San Francisco, Reparations, and the Racist Cruelty of Empty Promises

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Reparations had San Francisco residents lining up at a Tuesday night city board meeting to “share their full-throated support” for wide-ranging benefits paid out to the descendants of slaves, reported the Daily Mail. “The proposals put forward in San Francisco last night are among some of the most generous to be heard to date,” and that leaves me with two questions.


“My dad always taught me never to beg. And I am not begging you today. It is time for you to do the right thing and provide us with reparations: make us whole,” insisted Sgt. Yulanda Williams, president of the police association Officers for Justice. The council must have listened because what they came up with has a whole lotta spendin’ going on.

Technically, Williams did not beg. She insisted. And she insisted to the right audience, because wait until you see what the city looks ready to pay in reparations.

Qualifying black residents would receive an annual stipend of $97,000 for the next 250 years, have their personal debt wiped out, the “right” to buy a local home for one dollar, and enjoy a one-time lump-sum payment of [activate Dr. Evil voice] FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

So my first question is: how did the city council arrive at such a generous reparations package? Because the numbers don’t add up.

San Francisco’s median personal income was about $77,000 in 2021. The city council would give black residents a $20,000 bonus on top of that for doing nothing. And, as various reports have shown, you can get by in the city on the homeless stipend of $620 a month (plus $200 in food stamps), provided you’re willing to live outdoors and supplement your income with fentanyl sales.


I wasn’t able to find a figure for San Francisco’s average household wealth, but I’m assuming it’s somewhere south of that $5 million lump-sum payment, and, at least in most cases, required years to accumulate.

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Second question: How will the city pay these reparations?

The city has about 42,000 black residents and it’s probably safe to assume that a reparations plan this generous in terms of payouts won’t skimp when it comes to who gets paid. So I figure virtually all of those 42,000 will qualify. “To be eligible,” reported the Daily Mail, “a person must be over 18 and ‘have identified as black/African American on public documents for at least 10 years.'”

Easy-peasy, right? Well… easy to qualify but, as you’re about to see, impossible to get paid.

That $97,000 annual stipend runs a bit over $4 billion a year, every year, for the next 250 years. That’s assuming no more self-identifying black Americans move to the city to take advantage of that very generous reparations payment. That’s almost half of the city’s annual budget, which already spends more per capita than any other American city aside from Washington, D.C.

Oh, black residents wouldn’t pay any taxes under the plan, so I’ve got to assume city tax revenues would take a hit. But let’s leave that aside.


The median price for a home in SF is (gulp) $1.3 million. Every single person given the ability to buy a home there for $1 (with the city presumably making up the difference) is going to take advantage, even if only to flip it for a very tidy profit. So City Hall would be looking at another $54 billion, give or take, to be paid out over time — a rather short amount of time, I’d wager — as residents start waving dollar bills in front of homes for sale.

That $5 million lump sum would cost city residents $210 billion, right away. The state budget for all of California last year was almost exactly the same, at $213 billion — and that included an $18 billion deficit.

Totaling up 250 years of annual stipends, the one-time lump-sum payments, and the homeownership benefit, city taxpayers would be on the hook for nearly [Dr. Evil voice again] ONE POINT ONE TRILLION DOLLARS between now and the year 2,273 AD.

On reflection, here’s a third question that perhaps one of my old San Francisco friends or neighbors could answer for me: what about your beautiful, progressive city has been so systemically racist for so long that you need to bankrupt yourselves to set it right?

On second reflection, I have a fourth question — and it’s a real sad-maker.

San Francisco will never pay these reparations. Just to make the stipend happen, the city would have to raise 50% more revenue or cut services on everything else by the same amount. It’s impossible to raise that much tax revenue, and no lender would look at those terms and loan City Hall a cent. I haven’t even looked at the cash flow hazards, like how taxpayers would flee while beneficiaries would race in.


So my fourth question is: why is the San Francisco City Council so terribly cruel, to promise so much to their black constituents, when they know they’ll deliver so little? Sgt. Yulanda Williams seems so genuinely excited. How will she feel when the checks bounce or, as seems more likely, are never delivered?

Maybe that’s the systemic racism progressive San Francisco is so concerned about.


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