U.S. Congressman Allen West, a Florida republican with Tea Party ties, has found himself in the national spotlight several times over the past few weeks for comments in which he equates Social Security Disability with slavery.
West, who is currently running for a second term in congress, this time as the representative of Florida’s newly designated District 18, first alluded to President Obama’s desire to “make slaves” of the American people while addressing the crowd at a Port St. Lucie campaign event, stating: “He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American. He'd rather you be his slave.”
West, who served as representative for the District 22 area of Florida, has opted to run instead for the District 18 seat in the current congressional election. District 22, which was recently redrawn, currently shows Democrats with a 9-point lead in the region, hence West’s decision to run for office in the newly designated District 18 instead.
In response to West’s Port St. Lucie campaigning comments, Democrat Patrick Murphy stated in a press release that senior citizens make up about 22 percent of District 18’s populous. Murphy’s campaign manager, Anthony Kusich went on to say: "Our seniors have worked their whole lives for a safety net that will allow them to retire with dignity, and Allen West is intent on doing anything he can to make it disappear.”
Again, during a Fox News interview on July 9, 2012, West drew allusions to slavery when discussing the rising number of Americans applying for and receiving Social Security disability benefits, stating, “What we're doing is we're creating a welfare entitlement class." West also referenced the increased number of food stamp recipients and the continued extension of federal and state unemployment benefits, stating, “So once again we are creating the sense of economic dependence which, to me, is a form of modern, 21st-century slavery.”
West has received national media attention for the continued references to slavery in his commentaries on Social Security disability, food stamps, unemployment and other social welfare programs. He has also received a great deal of criticism, of course, for bringing slavery into the argument and for his implication that “true Americans” need no such programs and should be capable of supporting themselves.
In response to criticism, West has stated on his Facebook page that he is “committed to protecting social security retirement benefits for retirees and future retirees.” He also added comments saying, “We are creating economic dependence. That is what I am calling out. This has nothing to do with the hardworking Americans who have earned their retirement.”
West went on to say the “liberal media” distorted his comments and that he has not design to take retirement benefits from “hard working Americans.” He clarified his comments by again reiterating his belief that the president’s policies promote economic dependence and this is what West calls a modern 21st Century slavery.
What West and his supporters do not seem to understand is that Social Security Disability and other programs like it are intended to provide essential financial support to those who need it most and that the lack of such programs would affect “true Americans” – the disabled and their families. The inability to hold a job due to disability does not make someone a slave nor does it negate their status as an American.