This year, the American people face one of the most stark and important elections of our time, with much at stake for average citizens and their families. Election Day is less than a week away, and with my campaign running neck-in-neck with Mitt Romney’s, I fully recognize this is probably not the ideal moment to introduce a controversial new proposal widely ignored in mainstream politics. But I can no longer stay quiet about an issue I believe in so firmly.

My fellow Americans, it’s time to talk reparations.

As you may know, the latest polls show the race in the swing states is tighter than ever, with many crucial voters still undecided. So I realize that forcing the nation into a discussion about atoning for an institution abolished a century and a half ago, and introducing a program to redistribute wealth to black Americans—either in cash, bonds, or via a series of property reallocations—is not the most intelligent move, strategically speaking. Still, I feel this is a discussion we must have.

I know many people will try to stop me at the word “reparations”—indeed, my aides have strongly advised me not to bring up this subject at all, especially with Ohio’s pivotal 18 electoral votes still very much in play. Additionally, one could make a rather convincing argument that there are far more pressing issues to consider first, such as persistent unemployment, an ongoing war, a deteriorating infrastructure, climate change, the nuclear ambitions of hostile nations, a stagnant housing market, record deficits, campaign finance reform, and any number of other things the American people actually care about.

But to everyone who says this is not the right time to talk about reparations, I ask you this: Is there ever a good time to talk about this subject? Believe me, it won’t get any easier to discuss, so let’s address this matter once and for all. We’ll all be happier when we’ve rolled up our sleeves, taken several billion dollars from white people and given it to blacks, and put this all behind us.

Only then can we finally move forward.

Now, Americans have grown accustomed to hearing a lot about jobs, Medicare, and national security in recent months, so I can understand that it will be confusing when I suddenly begin to speak exclusively about making up for this country’s past mistakes by exempting black people from paying all taxes. I know that using the last few days of my campaign to push for a comprehensive reparations plan will, at best, alienate voters and, at worst, incite frustration, disgust, and outright contempt toward me—not to mention irreversibly recast my presidential legacy.

But I am a man of moral convictions, and I will not rest until African-Americans receive the fair monetary compensation they deserve. Plus hundreds of years of compounded interest.

Let me assure you, this plan will be the centerpiece of my second term. If you cast your ballot for me, the next four years will be focused pretty much entirely on reparations. That’s my promise to you.

Granted, surveys show the vast majority of citizens, including many African-Americans, do not consider this to be an issue worthy of discussion. In fact, my friends and family—even my own wife, who is descended from slaves—have repeatedly sat me down and said, “Barack, please don’t do this.” But the scars of slavery have not healed in this nation, and no matter how many times David Axelrod grabs me by the shoulders and says it is profoundly foolish even to mention this idea, let alone actively work toward it, I believe that in a republic that holds all men are created equal, we must confront this uncomfortable truth and make the appropriate cash payout to every black American, regardless of age, gender, education, criminal background, or income.

I’m thinking $150,000 a person.

I do not pursue this policy for my family’s personal gain, which will be considerable. Rather, I bring it up because it’s the right thing to do, and because I believe we cannot wait any longer on this matter—not even until after the election, which all forecasts currently show to be extremely close and which, no doubt, will tilt overwhelmingly in my opponent’s favor within hours of this announcement.

So when you head to the polls on Nov. 6, know this: There is only one issue in this election. It may be divisive, but there is clearly a right and a wrong side to it. Do you want to choose the side of my opponent, who willfully ignores the largest stain on America’s history by refusing to even talk about this issue? Or do you want to right the wrongs of our past by contributing 10 percent of your paychecks over the next decade toward finally reimbursing black folks for all their ancestors sacrificed?

The choice is yours.