Racial reparations at the USDA
The worst policy of the Biden administration that you have probably never heard of is section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Section 1005 provides a remedy against past discrimination against minority farmers. loan and other practices by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The problem is not the premise of Section 1005. The USDA has a long and ugly history of favoring white farmers over black farmers.
The problem is the cure. Section 1005 sets up a debt relief program for minority farmers only, white farmers do not need to apply, to cancel outstanding USDA loans to “socially disadvantaged” farmers, which the USDA defines by race: “Black / African American, American Indian, Native Alaskan, Hispanic / Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander.”
Any farmer in these categories can claim debt relief without having to prove that he has been discriminated against, regardless of his financial situation. The program could cost $ 4 billion.
Article 1005, to say the least, has not been a success. White farmers are angry; in fact, thousands of people have posted resentful comments on online farm forums. As a white Missouri farmer told the New York Times, “They don’t even think about the fact that they discriminate against us.
A federal judge, implicitly agreeing with him, blocked the program as racial discrimination in violation of the 14th Amendment. The USDA has raised the hopes of thousands of minority farmers by sending them written offers of debt relief. But these farmers may be disappointed because they will not benefit from the program for a long time, if ever. Republicans have another talking point for next year’s midterms: Democrats are the party of reverse racial discrimination.
The sponsors of the Senate of article 1005 – Sens. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann Stabenow Excellence Act will extend access to mental health and addiction treatment to millions of people Senate Crafts The Pelosi Alternative on Drug Prices Lobbying World MORE (D-Mich.), The chairman of the Senate agricultural committee, Cory bookerCory Booker This Week: Senate Ready To Fight Voting Rights Congress Must Act To Correct Flaws In First Step Law Democrats Introduce Resolution Apologizing To LGBT Community For Government Discrimination MORE (DN.J.), Raphael WarnockRaphael Warnock Democrats seek new ways to expand Medicaid in struggling states Democrats facing tough re-elections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Democrats scramble to unify ahead of election bill brawl MORE (D-Ga.) And Ben Ray Luján (DN.M.) – believe that the scale of the terrible harm done to minority farmers requires drastic remedies. But this understandable historical and emotional perspective led them directly into legal and political minefields.
The legal minefield has already exploded on them. Under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, the government must provide a compelling justification for the use of racial classifications even when addressing its own past discrimination. In a lawsuit filed by 12 white farmers in nine states against the USDA, Federal District Court Judge William C. Griesbach, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, issued an interim order terminating the program debt relief at the start of the trial because the government was unlikely to demonstrate a compelling rationale for Section 1005.
Among other issues with Section 1005, Justice Griesbach pointed out, Congress failed to consider more narrowly tailored and racially neutral alternatives, such as providing financial assistance to farmers on a need-to-know basis. individuals, who could have helped disadvantaged minority farmers without discriminating against white farmers. And an appeal ultimately comes up against a serious obstacle to the Supreme Court of Chief Justice John Roberts who, in opposing the use of racial classifications to remedy school segregation in a 2007 case, wrote what is famous: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
The other minefield is that section 1005 looks like a reparations program. In fact, Senator Stabenow described the measure as an “important piece of repairs”. The perception that Section 1005 could be a workhorse for a more ambitious reparations program may explain the intensity of his support and opposition.
Reparations are a political explosion waiting to happen. More than six in ten Americans oppose reparations and without knowing the details. Some proponents of the repairs insist that a fair amount is $ 10-12 trillion, which will certainly cause sticker shock. Will white ethnic groups who have been discriminated against be included? How will people of mixed white minority descent be compensated? Will reparations only worsen racial tensions, as Article 1005 did?
The lesson of Article 1005 is that any program to compensate minorities who have suffered past discrimination must be carefully designed if it is to survive on the minefields. This was certainly not the approach taken by the authors of Article 1005.
Gregory J. Wallance, a writer in New York, was a federal prosecutor under the Carter and Reagan administrations, where he was a member of the ABSCAM prosecution team that convicted a US senator and six members of Congress for corruption. He is a longtime human rights activist and the author of the historical novel “Two men before the storm: the memory of Dred Scott’s Arba Crane and the Supreme Court case that started the civil war.” Follow him on Twitter @gregorywallance.