs to the questions of community and justice, the choice to use meritocratic-retributive justice with blacks, but restorative justice for whites, is itself racist.”

“You’ve said before that the big question is which justice is highest,” said Michaela.

“Yes,” Brian replied, “and the Christian restorative justice framework is about right relationships between people and the land, between parents and children inheriting wealth from their parents, between neighbors, between labor and capital, between those with more power and those with less, and so on.  That’s why trying to do reparations in a framework of meritocracy would be misleading and resentment-inducing.  There are deeper questions about community and justice which need to be answered first.  Why do black people get “capitalism” while white people get “white socialism”?  Why do black children get pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps “meritocracy” while white children get “big government assistance”?  Again, the first question is whether we are one community.  Does everyone get “equal protection of the laws”?  And if we really are one community, then restorative justice takes priority over meritocratic-retributive justice.  So much so that it’s a foregone conclusion that we invest in one another.  Reparations are just expressions of investing in those people who have been left out or put down, not because white people need to feel guilt, but because they need to feel grief.”

“That is a different motivation,” said Michaela.  “What are the reasons that restorative justice is above meritocratic-justice again?”

“That gets into belief systems,” replied Brian.  “In my opinion, the most solid reason is that Jesus restored human nature to what God always wanted for it, and to restore relationships of all kinds.  God is giving back a restored humanity to every human being.”

“The evidence for your view is… Jesus?” asked Michaela.  “The basis for your politics is… Jesus?”

“Absolutely,” said Brian.  “When I looked into Jesus and his resurrection as historical fact,[50] that single event opened up a world of meaning.  Shall we talk about that next time?”


[1] Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy, and Society (Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 1983, reprinted 2015) thoughtfully points out in his book’s title that development and underdevelopment are in question.  Since human beings develop and require resources to develop, disparities in development need to be accounted for.

[2] Chris Ladd, “Unspeakable Realities Block Universal Health Coverage In America,” Forbes, March 13, 2017;  Through the passage of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, the U.S. Congress decided to extend these benefits to corporations from WW2-era tax loopholes.  Tom Miller, “Kill the Tax Exclusion for Health Insurance,” National Review, August 19, 2014;, a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, notes that this employer-based approach to insurance “has been criticized for raising — and hiding — the overall costs of health insurance and health care.”  See also Thomas Buchmueller and Alan Monheit, “Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance and the Promise of Health Insurance Reform,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 14839, 2009;

[3] Chris Ladd, “Unspeakable Realities”; cf. Philethea Duckett and Samantha Artiga, “Health Coverage for the Black Population Today and Under the Affordable Care Act,” Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, July 24, 2013;

[4] Tax Policy Institute, “How does the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance work?”; points out,

“Because the exclusion of premiums for employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) reduces taxable income, it is worth more to taxpayers in higher tax brackets than to those in lower brackets… The ESI exclusion cost the federal government an estimated $260 billion in income and payroll taxes in 2017 making it the single largest tax expenditure. Note, too, that the open-ended nature of the tax subsidy has likely increased health care costs by encouraging the purchase of more comprehensive health insurance policies with lower cost sharing or with less tightly managed care.”

Also, Chris Ladd, “Unspeakable Realities,” points out that the federal tax code is regressive by allowing people to save money on mortgage interest, retirement savings, and a host of other goods.

“When I buy a house for my family, or a vacation home, the interest I pay on the mortgage is deductible up to a million dollars of debt. That costs the treasury $70 billion a year, about what we spend to fund the food stamp program. My private retirement savings are also tax deductible, diverting another $75 billion from government revenues.”

[5] Jordan Malter, “Thank the Government for Your iPhone,” CNN, October 24, 2013;; Lynn Stuart Parramore, “What the Steve Jobs Movie Won’t Tell You About Apple’s Success,” TruthOut, Friday, October 30, 2015;

[6] Ian Peter, “The Beginnings of the Internet,” Net History; writes,

“Bob Taylor, the Pentagon official who was in charge of the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (or Arpanet) program, insists that the purpose was not military, but scientific.”

The Pentagon developed the precursor technology (TCP/IP) and coordination for the Internet to develop.

[7] Peter L. Singer, “Federally Supported Innovations: 22 Examples of Major Technology Advances That Stem from Federal Support,” The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, February 2014;; p.10 notes,

“Two graduate students [Page and Brin] working on the Stanford Integrated Digital Library Project, supported with $4.5 million in grants from NSF [National Science Foundation], came up with an idea for a new algorithm.  PageRank, the algorithm, was the basis for a search engine they called BackRub.  After first testing BackRub on equipment partially paid for by the NSF, the two students sought private financing and founded the now ubiquitous company Google.”

John Horgan, “Dear Occupy Wall Street: Read Jeffrey Sachs!”, Scientific American, October 11, 2011; pokes Google a bit harder:

“Even Google, which is supposedly so hip and progressive, engages in a “tax dodge.” According to Sachs, Google funnels billions in profits into off-shore subsidiaries, which pay lower tax rates than the U.S. corporation does. Sachs points out that Sergey Brin’s “ingenious work in creating Google’s search engine” was supported by the National Science Foundation, which means that our tax dollars helped Brin get his start.”

[8] Paul A. Freiberger and Michael R. Swaine, “ENIAC Computer,” Encyclopedia Britannica;

[9] Jim Edwards, “Silicon Valley Is Living Inside A Bubble Of Tone-Deaf Arrogance,” Business Insider, December 15, 2013; highlights attitudes and policies criminalizing homelessness; the creation of a “meritocracy club”; ideas that Silicon Valley secede from California; and so on.

Steve Case, venture capitalist and former CEO of AOL argues that Silicon Valley has been “tone deaf” to middle America.  See Michelle Castillo, “Silicon Valley Has Been ‘Tone Deaf’ to the Entrepreneurial Potential of Middle America: Steve Case,” CNBC, June 1, 2017;

[10] Patrick Gillespie, “Those Reagan Tariffs Trump Loves to Talk About,” CNN Business, July 27, 2016; points out that Reagan declared

“a quota imposed in 1981 on the number of Japanese cars that could come into the U.S. every year. It was meant to give American car companies like Ford (F), GM (GM)and Chrysler (FCAU) some breathing room from foreign competitors like Toyota and Nissan.  It came at a time when the U.S. economy was in recession in the early 1980s, unemployment was rising towards 10% and inflation was high. U.S. companies were looking for any help they could get.  One result of the new trade restrictions against Japan was that American car companies hiked up car prices, pulling in record profits at the time, Winston found. They didn’t have to fear losing customers to Japanese car companies.  U.S. car makers also lowered production in 1984 to help boost car prices. Less production meant fewer workers: America lost over 60,000 auto jobs between 1982 and 1984 due to the trade restrictions, according to Brookings.  Consumers got hit hard. The average car price rose by about $1,000 at the time.”

[11] Patrick Gillespie, “Those Reagan Tariffs Trump Loves to Talk About,” CNN Business, July 27, 2016; writes,

“In 1983, Reagan also slapped a 45% tariff on Japanese motorcycles in an effort to save one American company: Harley-Davidson.  Reagan sought to protect Harley, whose sales were slumping, partly because of competition from Japanese motorcycle makers like Kawasaki and Yamaha.”

[12] Bryan Johnson, “The U.S.-Japan Semiconductor Agreement: Keeping Up the Managed Trade Agenda,” The Heritage Foundation, January 24, 1991; points out that American businesspeople were probably handicapped by their own cultural incompetence, but Reagan imposed a tariff on DRAM chips in 1987 anyway:

“Beyond seeking to limit the sale in the U.S. of Japanese chips, the American producers sought guarantees of a specific share of the Japanese semiconductor market. The American firms, however, were unable to cite specific trade barriers that restricted the entry of U.S. computer chips into Japan. Still, they maintained that somehow the structure of the Japanese market or Japanese business practices unfairly limited sales of American manufactured products. This was a plausible claim since a myriad of informal Japanese business practices and relationships make it very difficult for foreign products to compete in Japan.”

[13] Howard Zinn, Postwar America: 1945 – 1971 (Indianapolis, IN and New York, NY: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1973), p.33 writes,

“A report submitted shortly after the end of the war to the Senate Small Business Committee, entitled “Economic Concentration and World War II,” noted that the government spent a billion dollars during the war years for scientific research in industry, aside from money spent on atomic research.  The billion dollars went to two thousand corporations, with sixty-eight of them getting two-thirds of the total and the ten largest corporations in the United States getting 40 per cent of the total.  Furthermore, in 90 per cent of the contracts, the patents for new developments were handed over to the contractor, who then controlled the commercial applications of the government-financed research.”

[14] Howard Zinn, Postwar America, p.72 – 73 also adding,

“By 1967 the United States Council of the International Chamber of Commerce estimated that the gross value of production by American companies abroad was more than $100 billion a year – equivalent in productive capacity to a third “nation” in the world, just behind the United States and the U.S.S.R.”

In 1950, the U.S. economy produced 40% of global GDP (VisualCapitalist), compared with today’s ~20%.  U.S. firms faced no major foreign competition, and could not ship jobs overseas.  Immigration was low, so wages were high.

[15] Ardelia Lee, “The Story Of The Davison, America’s First Urban Freeway,” Daily Detroit, August 3, 2016;  .

[16] Stateside Staff, “How the Razing of Detroit’s Black Bottom Neighborhood Shaped Michigan’s History,” Michigan Radio | NPR, February 11, 2019; notes,

“In 1944, Detroit Mayor Edward Jeffries and the city council proposed a plan to tear down “old structures” around the city.  “It’s really a form of urban renewal which, for many African-Americans, they called ‘negro removal’ because many times, they would be the first group of people whose homes and businesses would be taken,” Jordan said.  But the city didn’t have the funds to carry out that project until the federal government passed the National Housing Act in 1949, which gave states and cities the money necessary to demolish these “old structures.”  “After the passage of the National Housing Act in summer of 1949, within two months, they begin tearing down the first buildings in Black Bottom,” Jordan said.  The demolition of Black Bottom continued through the mid-1950s, and was made more extreme in 1956 when President Eisenhower passed the National Highway Act. That act funded the construction of Interstate 75. The construction of the highway would destroy Black Bottom as well as Paradise Valley, a center of black business in the city.”  When a highway project was announced, the property values in the area to be paved over dropped to nothing.”

Emily Lieb, “Who Broke Baltimore? We Did.”, The Nation, August 8, 2019; writes,

“Baltimore’s highway engineers had been batting around plans for highways for decades, but in 1956 the $26 billion Federal-Aid Highway Act promised to pay 90 percent of their cost. The next year, flush with government cash, planners mapped two dozen miles of high-speed roads through the city’s core. One of these, eight lanes wide, would carve Rosemont neatly in half.  For the next decade, officials tweaked and retweaked the route of the expressway through Rosemont, drawing and lifting condemnation lines as they went. When they started their work, Rosemont was the opposite of what Trump might call a shithole. Most everyone there had a job, a yard, and at least a high school diploma; every pot sat squarely on its own bottom. The majority of Rosemonters had lived in the neighborhood since the early 1950s, and they were 50 percent more likely to own their homes than the average Baltimorean.  Because they were black people in a black-branded neighborhood, they financed their purchases without the kind of low-interest federally insured mortgages their white counterparts got. They made do, instead, with exploitative, usurious loans from real estate agents and contract sellers. Even so, a 1967 study showed that Rosemont’s homeowners spent thousands of dollars every year on upkeep and renovations and many were close to owning their homes free and clear.  But as long as the justification for the urban-renewal expressway was slum clearance, then everything in its way was ipso facto a slum. As one local activist wrote, the entire neighborhood waited “in limbo [as] residents valiantly try to keep from becoming a near slum…because no one is sure whether the area will become a great asset to the city or a two minute short cut.”

[17] Editorial Board, How Sears Was the Amazon of Its Day,” The New York Times, October 15, 2018; point out how Sears, one of the greatest American companies, was built on public assistance in the form of the U.S. Postal Service:

“Sears became the Amazon of its day because its co-founder Richard Warren Sears harnessed two great networks to serve his enterprise — the railroads and the United States Postal Service. When the Postal Service commenced rural free delivery in 1896 (the “last mile” in today’s jargon) every homestead in America became within reach.”

[18] Howard Zinn, Postwar America, p.55 – 56 writes,

“Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected President of Guatemala [from 1951 – 1954], expropriated 234,000 acres of uncultivated land from [U.S. corporation] United Fruit Company.  American oil companies were also interested in this land.  Arbenz offered compensation for the land to the company, but United Fruit deemed it “unacceptable.”  Arbenz began to expropriate another 173,000 acres of the company’s land in another area.  So on June 18, 1954, an invasion force of mercenaries trained by the CIA on secret bases in Honduras and Nicaragua, invaded Guatemala.  They put into power Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, who had also received training at Fort Leavensworth, Kansas.  Armas received $90 million in aid in the next two years.  That compares with $600,000 given by the US to Guatemala in the entirety of the previous decade.  Armas abolished the tax on interest and dividends to foreign investors, jailed thousands of his political opponents and critics, ruled like an autocrat, and returned the land to United Fruit.  After three years in office, he was assassinated.”

See also Richard J. Barnet, Intervention & Revolution (New York, NY: Mentor Books, 1968, 1972)

[19] Howard Zinn, Postwar America, p.58 – 59, writes,

“By the 1950s, U.S. citizens controlled from 80 to 100 per cent of Cuba’s utilities, mines, cattle ranches, and oil refineries.  They also controlled 40 per cent of the sugar industry and 50 per cent of the public railways.  From 1950 to 1960, the balance of payments between Cuba and the United States added up to a billion dollars – in America’s favor.  In 1952 Fulgencio Batista, a military dictator whose power in Cuba, either direct or through puppets, went back to the early 1930s, again took over the government in a coup d’etat.  For the next seven years Batista continued to serve foreign economic interests while jailing political opposition and using terror and torture to maintain his rule.  During this period, the United States sent military missions to Cuba to advise the Batista regime, and gave it substantial military aid.”  Kennedy inherited from Eisenhower a strike force 1400 of anti-Castro Cubans who were prepared to invade Cuba and take power to protect American business interests.  On April 17, 1961, the Bay of Pigs invasion failed utterly, and the U.S. violated Article 15 of the Charter of the Organization of American States.”

[20] Joseph Nevins, “How US Policy in Honduras Set the Stage for Today’s Migration,” The Conversation, October 31, 2016; explores how American business profited from military and diplomatic goals in Honduras, to give one country as an example:

“U.S. military presence in Honduras and the roots of Honduran migration to the United States are closely linked. It began in the late 1890s, when U.S.-based banana companies first became active there. As historian Walter LaFeber writes in “Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America,” American companies “built railroads, established their own banking systems, and bribed government officials at a dizzying pace.” As a result, the Caribbean coast “became a foreign-controlled enclave that systematically swung the whole of Honduras into a one-crop economy whose wealth was carried off to New Orleans, New York, and later Boston.”

By 1914, U.S. banana interests owned almost 1 million acres of Honduras’ best land. These holdings grew through the 1920s to such an extent that, as LaFeber asserts, Honduran peasants “had no hope of access to their nation’s good soil.” Over a few decades, U.S. capital also came to dominate the country’s banking and mining sectors, a process facilitated by the weak state of Honduras’ domestic business sector. This was coupled with direct U.S. political and military interventions to protect U.S. interests in 1907 and 1911.

Such developments made Honduras’ ruling class dependent on Washington for support. A central component of this ruling class was and remains the Honduran military. By the mid-1960s it had become, in LaFeber’s words, the country’s “most developed political institution,” – one that Washington played a key role in shaping.

This was especially the case during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. At that time, U.S. political and military policy was so influential that many referred to the Central American country as the “U.S.S. Honduras” and the Pentagon Republic.

As part of its effort to overthrow the Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua and “roll back” the region’s leftist movements, the Reagan administration “temporarily” stationed several hundred U.S. soldiers in Honduras. Moreover, it trained and sustained Nicaragua’s “contra” rebels on Honduran soil, while greatly increasing military aid and arm sales to the country.

The Reagan years also saw the construction of numerous joint Honduran-U.S. military bases and installations. Such moves greatly strengthened the militarization of Honduran society. In turn, political repression rose. There was a dramatic increase in the number of political assassinations, “disappearances” and illegal detentions.

The Reagan administration also played a big role in restructuring the Honduran economy. It did so by strongly pushing for internal economic reforms, with a focus on exporting manufactured goods. It also helped deregulate and destabilize the global coffee trade, upon which Honduras heavily depended. These changes made Honduras more amenable to the interests of global capital. They disrupted traditional forms of agriculture and undermined an already weak social safety net.

These decades of U.S. involvement in Honduras set the stage for Honduran emigration to the United States, which began to markedly increase in the 1990s.”

Furthermore, Benn Steil and Robert E. Litan, Financial Statecraft: The Role of Financial Markets in American Foreign Policy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), ch.1 note that starting in 1973, the U.S. government persuaded American banks to lend to Latin American governments (by 1982, the nine largest U.S. banks lent $83 billion to developing countries, with $51 billion to Latin America), apparently with implicit guarantees on those investments.  Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the U.S. government backed right-wing authoritarian governments favorable to neoliberal American business interests, culminating in the 1994 NAFTA agreement.  American neoliberal interference in Latin America set the stage for insurmountable government corruption, the effective rule of oligarchies, drug cartel activity, violence and civil unrest, and mass migration to the U.S.

In the 2000’s, Latin America responded to NAFTA and U.S. interference via the “pink tide” – the election of socialist or progressive-leaning governments:  Hugo Chavez in Venezuela (1998), Lula da Silva in Brazil (2002), Néstor Kirchner in Argentina (2003), Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay (2004), Evo Morales in Bolivia (2005), Michelle Bachelet in Chile (2006), Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (2006), Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua (2006), Rafael Correa in Ecuador (2007), Fernando Lugo in Paraguay (2008), José Mujica in Uruguay (2009), Ollanta Humala in Peru (2011), Luis Guillermo Solís in Costa Rica (2014), and Salvador Sánchez Cerén in El Salvador (2014).

[21] The U.S. military has long been involved with global oil production (and consumption).  See David S. Painter, “Oil and the American Century,” The Journal of American History, Vol. 99, No. 1, June 2012;; p.24 – 39 writes:

“The U.S. government worked closely with the oil industry to gain and maintain control of overseas oil reserves, reflecting a symbiosis of national security interests and the interests of the oil companies. Maintaining access to oil became a key priority of U.S. foreign policy and involved the United States in regional and local conflicts in Latin America, the Middle East, and other oil-producing areas in ways that distorted development in many countries.  Most of the major doctrines of postwar U.S. foreign policy – the Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter Doctrines – related, either directly or indirectly, to the Middle East and its oil.”

EKT Interactive, “History of Oil”; notes the oligopolistic power of American oil companies, backed up by U.S. and British military power:

“In the United States, the 1901 discovery of the Spindletop field in Texas eventually spawned companies such as Gulf Oil, Texaco, and others. The dominance of the United States during this era was illustrated by the fact that regardless of where oil was produced in the world, its price was fixed at that of the Gulf of Mexico.  Beginning with World War I, oil became a strategic energy source and a tremendous geopolitical prize. In the 1930s, Gulf Oil, BP, Texaco, and Chevron were involved in concessions that made major discoveries in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Libya.  Based on those discoveries, a cartel of seven companies was formed that controlled the world’s oil and gas business for much of the twentieth century. Known as the Seven Sisters, they included: Exxon (originally Standard Oil), Royal Dutch/Shell, BP, Mobil, Texaco, Gulf, and Chevron.” (emphasis ours)

[22] Howard Zinn, Postwar America, p.99 writes,

“The oil industry has been one of the more extraordinary examples of special favors for the rich.  For most of the postwar years, oil companies could deduct 27.5 per cent of their gross income from their federal income taxes, up to half of their total tax bill; in 1969 Congress, after years and years of protest, reduced this allowance to 22 per cent. In addition, oil companies have been permitted to deduct many of the costs involved in exploration, drilling, and development, plus most of the royalties they pay to foreign powers.  As a result, oil and gas companies have been saving in taxes nineteen times their original investment for the average well.  In 1968, while corporations in general were paying 40 per cent of their income in taxes, oil companies paid less than 8 per cent.  The federal government has also effectively eliminated foreign competition and enabled the oil companies to raise their prices – at a cost to the American consumer in 1970 of some $5 billion.”

[23] Howard Zinn, Postwar America, p.72 writes,

“By 1970 American companies had roughly $70 billion invested overseas.  In key areas, the United States replaced older Western imperial nations.  For instance, whereas 72 per cent of the control of Middle East oil reserves in 1940 was British, and 10 per cent of it American, in 1967 it was 58 per cent American and 29 per cent British.”

[24] Lawrence Wu and Michelle Lanz, “How The CIA Overthrew Iran’s Democracy In 4 Days,” NPR, February 7, 2019; write,

“Mohammad Mossadegh was a beloved figure in Iran. During his tenure, he introduced a range of social and economic policies, the most significant being the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry. Great Britain had controlled Iran’s oil for decades through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. After months of talks the prime minister broke off negotiations and denied the British any further involvement in Iran’s oil industry. Britain then appealed to the United States for help, which eventually led the CIA to orchestrate the overthrow of Mossadegh and restore power to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran… The shah returned to power and ruled for another 25 years until the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The 1953 coup was later invoked by students and the political class in Iran as a justification for overthrowing the shah.”

See links included in the article for more information.  Anglo-Iranian Oil Company renamed itself British Petroleum.

[25] Howard Zinn, Postwar America, p.97 writes,

“Back in 1932 the historian Charles Beard, in an essay entitled “The Myth of Rugged Individualism,” noted that the greatest recipients – and the first – of “welfare” aid from the government were the big businesses of America.  This preferential pattern continued in the postwar decades and grew to monstrous proportions.  The war itself had been a bonanza for the big corporations through government contracts.  But with the end of the war, many of these corporations were sustained by the government.  In 1946 a secret air force guideline said that contracts should be given to aircraft companies in order to keep them in business – even if there was no immediate need for their products.  By the 1960s, some of the major aircraft companies depended for 100 per cent of their business on government contracts – and at a tidy profit  Lockheed Aircraft, for instance, made a profit in 1965 of 19 per cent of its net worth, somewhat above the 4 per cent interest the average American drew on his savings.  Between 1950 and 1970, the government budget rose from $40 billion to $200 billion, and war-related expenditures from $12 billion to $80 billion.  Many of these billions were spent through government contracts with large corporations.  In 1966 one corporation alone – General Dynamics – had government contracts totaling $2.2 billion.”

[26] Doris Goodwin, “The Way We Won: America’s Economic Breakthrough During World War II,” American Prospect, Fall 1992;; discusses the rise of manufacturing being dependent on the US military role globally.

Robert Lewis, “World War II Manufacturing and the Postwar Southern Economy,” The Journal of Southern History, November 2007;

Jeff Madrick, ‘Innovation: The Government Was Crucial After All,’ The New York Review of Books, April 24, 2014;

American Lives Film Project, “War Production,” PBS, September 2007.

As an example, Howard Zinn, Postwar America, p.76 – 77 highlights how much money went to companies who were weapons manufacturers alone:

“The United States in the 1960s was spending approximately $40 billion a year on weapon systems alone, two-thirds of the money of the money going to twelve or fifteen industrial giants – corporations whose main reason for existence was to fulfil government contract for death-dealing weapons.  Senator Paul Douglas, who understood the situation well from his vantage point of chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, pointed out that “six-sevenths of these contracts are not competitive but what are terms single supplier negotiable.’  In the alleged interest of secrecy, the government picks a company and draws up a contract in more or less secret negotiations.” (p.76 – 77)  He also pointed out that despite initial cost estimates “it is customary for the ultimate costs to be double or treble the original estimates.””  A report by Senator William Proxmire found that in 1969, the top eleven companies of the top one hundred defense contractors “were awarded 47 per cent of the prime contracts received” by those one hundred.”

[27] The Gale Group, “Cold War Mobilization,”, writes,

“Over the course of four decades of U.S. resolve to “contain” Communism abroad, Americans spent nearly $13 trillion on defense. Military readiness touched all aspects of American society and culture.”

[28] Peter L. Singer, Federally Supported Innovations: 22 Examples of Major Technology Advances That Stem from Federal Support, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, February 2014;

[29] In 1944, leaders from 44 Allied countries met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to coordinate central bank activities and currency exchange with the U.S. Federal Reserve and the U.S. dollar, making the dollar the de facto world currency.  This big government action had innumerable benefits for American business and finance.  Even when President Richard Nixon took the U.S. dollar off the gold exchange in 1971, the dollar enjoyed the trust of much of the world based on the U.S. government’s commitment to pay its Treasury debts, which has much to do with the ability of the American military to project American power and protect American interests.

Also, Benn Steil and Robert E. Litan, Financial Statecraft: The Role of Financial Markets in American Foreign Policy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), p.27 – 28 note,

“Since the end of World War II, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)—now the World Trade Organization (WTO)—has provided the forum for gradually reducing trade barriers around the world. After eight successive rounds of multilateral trade negotiations, for example, tariffs have been cut from an average of 40 percent to just 6 percent (although many developing countries still maintain much higher tariffs on selected products).”

Steil and Litan explain various dimensions of the interdependence of government and finance.  In the 1980’s, in response to Japanese banks doing business successfully in the U.S., American and British policymakers and bank regulators defined risk assessments and regulatory rules to reign in the Japanese banks (ch.1).

[30] International corporate finance is yet another realm overlapping with U.S. military involvement.  For example, the U.S. Treasury Department, acting through the International Monetary Fund, used the 1997 East Asian currency crisis to insist that South Korea, already a U.S. military protectorate, make changes to its corporate law to allow foreign investors to own more Korean stock.  Steil and Litan, p.85, explain:

“The governing Grand National Party accused the IMF of “acting as if it is an economic conqueror,” while the opposition National Congress for New Politics Party said that December 3rd would be remembered as “national economic humiliation day.” Newspapers lamented Korea’s loss of “economic sovereignty,” using the term “economic trusteeship” to link the IMF package with the U.S., Soviet, British, and Chinese trusteeship of Korea in the aftermath of World War II, and accused the United States of exploiting the crisis to further its own commercial interests in the country. A major reform such as the dramatic raising of the ceiling on foreign ownership of Korean stocks to 50 percent would be highly emotive and controversial under normal circumstances, whereas the IMF gave the Korean government a mere 12 days to make it effective. And, in the words of the Korea Times, “Everybody knows the IMF is run by the U.S.””

[31] Stephen McNamee, The Meritocracy Myth (Lanhan, MD: first edition 2004; fourth edition 2018) aptly says in the preface to the fourth edition,

“We did not suggest that individual merit is a myth, or that it has nothing to do with who gets ahead and who falls behind.  Instead, we made the case that the presumption that the system as a whole fundamentally operates on the basis of merit in determining who gets what and how much is a myth.” (emphasis ours).

McNamee helpfully examines non-merited benefits and disadvantages – economic, social, and cultural – that people inherit, and do not earn.

[32] PBS News Hour, “The Story of American Poverty, As Told By One Alabama County,” PBS News Hour, July 7, 2018; notes that more than 18 million Americans live in “extreme poverty,” according to a report from the United Nations, which ranked poverty in the U.S. alongside some of the poorest areas in the world. The UN Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty paid a visit to the U.S. last year, drawing worldwide attention to his findings. This Alabama African American community lacks clean sewage water treatment because the State of Alabama has opposed extending public infrastructure there. This is a case study of how most Americans have benefited from massive public investment yet insist that American society is an “meritocracy of individual achievement,” and why “small government conservatism” is often a smokescreen for “prejudice and systemic racial injustice.”

Also, Jason De Parle, “Why Do People Who Need Help From the Government Hate It So Much?,” The New York Times, September 19, 2016; reviews Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (The New Press, 2016) and writes,

“Hochschild calls this the “Great Paradox” — opposition to federal help from people and places that need it — and sets off across Louisiana on an energetic, open-minded quest to understand it. A distinguished Berkeley sociologist, Hochschild is a woman of the left, but her mission is empathy, not polemics. She takes seriously the Tea Partiers’ complaints that they have become the “strangers” of the title — triply marginalized by flat or falling wages, rapid demographic change, and liberal culture that mocks their faith and patriotism. Her affection for her characters is palpable. But the resentments she finds are as toxic as the pollutants in the marsh and metastasizing throughout politics. What unites her subjects is the powerful feeling that others are “cutting in line” and that the federal government is supporting people on the dole — “taking money from the workers and giving it to the idle.” Income is flowing up, but the anger points down. The people who feel this are white. The usurpers they picture are blacks and immigrants. Hochschild takes care not to call anyone racist but concludes that “race is an essential part of this story.” When she asks a small-town mayor to describe his politics, his first two issues — or is it one in his mind? — are welfare and race: “I don’t like the government paying unwed mothers to have a lot of kids, and I don’t go for affirmative action.””

[33] Catherine Rampell, “Why the White Working Class Votes Against Itself,” Washington Post, December 22, 2016; notes,

“Americans (A) generally associate government spending with undeserving, nonworking, nonwhite people; and (B) are really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs. Hence those oblivious demands to “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” and the tea partyers who get farm subsidies, and the widespread opposition to expanded transfer payments in word if not in deed.”

Rampell is summarizing Martin Gilens, Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999) and Suzanne Mettler, The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011).

Paul Waldman, “Yes, Opposition to Obamacare is Tied Up with Race,” Washington Post, May 23, 2014; draws on valuable studies and points out how conservative pundits equate social safety programs with reparations in disguise, presumably to stir up white resentment against the social safety programs, and realign class issues as racial issues to the detriment of poorer whites:

“In a 2009 discussion about the stimulus bill, Rush Limbaugh told his listeners, “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations!” […] Rush Limbaugh has the largest talk-radio audience in the United States, and he is admired and lauded by one Republican politician after another. But it isn’t just him. Bill O’Reilly told his viewers, “I think Mr. Obama allows historical grievances — things like slavery, bad treatment for Native Americans and U.S. exploitation of Third World countries — to shape his economic thinking… He gives the bad things about America far too much weight, leading to his desire to redistribute wealth, thereby correcting historical grievance.” Almost any domestic policy choice, whether it involves taxes or budgets or health care, can be characterized as an act of racial vengeance exacted upon whites for the benefit of blacks.  Glenn Beck has been another prominent advocate of the reparations theory. “Everything that is getting pushed through Congress, including this health care bill,” he said in 2009, “are transforming America. And they are all driven by President Obama’s thinking on one idea: reparations.”

Chris Ladd, “Unspeakable Realities Block Universal Health Coverage In America,” Forbes, March 13, 2017; writes,

“Election 2016 has prompted a wave of head-scratching on the left. Counties Trump won by staggering margins will be among the hardest hit by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Millions of white voters who supported Donald Trump stand to lose their access to health coverage because of their vote. Individual profiles of Trump voters feed this baffling narrative. A Washington Post story described the experience of Clyde Graham, a long-unemployed coal worker who depends on the ACA for access to health care. He voted for Trump knowing it might cost him his health insurance out of his hope of capturing the great white unicorn – a new job in the mines. His stance is not unusual. Why are economically struggling blue collar voters rejecting a party that offers to expand public safety net programs? The reality is that the bulk of needy white voters are not interested in the public safety net. They want to restore their access to an older safety net, one much more generous, dignified, and stable than the public system – the one most well-employed voters still enjoy.”

Ladd refers to jobs, and employer-based health care, which we have discussed above.

Arthur Delaney and Ariel Edwards-Levy, “Americans Are Mistaken About Who Gets Welfare,” Huffington Post, February 5, 2018; point out how false racial perceptions about who receives welfare influence welfare politics:

“The numbers reflect a significant overestimation of the number of black Americans benefiting from the largest programs. Medicaid had more than 70 million beneficiaries in 2016, of whom 43 percent were white, 18 percent black, and 30 percent Hispanic. Of 43 million food stamp recipients that year, 36.2 percent were white, 25.6 percent black, 17.2 percent Hispanic and 15.5 percent unknown. The numbers reflect a significant overestimation of the number of black Americans benefiting from the largest programs. Medicaid had more than 70 million beneficiaries in 2016, of whom 43 percent were white, 18 percent black, and 30 percent Hispanic. Of 43 million food stamp recipients that year, 36.2 percent were white, 25.6 percent black, 17.2 percent Hispanic and 15.5 percent unknown.”

Travis Gettys, “Behar Exposes “Sad Truth” About Some Trump Voters: “They Don’t Want Health Care If You Get It Also,” Raw Story, October 21, 2019; offers one exemplary anecdote:

“One man who struck up a conversation with the writer apologized right away for his poor dental health, which he couldn’t afford to improve, but said he’d rather do without health care than pay for someone he didn’t think deserved it.”  It is significant that the American public stereotypes welfare recipients as black, even though the majority are white.”

Another example comes from the legislation of the G.I. Bill, giving housing subsidies to veterans returning from World War II.  Erin Blakemore, “How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans,”, September 30, 2019; writes:

“When lawmakers began drafting the GI Bill in 1944, some Southern Democrats feared that returning black veterans would use public sympathy for veterans to advocate against Jim Crow laws. To make sure the GI Bill largely benefited white people, the southern Democrats drew on tactics they had previously used to ensure that the New Deal helped as few black people as possible.

During the drafting of the law, the chair of the House Veterans Committee, Mississippi Congressman John Rankin, played hardball and insisted that the program be administered by individual states instead of the federal government. He got his way. Rankin was known for his virulent racism: He defended segregation, opposed interracial marriage, and had even proposed legislation to confine, then deport, every person with Japanese heritage during World War II.

When the bill came to a committee vote, he stonewalled in an attempt to gut another provision that entitled all veterans to $20 a week of unemployment compensation for a year. Rankin knew this would represent a significant gain for black Southerners, so he refused to cast a critical proxy vote in protest. The American Legion ended up tracking down the Congressman who had left his proxy vote with Rankin and flying him to Washington to break the deadlock.”

[34] Mario Parker and Mike Dorning, “Trump’s $28 Billion Bet That Rural America Will Stick With Him,” Bloomberg News, September 19, 2019;

[35] Petula Dvorak, “We Scorned Addicts When They Were Black. It Is Different Now That They Are White,” Washington Post, April 12, 2018;  C.J. Quartblum, “What the Crack Epidemic and Opioid Crisis Tells Us About Race in America,” The Witness Christian Collective, April 19, 2018; points out that instead of and stigmatizing drug users, and declaring a new “War on Drugs,” with the opioid crisis:

“The media is framing this as a story of over-availability, bad pharma, and a government failing to protect its citizens. Rural communities being decimated by opioid use are victims who need rescuing.”

[36] Lincoln Anthony Blades, “Black Teens Have Been Fighting for Gun Reform for Years,” Teen Vogue, February 23, 2018; writes,

“Black activists have been on the front lines for years in the fight for gun control reform as it relates to crime in their own neighborhoods. As crime rose in black urban communities from the 1960s to the 1990s — largely tied in the 1980s and 1990s to the crack epidemic and rampant increase in gang violence that came with it — anti-violence black activist groups were formed, including the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition, the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, and the Wear Orange campaign, which was started by black teens in Chicago, who were close friends with Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old, who was shot and killed on January 29, 2013, shortly after performing in President Barack Obama’s inauguration parade. Black activists are unduly burdened by the task of balancing the urgent desire for reform with resisting calls for over-policing, too, as demonstrated and explained by Amber Goodwin, who created the Community Justice Reform Coalition, a national advocacy coalition that “promotes and invests in evidence-based policies and programs to prevent gun violence and uplift criminal justice reforms in urban communities of color.””

See also Marcia Chatelain and Kaavya Asoka, “Women and Black Lives Matter: An Interview with Marcia Chatelain,” Dissent, Summer 2015;

[37] Thomas J. Sugrue, “From Motor City to Motor Metropolis: How the Automobile Industry Reshaped Urban America,” Automobile in American Life and Society (Dearborn, MI: University of Michigan, 2014); writes,

“The absolute number of auto industry employees fell between 1950 and 1990. At mid-century, 214,000 Detroit men worked in blue-collar manufacturing jobs; by 1990, the figure had fallen to only 104,000. The color of auto industry employees also got whiter over the last half of the twentieth century, as manufacturing jobs disappeared and as the auto industry became more bureaucratic in its organization. In 1950, the auto industry employed 26 white collar workers for every 100 blue-collar workers; in 1990, it employed 63 white-collar workers for every 100 blue-collar workers.”

Notably, Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, updated edition 2014) points not only to deindustrialization but to white flight (especially the Milliken v. Bradley case in 1974) and funding policies:

“To understand Detroit’s troubled fiscal situation, however, requires a long-term view.  Detroit, like many cities, depends on property taxes to provide services, particularly public education.  But the total value of property in the city fell by 77 percent (in constant dollars) in the half century beginning in the early 1960s.  The long-term flight of industry from the city had particularly negative consequences for the city’s tax base, leaving contaminated, mostly unmarketable brownfields where factories once hummed.”

[38] Bryce Covert, “The Economic Devastation Fueling The Anger In Baltimore,” ThinkProgress, April 28, 2015; points out that Baltimore

“was once a thriving economy built on the steel industry. Bethlehem Steel set up shop in the early 1900s with the Sparrow Point mill, and the industry boomed during World War II, employing 35,000 workers at its peak in 1959, according to a 2004 report from the 1199E-DC union. But American manufacturing began its precipitous decline in the 1970s, and Sparrows Point laid off 3,000 workers in 1971, then another 7,000 in 1975. Just 8,000 people were employed at the mill by the 1980s. Overall, the city lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs between 1950 and 1995.”

Other manufacturing employers included Crown Cork & Seal, Martin Marietta, and General Motors.

The recent data on racial disparities in employment is striking:

“As of 2012, just 5.6 percent of white people living in the state of Maryland were out of work and looking for a job; the unemployment rate was in the double digits for the state’s black residents. In the city of Baltimore itself, the share of employed black men between the ages of 16 and 64 dropped more than 15 percent from about three-quarters in 1970 to just 57.5 percent by 2010. Yet more than three-quarters of white men of in the city were employed by 2010. That racial gap has grown steadily since the 1970s, from a 10 percentage point difference in how many men had work to a 20 percentage point one.”

See also Thomas J. Vicino, Transforming Race and Class in Suburbia: Decline in Metropolitan Baltimore (New York, NY: Palgrave-MacMillan, 2008)

[39] The Economist, “Place-Based Economic Policies as a Response to Populism,” The Economist, December 15, 2016; illustrates my point: first of all, in its very appearance in The Economist; second, in its admissions (“Yet orthodox economics has few answers to the problem of regional inequality. Economists used to think the best policy was often merely to wait…”); and third, in its framing of “place-based economics” as a “response” to “populism,” which is to say, instead of pro-active development policies for all people, planning a response to the inevitable reality that capitalism will make enough white people angry eventually.  Proposals were explored by the Economic Innovation Group (Jared Bernstein, “Unlocking Private Capital to Facilitate Economic Growth in Distressed Areas,” April 2015), The Hamilton Project of The Brookings Institute (Jay Shambaugh and Ryan Nunn, “Place-Based Policies for Shared Economic Growth,” September 2018), The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research (Timothy J. Bartik, “Should Place-Based Jobs Policies Be Used to Help Distressed Communities?” August 1, 2019), etc.  Proposals like these had already informed tax-incentive plans under Bush 1, called “Employment Zones,” which then became Clinton’s “Empowerment Zones,” Obama’s “Promise Zones,” and Trump’s “Opportunity Zones.”  Private equity firms, however, show more interest in asset-stripping corporations than investing in distressed areas.  Journalists, likewise, digested these studies and wrote articles, sometimes in soul-searching fashion where “the coasts” were positioned against “the heartland.”  For example, Annie Lowrey, “Fixing America’s Forgotten Places,” The Atlantic, July 24, 2018; gives some perspective on these “zones.”  Eduardo Porter, “The Hard Truths of Trying to ‘Save’ the Rural Economy,” The New York Times, December 14, 2018; demonstrates the challenge of America’s rural areas:  corporate agriculture has displaced small farmers and accustomed the American public to low food costs; mining and energy companies have damaged land and waterways.

Similarly, Ha-Joon Chang, Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective (London: Anthem Press, 2007) points out that developed countries protected the development of their domestic industries (i.e. they practiced “place-based economics” on the national level) yet hypocritically insist that developing countries maintain “free trade” policies.

A rare attempt at applying “place-based economics” to black American communities can be found in Bradley L. Hardy, Trevon D. Logan, and John Parman, “The Historical Role of Race and Policy for Regional Inequality,” The Hamilton Project, September 2018;

[40] Colin Kaepernick, NFL San Francisco 49’ers quarterback, was accused of “disrespecting the American flag” by many, for kneeling during the national anthem to protest white supremacy and police shootings of unarmed black men.  See Victor Mather, “A Timeline of Colin Kaepernick vs. the N.F.L.,” The New York Times, February 15, 2019;

[41] This accusation comes from a range of voices, from Tomi Lahren, “I Support Law Enforcement, Not Because I’m White or Conservative But Because I’m an American,” Fox News, March 12, 2019; to Attorney General William Barr, who suggested that communities that did not respect law enforcement would lose it.  Barr was rebuked by former Orlando Police Chief and sitting Congresswoman Val Demings, “What William Barr Doesn’t Understand About Law Enforcement,” Washington Post, December 6, 2019;  Demings said,

“Law enforcement is not a protection racket. It is a sacred charge. We take an oath not to any individual or faction but to the Constitution, or, in other words, to society at large. Because, at the end of the day, law enforcement and the community are the same. The police are the community, and the community is the police… When Barr referenced certain “communities” that have failed to give the police proper deference, it seems clear he meant black and brown communities — the very communities in which we should be working the hardest to build relationships and cooperation.”

See also commentary by Ali Velshi, “Rep. Val Demings Schools AG Barr on Policing Comments,” MSNBC, December 6, 2019;

[42] For example, Lisa Schenker, “Many African-Americans Don’t Trust Hospitals and Won’t Give Blood. One Chicago Doctor Is Out to Change That.” Chicago Tribune, April 18, 2019; writes,

“Angela Scott has heard many reasons why she shouldn’t donate blood.  Friends and family wonder what might really be done with it. They worry that someone might inject her with something.  You can’t always trust the medical establishment, she is told… But her friends’ and family’s anxiety isn’t unfounded. America has a long, ugly history of experimenting on African-American patients without their consent and treating them unethically. Notorious cases like the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which black men with the disease went untreated for years, have fueled a deep mistrust of the medical establishment that persists today among some African-Americans.  The fear has “been passed down from generation to generation,” said Scott, 47, of Calumet City.  That wariness may be one reason why African-Americans are underrepresented among blood donors, along with a lack of access to blood drives. In Cook County, less than 7 percent of all American Red Cross blood donations came from black donors last year, though African-Americans made up 24 percent of the population.”

Dr. J. Corey Williams, “Black Americans Don’t Trust Our Healthcare System – Here’s Why,” The Hill, August 24, 2017; comments on historical examples of the medical establishment abusing black bodies: dissections; invasive medical examinations; false psychiatric diagnoses; the Tuskegee Syphilis Study; and underestimation of bodily pain.

Elizabeth A Jacobs, Italia Rolle, Carol Estwing Ferrans, Eric E Whitaker, and Richard B Warnecke, “Understanding African Americans’ Views of the Trustworthiness of Physicians,” Journal of General Internal Medicine, June 2006; 21(6); p.642 – 647; is one example of sympathetic medical professionals trying to increase trust.

[43] Anne Case and Angus Deaton, “Rising Morbidity and Mortality in Midlife Among White Non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, December 8, 2015; set off a national dialogue by first noting that middle-aged white Americans had

“increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population.”

[44] Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Dean Baquet, “To Our Readers, From the Publisher and Executive Editor,” The New York Times, November 13, 2016; offered a thinly-veiled apology to their readers for not covering the underlying cultural and political moment which brought Trump to power.  See also Joan C. Williams, “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class,” Harvard Business Review, November 10, 2016;

[45] J.D. Vance, a Marine and Yale Law School graduate who grew up in Appalachian poverty, published his memoir in 2016.  Vance was interviewed by Christian political and cultural commentator Rod Dreher, “Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People,” The American Conservative, July 22, 2016;  Impressively, after the interview, Dreher, “J.D. Vance’s Straight Talk About Poverty,” The American Conservative, July 25, 2016; wrote,

“The J.D. Vance interview really hit a nerve. Over the weekend, so many people tried to read it that the site crashed for a while. It has become by far the most-read piece ever on TAC…The most fascinating correspondence I’m getting from the piece is from liberals who loved it.”

Hillbilly Elegy reached #1 on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list in 2017.  He was profiled by NBC’s Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly on June 25, 2017.  USA Today, “’Hillbilly Elegy’ is No. 1; New Oprah Pick is a Best Seller,” USA Today, July 5, 2017; writes,

“Vance was a frequent guest last year on cable news shows, called upon to help explain Donald Trump’s appeal to poor and working-class whites in the Rust Belt.”

[46]American plantation owners and industrialists – the white elite – competed in global markets for sugar, tobacco, and cotton, and thus sought cheap labor from blacks, slightly more expensive wage labor from poor whites, and strike-breaking power from recent immigrants.  Courtland Milloy, “How American Oligarchs Created the Concept of Race to Divide and Conquer the Poor,” Washington Post, April 19, 2016; concisely narrates the historical pattern starting from the Virginia Slave Codes of 1640 to 1705.  Milloy writes:

“Thomas and Mary Edsall, for example, described it in their 1991 book, Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights and Taxes on American Politics:  “Just as race was used, between 1880 and 1964, by the planter-textile-banking elite of the South to rupture class solidarity at the bottom of the income ladder, and to maintain control of the region’s economic and political systems, race as a national issue over the past twenty-five years has broken the Democratic New Deal ‘bottom-up’ coalition — a coalition dependent on substantial support from all voters, white and black, at or below the median income.”  That fracturing of the Democratic coalition, the Edsalls argue, “permitted, in turn, those at the top of the ‘top down’ conservative coalition to encourage and to nurture, in the 1980s, what may well have been the most accelerated upward redistribution of income in the nation’s history — a redistribution fed by the tax, spending and regulatory policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations.”

[47] Howard Zinn, Postwar America, p.91 writes,

“The continued concentration of American wealth at the top characterized the postwar years.  About 200 giant corporations – of the 200,000 corporations in the country – controlled approximately 60 per cent of the manufacturing wealth of the nation.  The net profits of the ten largest companies in America equaled that of the next 490 next largest companies.”

[48] For example, in the 1970’s, Italian, Japanese, and German auto makers challenged the dominance of American companies GM, Chrysler, and Ford.  Regarding semiconductors, Bryan Johnson, “The U.S.-Japan Semiconductor Agreement: Keeping Up the Managed Trade Agenda,” The Heritage Foundation, January 24, 1991; notes,

“In the early 1970s the U.S. held 60 percent of the world market in semiconductors, 95 percent of the American domestic market and 25 percent of the Japanese market. (Michael L. Dertouzos, et al., “Made In America: Regaining the Productive Edge” (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989), p. 248-49.) By 1982, the U.S. control had fallen to 51 percent of the world market in semiconductors; the Japanese had 35 percent, up from about 15 percent in the early 1970s. By 1989, the U.S. and Japanese positions were reversed, with American firms holding 35 percent of the world market and the Japanese 51 percent. (See “Semiconductors: A Strategic Industry At Risk” A report to the President and Congress from the National Advisory Committee on Semiconductors, November 1989, Washington, D.C.)”

[49] 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang, The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future (New York, NY: Hatchett Books, 2018) popularized the issue of automation for the American public politically.  Earlier voices include:  James Sherk, “Technology Explains Drop in Manufacturing Jobs,” Backgrounder: The Heritage Foundation (October 12, 2010);; Oxford economists Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?,” Oxford University Press, September 17, 2013;; MIT Sloan Business school researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014); and journalist Derek Thompson, “What Jobs Will the Robots Take?”, The Atlantic, January 23, 2014; and “A World Without Work,” The Atlantic, July-August 2015;

[50] For more information and helpful resources, see “Proof: Historical” from The Anastasis Center for Christian Education and Ministry, found here:

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