Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a tea party favorite, said Wednesday in a speech to the U.S. House of Representatives that his colleagues in the Democratic Party engage in "the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today."
"Our party firmly believes in the safety net," West said. "We reject the idea of the safety net becoming a hammock. For this reason, the Republican value of minimizing government dependence is particularly beneficial to the poorest among us. Conversely, the Democratic appetite for ever-increasing redistributionary handouts is in fact the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today, and it does not promote economic freedom."
The comment, though startling, is not unusual for West, who's collected a litany of critics with his often over-the-top rhetoric.
He's particularly fond of attacking Democrats with analogies to "slavery," and once called himself "the modern-day Harriet Tubman" for his efforts to lead black voters off the "21st-century plantation," which he thinks is run by "certain black leaders, who are nothing more than the overseers of that plantation."
His argument that food, medical and financial support for the poor is a kind of "slavery" is also a common Republican theme, but due to the obvious racial implications, it is rare that a white conservative raises the analogy in public.
That's a hard case for Republicans to make with polls saying three out of every four Americans want lawmakers in Washington to keep Social Security and Medicare just the way it is. It's an even harder case to make when West characterizes programs that effectively cut poverty in half in the U.S. as "the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today," especially considering that there are more humans in slavery in modern times than ever before.
The United Nations and other groups suggest the number of forced laborers and sex slaves around the world today could be as many as 27 million people -- all of whom might object to their plight being compared to the relative luxury of food, medical and financial aid.