Playing The Race Card

You’ll be pleased to learn that GOPAC, headed by Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, has stopped running an ad claiming that Social Security is “reverse reparations” because blacks, being shorter-lived than whites on average, contribute more than they collect.

Here’s the text, courtesy of Tapped,(the blog offshoot of The American Prospect) via CalPundit. Tapped mentions what I’d forgotten, that GOPAC is Gingrich’s old slush fund.

Unidentified Woman: You’ve heard about reparations, you know, where whites compensate blacks for enslaving us. Well, guess what we’ve got now? Reverse reparations. Under Social Security today, blacks receive twenty one thousand dollars less in retirement benefits than whites of similar income and marital status. In the U.S. of A., white men live seven years longer than black men. One third of the brothers die before retirement and receive nothing. Almost half the married sisters lose their husbands before they rank Social Security spousal benefits. President George Bush proposed reforms that help our community in three ways. First, we get a higher minimum benefit. Second, our women get their fair share in their spouses Social Security. And, third, blacks get retirement accounts with real financial assets. So the next time some Democrat says he won’t touch Social Security, ask why he thinks blacks owe reparations to whites?

Apparently the maker of the ad was the one who did the “diversity” school-choice ad a couple of years ago. Here’s the AP story.

The ethics of this sort of racial appeal are too obvious to need comment. But can you imagine the brouhaha if some Democrat had called the repeal of the estate tax “racist” because blacks are much less likely than whites to die rich?

The analytics of the claim itself are trickier.

Social Security certainly does favor the long-lived, and the racial gap in longevity is very substantial, greater than would be predicted from the disparity in income. On the other hand, the Social Security formula favors lower-paid participants relative to higher-paid ones, and blacks on average are poorer than whites. I don’t know how it nets out. If any reader can enlighten me I’ll be glad to pass the information along.

[I’ve added a link to the Daily Kos, where I first found this. J. Bradford deLong double-stars it and, and the material is extensive, sober, and well-written. A good bookmark for partisan Democrats, of whom I’m proud to be one.]


Enlightenment, as requested, from Max Sawicky, who does this stuff for a living:

“The trick in re: life expectancy and SocSec is that conditional on reaching age 18, black-white life expectancies are much closer. Of course, you don’t pay payroll taxes until you work, generally not until you’re out of high school. A good part of the gap is due to infant mortality.

“The Urban Institute has research that blows the racial injustice premise out of the water — the truth is in the other direction. The redistributive component and Disability Insurance favor minorities.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: