The Feb. 8 New York Times ran an editorial titled, "Pay Up." The subject was the Pigford-class action lawsuit, whereby black farmers successfully reached a $2 billion settlement in 1999 against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for “indifference and blatant discrimination” (originally Pigford v. Glickman).
In a recent review of the new White House budget plan, the New York Times discovered that $1.15 billion in claims are still pending for “victimized black farmers,” and the editorial noted:
The class-action suit detailed how eligible black farmers traditionally were denied loans by the agriculture agency while their white peers went to the head of the line for growing-season wherewithal and homestead improvements.
There was early confusion within the Obama administration about whether the settlement process had been capped, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack insists no; the aim, he says, is to finally “close this unfortunate chapter.”
The Times insisted that the Pigford payouts are a moral imperative, invested with the significance of civil rights landmarks.
Pigford v. Glickman has not resonated across the land like Brown v. Board of Education, but the very same history of crippling injustice is at its heart. The Pigford settlement will remain a misnomer until the nation rights this historic injustice and pays what it owes.
While the Times blamed “paperwork technicalities, tight deadlines and a lengthy appeals process” have delayed reparations, it didn’t mention that the lack of bureaucratic accountability and transparency have also hidden full-fledged scams.
The consent decree made under the
Rubin said that, of the original 22,440 claimants, only 1420 were actual borrowers.
Many knowledgeable USDA officials attribute much of the fraud was precipitated by civil-rights activists who rounded up scores of non-qualified individuals who simply met the pre-requisite of being black.
Still, with nearly $1 billion paid out to “farmers” and/or “victims of discrimination,” plaintiffs, lawyers, and special-interests came out the wood-work to bilk more tax-payer dollars (hence, the $2 billion-figure cited in the New York Times) with 65,000 additional claim requests filed after the initial time period ran, out based upon “extraordinary circumstances.”
As Rubin wrote, “in a universe of 18,500 farmers in 1997, 96,000 individuals managed to make claims.”
According to a 2001 report by Accuracy in Media, a private firm that was hired to process the claims found rampant fraud, including “children as young as two years old certified as class members,” “spouses who may have applied for a loan tried to get separate certification, hoping to be paid twice for a single act of discrimination,” and people arguing on behalf of dead relatives.