President Joe Biden's nominee for governor of the Federal Reserve has backed the idea of reparations, the controversial proposed policy of financial compensation for black Americans as a form of atonement for slavery and discrimination.
"Everybody benefited from slavery. Everybody," Michigan State University professor Lisa Cook said in a September 2020 "EconTalk" podcast. "So, I think that we absolutely need some sort of reckoning with that. There are many proposals on the table to study the possibility of reparations, many economic proposals being put forward, and I think they should all be taken seriously."
In March 2021, Cook endorsed H.R. 40, a Hosue bill which would've created a commission to study the issue of reparations. Biden said during the 2020 presidential campaign that he supports the study of reparations. White House press secretary Jen Psaki doubled down on it last year when asked about H.R. 40.
"One thing I do support is H.R. 40 which would put in place a commission to study this. I think that's absolutely what needs to be done," Cook said at a forum hosted by the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business. "It's difficult not to comment on a particular plan because there could be many different plans to achieve the kinds of reparations that [two authors] are suggesting."
H.R. 40 intends to "establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans."
Cook had also endorsed a tweet back in late February 2020 advocating for reparations that are "race-specific, because the injury was race-specific."
The White House deputy press secretary Chris Meagher boosted an article from ebony.com that points out that Cook would be the first black woman appointed to the Federal Reserve, if approved. It's similar to Biden's affirmative-action aligned promise to fill the Supreme Court vacancy with a black woman.
It's from that article that we learn that Biden appointed Cook as well as Sarah Bloom Raskin and Phillip Jefferson in a trio of nominees intended to fill out the Federal Board of Governors. Cook's apparent role would be to "vote on interest-rate policy decisions at the eight meetings each year of the Fed’s policy making committee, which also includes the 12 regional Fed bank presidents."
In a more recent article, HuffPost alleges that nominee Cook is the subject of a vicious smear campaign by Republicans. "The attacks are racist, sexist and just plain dumb. But make no mistake: There's a reason behind them that goes to the heart of the matter — and that is, she's good. That's why she's under attack," Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren told the outlet.
The theme of the article paints gender and racial inequality as relevant issues that are crucial for the Fed to consider when it comes to the matters like interest rates. While HuffPost explores the blowback to Cook's qualifications more deeply, it doesn't address her belief in reparations that Fox News and other right-wing media outlets have reported that Biden's nominee espouses.
Opposition to reparations came from politicians like California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock who has said: "I can't imagine a more divisive, polarizing or unjust measure than one that would by government force require people who never owned slaves to pay reparations to those who never were slaves based not on anything they'd done but because of what race they were born."
Cook's history of supporting bail funds for the summer 2020 George Floyd rioters was also brought up as an issue of bias. It's the same cause that Vice President Kamala Harris was criticized for publicly backing at the time.
The issue of reparations was a recurring talking point last year among Black Lives Matter groups. There were even some commitments by the likes of Jesuit organizations to monetarily pledge to the left-wing matter.
The current wave of questions surrounding Biden's pick for a SCOTUS replacement is the latest in a tsunami of regular scrutiny for the embattled current administration after a crisis-filled year. Tracy Stone-Manning faced questions about her history amidst a spot for the Bureau of Land Management, as well as Gigi Sohn for the FCC Commissioner position, and same goes for Saule Omarova and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
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