Remembering When Jim Crow Joe Biden Proposed $30M In Reparations For Jewish Americans

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Written by Dana Sanchez
Biden
Joe Biden has been criticized for not supporting reparations for African-American descendants of slavery. However, as VP, Biden asked for $millions to support U.S. Holocaust survivors. Biden was pictured interacting with a supporter during a campaign stop at the Community Oven restaurant in Hampton, N.H., May 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Leading Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden has been criticized for being unwilling to support reparations for African American descendants of slavery, for avoiding the question and for changing the subject during recent candidate debates.

However, in late 2013, then-Vice President Biden launched an initiative earmarking $12 million to address the needs of U.S. Holocaust survivors, Times of Israel reported. Some 130,000 Holocaust survivors were living in the U.S. at the time, according to government estimates — a quarter of them below the poverty line.

In 2014, the Obama White House named a special envoy to coordinate volunteer activities to assist Holocaust survivors. Congressional sponsors of the funding included U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Senators Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

“Survivors in this country are still more likely than the average American senior to suffer from poor health and from poverty,” Biden said according to Jewish Week. “New York has the largest population of these survivors.”

Jewish leaders said privately that the Obama administration was expected to announce that it would request money in the federal budget to help survivors. The amount was said to be as much as $15 million. The administration hoped that philanthropists, nonprofits and foundations would match the money for a total of $30 million.

More than 40 million Americans are Black — around 13 percent of the population, according to 2016 Census Bureau estimates, Pew Research reported. The African American poverty rate in 2017 was 21.2 percent. That’s 9 million African Americans who fell below the poverty line — $24,860 for a family of four.

In the December 2019 Democratic debate, there was an uproar on Twitter after Biden ignored a question about whether he would support reparations for descendants of slavery. First, Biden said he was happy for the chance to speak on it, then he went off on a tangent that instead praised the hard work of immigrants.

During the September 2019 debate, ABC News moderator Lindsay Davis reminded Biden: “In a conversation about how to deal with segregation in schools back in 1975, you told a reporter, ‘I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today for sins of my own generation and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.'”

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President Barack Obama’s record on reparations for slavery has also come under fire.

While campaigning for the 2008 presidential election, Obama said he didn’t want to focus on reparations. The country’s challenges will not go away with reparations, he said in an NAACP questionnaire. They’ll be “an excuse for some to say ‘we’ve paid our debt’”.

Obama added that he applauds and agrees “with the underlying sentiment of recognizing the continued legacy of slavery.” However, he said, “I would prefer to focus on the issues that will directly address these problems.”

Biden played a crucial role in passing the infamous crime bill — the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act — which passed with bipartisan support in 1994. The crime bill led to the disproportionate incarceration of African American men in the name of public safety, devastating African American families to this day, and worsening racial inequality in the justice system.

Biden boasted at a 2007 Democratic presidential debate that it was the “Biden crime bill” before it became known as the “Clinton crime bill.” As recently as 2016, Biden said he was not ashamed of his role in writing the bill and defended its record. The bill isn’t the problem, he told CNBC. “The problem is institutional racism in America. That’s the overarching problem that still exists and we should be talking about.”