Rep. Akin: Deficit Issue Is Like Slavery Question That Led To Civil War

March 03, 2011 2:56 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) is the House's most voluble historian, if not its most accurate. Almost every time he takes to the floor, Akin — an engineer by training — imparts historical wisdom and draws unique parallels rarely made by others, much less by trained historians. Most of his lessons, predictably, are either contrived or forcefully spun to fit his right-wing public policy positions. He's particularly keen on telling the story of how the first colonists rebelled against what he calls an "unbiblical" kind of "theft" known as socialism. That story, like many of Akin's other tales, is used to argue against social safety net programs, and in particular against the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking on the House floor last night, Akin talked at length about slavery and argued that the failure to solve the question of slavery ultimately drove the country into the Civil War. The war, Akin argued, was due to "a failure of leadership, a failure to deal with a massive fundamental question that everyone knew was there all though the 1850s, the question of slavery." Without skipping a beat, Akin drew a parallel to today's debate over deficits and debts:

AKIN: And the failure wasn't just in the Congress or the Senate, it was in the people of the states for being too disengaged and unwilling to take that question head-on. The parallel today, I think, is a bit frighteningly similar. Today, just as there was in 1850, there is a gorilla in our tent and that is the problem with the federal government spending too much money.

This particular analogy is easy to make but rather meaningless. While the question of slavery and the size of entitlement programs have absolutely nothing to do with another, Akin can link them both to a failure of leadership and therefore assert that they are similar. Of course, every political problem faced by societies since time immemorial is rather obviously the result of a failure of leadership.

One can use the reasoning against Akin. For instance, a lack of leadership is responsible for our current health care crisis and for the fact that the World Health Organization ranks the United States 37th in a measure of providing health care to its population. Equally, a lack of leadership in promoting alternative energy sources expanded our reliance on foreign oil. In fact, Akin's paradigm fits almost every situation.

But to compare the question of slavery and the appropriate level of entitlement spending is simply outrageous.

Here's an analogy for Akin that actually works. The Civil War started because states'-rights conservatives said that the issue of slavery was not the business of the federal government and should be left to the states. Today, Akin and his ideological cohorts argue that meeting the fundamental economic and social needs of Americans are not the business of the federal government but should be left to the states.

In both cases, conservatives knew that the states would not do the job.