This year our government has taken another step towards dividing our country under the pretext of trying to resolve it. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), more commonly known as the COVID-19 relief bill, plans to cancel government loans that have been made to “socially disadvantaged” farmers as one of its many. provisions. This may initially appear to be a disadvantage caused by the pandemic. “Socially disadvantaged”, however, is based uniquely and explicitly on race.
To be eligible for debt relief under ARPA, a farmer must be black or African American, American Indian or native of Alaska, Hispanic or Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander. White farmers are not eligible. The federal government is looking to give around $ 4 billion in taxpayer dollars based on race.
So what does this provision have to do with relief from COVID-19? The answer is nothing. In fact, the idea came from the Justice for Black Farmers Act which was reintroduced to the Senate in February. The pretext for this legislation is actually the settlement of lawsuits brought against the federal government in the late 1990s and early 2000s to rectify discrimination against black farmers by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA ).
The regulations were complicated and led to complaints that not all black farmers who were entitled to redress had been given the opportunity to file claims. But this new legislation does not only compensate farmers who have been genuinely harmed. Under this much broader policy, if you have the right skin color and have taken out one of the qualifying loans, you get your loan forgiveness plus 20%.
No COVID relief
But I, Christopher Baird, have the wrong skin color. I’m white, like almost 96% of the rest of Crawford County, Wisconsin, where I live and milk 50-60 Jersey cows and farm about 80 acres. I have been a farmer here since 2014, when I took over from my father, who bought the farm in 1997. If the loan exemption provision in ARPA was based on criteria other than race, I would have entitled to almost $ 200,000 in forgiven federal loans, plus 20%.
The government has been shown to have harmed black farmers by approving loans in the past. The injured parties have the right to a fair settlement. There might even be an argument for making a monetary settlement to their immediate heirs.
There is an argument for canceling the loan for individuals, depending on individual circumstances or individual suitability. But making this broader eligibility based on race, simply on skin color, is no relief from COVID-19, and it has no place in government. This is the very problem he claims to be trying to solve. It is to use racism against previous racism. It is not fair. Most of us learned as young children the phrase “two wrongs don’t make a good”; it is truly disappointing that our leaders have forgotten such a basic lesson.
That’s why the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, on behalf of a handful of affected farmers like me, filed a federal complaint in April.
The Biden administration attempted a similar discriminatory policy with the Small Business Administration, allowing only the initial processing of restaurant assistance requests from women and people of color. The program was in danger of running out of funds before it could consider white male applicants, who were explicitly moved to the back of the pack because of their race. Fortunately, court rulings concluded that Biden’s policies violated the equal treatment of Americans under the law.
The courts should also put an end to this discriminatory policy against farmers.
One of us is an African American lawyer and the other is a white farmer. It can be said unequivocally that a provision of the law like this, in the long term, does not benefit anyone. The government’s attempts to solve social problems turn into failures, making the problem worse due to unintended consequences.
The USDA describes its general goal as ending “systemic discrimination”. But such non-specific objectives do not override the constitutional prohibition of racial discrimination. Race-based loan cancellation will only create resentment and animosity among Americans and taxpayers of different races, and it will only benefit lawmakers who gain political power by insisting that ” help ”is a good thing.
Surprisingly, we continue to ignore this manipulation almost entirely. If you want racism to survive, continue to give the government the responsibility to resolve it.
Americans can only be humiliated for so long, and so this constant barrage of guilty Americans will become less effective over time. As gravely as Americans are now divided, legislation like this, which deliberately divides Americans by race, will only make matters worse.
Shannon Whitworth is a Bradley Freedom Fellow of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, and Christopher Baird is a farmer near Ferryville, Wis., And a plaintiff in the WILL lawsuit.