Pat Buchanan Says Slavery Reparations Not Needed Because More 'Americans' Died During Civil War

Conservative political pundit Pat Buchanan this week took a questionable mathematical approach to arguing against proposals that the U.S. government should provide reparations to descendants of slaves, claiming there is no need for such a program because the number of soldiers who died in the Civil War is more than the number of people brought across the ocean in chains.

Buchanan, a former White House Director of Communications under Ronald Reagan, appeared this week on The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast, where he and the Fox News host briefly discussed a recent piece by New York Times columnist David Brooks, wherein the author explains his conversion from reparations skeptic to supporter.

Ingraham asked Buchanan for his thoughts on reparations, leading the two-time Republican presidential candidate to use the following argument, highlighted by Media Matters, "[I]n the whole period of slavery, I think you had 600,000 people brought to the United States under involuntary servitude, or slavery, and 620,000 died in the Civil War, Americans. So, the expiation, I think, was done, you know."

It's unclear where Buchanan gets his numbers from. According to data from the heavily researched Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, the total number of African slaves brought to American shores is closer to 390,000 (that does not include the approximately 84,000 others who were put on ships but did not survive the voyage).

Similarly, the long-referenced number of 618,000 total deaths in the Civil War may actually be on the low side, with at least one researcher putting the estimate as high as 750,000 fatalities.

Of course, while the number of enslaved Africans brought to the U.S. may have been less than the count of those who died in battle, Buchanan's math doesn't take into account the fact that after the slaves landed, they had children, who then also had children, and that many of these descendants were born into servitude themselves. 

The 1860 U.S. census calculated the total number of slaves at 3.95 million nationwide, compared to "Free Color Population" totaling fewer than 500,000. Thus, while the number of dead soldiers may have been greater than the number of people originally brought over from Africa, it still pales in comparison to those kept in slavery.

A new crop of younger, minority Democratic lawmakers in D.C. has put the push for reparations back into the spotlight. New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently clarified that she believes reparations are not about atoning for slavery, but more for what she and many others view as subsequent systemic practices in lending, employment and real estate that they contend have kept black Americans from being able to keep pace with their white counterparts.

"[R]eparations are for the damage done by the New Deal and redlining because that is where we saw a compounding of the existing inequity from the legacy of slavery, where we drew red lines around black communities," the congresswoman explained. "We said white communities will get home loans and they will get access to the basic bedrock of wealth in America and this will be your heirloom and we gave white America the heirloom that appreciated overtime — that people still benefit from today and we did not give to African-American and Mexican communities, Puerto Rican communities."

On the Ingraham podcast, Buchanan argued that Democrats "will lose the country in the next election to Trump, handily," if they attempt to make a public push for reparations.

Pat Buchanan Pat Buchanan speaks while being interviewed by SiriusXM's Tim Farley about his latest book, 'The Greatest Comeback' at SiriusXM Studio on July 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Kris Connor/Getty Images for SiriusXM

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