The current incarnation of this controversy started in the Summer, when Controversialist Andrew Breitbart published part of a video off an NAACP website, showing an NAACP Conference in which Shirley Sherrod, then of the Department of Agriculture, admitted that she had discriminated against a "White" farmer. There was applause from the audience (and that was the point of the Breitbart clip). Left out of the video clip was when Ms Sherrod said she was wrong and changed her mind and helped this particular farmer and that had been the right thing to do. Kudos to Ms Sherrod. A nick on Mr Breitbart for not putting the whole thing in its total context, since as an outcome, Ms Sherrod was forced to quit her Government job.
So far, so good. Now comes some pushing back by Black farmer Jimmy Dismuke, one of the first to charge the Department of Agriculture with discrimination and by Mr Breitbart. Throw in Representative Michelle Bachmann.
The story out there is that the discrimination suit started with 400 Black farmers, grew to a national total of 19,000 Black farmers, but now includes some 90,000 people in the settlement.
When I am confused and there is a Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report on something, I check it out. One of the linked articles linked to the report, but at Wikileaks, which is currently subject to a denial of service attack. So, I couldn't get it, but with little investment of time, I did find the report at an alternate location.
By doing some math on the numbers on page 5 of the CRS Report I came up with 15,640 people getting payments averaging $49,117.65, plus an average of $12,279.41 to cover IRS payments for the folks being settled with (a total of $61,397,06 per person, on average). There is some more money in there, but this is the vast bulk of it. While the number of people involved may be in question, the settlement doesn't seem excessive, especially after fees for lawyers are considered.
The Christian Science Monitor has talked about this, noting that Ms Sherrod is one of those charging the Department of Agriculture with discrimination in this case and asking why others have not been fired. I can see her point. She was fired without so much as a "stop by the office so we can talk" and those who had actually done wrong are skating.
USDA's failure to punish those responsible for bias against black farmers has drawn criticism from an unlikely alliance that includes black farmers, conservatives such as Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa, Sherrod herself, and, bizarrely, conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, who posted the video that got Sherrod fired.The discrimination is pretty apparent.
The money side of this is not so clear. My conclusion is that there must be some sort of hidden factor that is not in evidence at this point, as it all seems fairly clean to me, if expensive. Frankly $61,400 to each of almost 16,000 Black farmers for discrimination doesn't seem out of line. The fact that no one at the Department of Agriculture was shown the door or otherwise disciplined is strange and a sign that Federal Government protections of employees, which has been a big improvement since the days of President Garfield♠ may have gone too far.
Right now I am most fascinated by the name, Pigford. On the other hand, a quick check of The New York Times and its step-child, The Boston Globe suggests that these added dimensions are not of interest.
Regards — Cliff
♠ Remember President James Garfield, who was assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker, Charles J. Guiteau.