December 09, 2009

Cobell settlement = "reparations"?!

Business blogger Scott Jagow posted a summary of the Cobell settlement and the Collegiate Church's apology. He was doing fine until his final paragraph:

Never too late to apologize?[D]o you think financial payments for events that occurred so long ago are justified/needed? Should financial reparations be extended to African-Americans for slavery? I know there are legal differences between the two cases, but there’s some moral symmetry…
Comment:  Here's the reply I posted:Actually, no, there are no similarities between the Cobell case and any reparations claims.

The Indians leased their land and the government held the payments in trust for them. Over the years the feds lost track of the money.

The settlement restores some of what the Indians are legally owed. It has nothing to do with reparations.

If you had a bank account and the government "lost" it after 50 or 100 years, would you shrug and say, "Oh, well...I don't want that old money anyway"? If so, you'd be about the only person in the world to feel that way.
I suspect we'll be hearing a lot of "sticker shock" responses in the next few days and weeks. Especially from the usual conservative talking heads.

First they'll express outrage at the lawsuit's existence: "Where did this case come from? How come we've never heard of it? Is this some sort of scam or giveaway? Aren't the 'poor' Indians rich enough from casinos already?"

Then they'll express outrage at the settlement's amount: "$3.4 billion for a bunch of do-nothing, welfare-mooching socialists? Haven't we given these wretches enough? How long are we going to let them play the 'victim card' and bleed us for money?

"I guess they've found the perfect stooge in Barack Hussein Obama. They're playing on the Dems' liberal guilt to get a pile of cash they didn't earn. This is nothing but 'political correctness,' folks: paying reparations to the 'Injuns' to make us feel good about ourselves."

"We're fighting two wars, the economy's in the tank, socialized medicine is about to bankrupt us...but Barry wants to give a taxpayer bailout to a few whiny 'redskins'? Give me a break, people. This is the biggest pork-barrel scheme in the history of the world." (For the full effect, imagine Rush Limbaugh sneering these lines.)

Facts don't matter?

Forget about the facts of the case. Jagow quoted a good article on the subject after presumably reading it, then totally misstated the situation. If he can't get it right, imagine how Limbaugh and his fellow right-wing idiots will twist this case.

Maybe we'll be lucky and the largest government settlement in history will fly under their radar. But I wouldn't bet on it. Conservatives have attacked tribal sovereignty, legally-binding treaties, the reservation system, and Indian casinos as "reparations." I'm guessing they'll attack this settlement too.

For more on the subject, see Why the Cobell Plaintiffs Settled and Obama to Settle Indian Trust Lawsuit.

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