Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat and member of the informal lawmaker group ‘The Squad,’ has advocated for a bill introduced in the House that seeks recognition from the federal government of the lasting harm Black Americans endure due to slavery and hopes to create a $14 trillion reparations programme, according to The Journal News.
The bill is currently titled ‘H.Res.414 - “Recognising that the United States has a moral and legal obligation to provide reparations for the enslavement of Africans and its lasting harm on the lives of millions of Black people in the United States.’”
The bill states that the large number would “eliminate” the racial wealth gap that currently exists between Black and White American citizens.
A rough estimate found that the reparations could amount to around $330,000 per person, based on the 2020 census that said 41.1 million people identified as Black or African American alone population, accounting for 12.4 per cent of the population.
While $14 trillion sounds like a lot of money, Mr Bowman said there are “creative ways” to go around every citizen entitled to the reparations to get what they are owed.
“Who says the $14 trillion needs to be paid out in one shot?” said Mr Bowman, according to The Journal News.
“It might be possible for it to be paid out over 5 or 10 or 20 years. You could take that $333,000 and break it up into monthly checks over X amount of time. There are creative ways to do the right thing and do what needs to be done.”
For Mr Bowman, discussions around reparations should also include aspects of American society, such as housing, mass incarceration, higher education and wealth inequality, according to the outlet.
“I think people incarcerated should be able to vote," Mr Bowman reportedly said.
"And I definitely think that when they come out, they should automatically be enfranchised.”
The bill also hopes that the federal government could provide monetary incentives to school districts that adopt curriculums on the history of people of African descent, free college education to students attending historically black colleges and funding to support Black-led news programs, radio and television, among other items.
The Democrat is co-sponsoring the bill, which was first introduced in 2023 and currently has 14 cosponsors in total.
However, not every lawmaker is so convinced about the bill, claiming that it would be unfair on taxpayers to pay reparations for slavery that ended generations ago.
“Congressman Lawler strongly opposes any law that would force today’s American taxpayers to pay reparations for slavery that ended 160 years ago - and nearly 200 years ago in New York State,” said NY lawmaker Mike Lawler’s campaign spokesman Chris Russell, according to The Journal News.
“Aside from the $14-trillion dollar price tag requiring massive tax or debt increases, the congressman believes such a law would only lead to a greater racial divide and resentment at a time when we need to come together as a nation.”
However, Mr Bowman has argued that the federal government does have the means to provide the funds - since the start of the Covid pandemic, the government has provided $4.6 trillion to help the country, according to the US Government Accountability Office.
“When COVID was destroying us, we invested in the American people in a way that kept the economy afloat,” said Mr Bowman, per the outlet.
“The government can invest the same way in reparations without raising taxes on anyone.”
Meanwhile, another bill, H.R. 40, was first introduced in 1989 and still hopes to be passed to set up a commission to study reparations.
Mr Bowman is also one of 196 cosponsors of this bill, which seeks to set up the commission to study and consider a “national apology” and a proposal for reparations from slavery.
Democrat George Latimer, like many others, supports this bill, but believes H.R. 414 is a “political statement” and a “one-house bill with no chance of passage,” according to The Journal News.