Rep. Allen West Compares Poverty And Income Inequality To Performance Of NFL Teams

December 13, 2011 12:30 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) writes a weekly newsletter to his constituents in which the freshman Tea Party congressman tackles the country's problems and offers his ideas on how to fix them. This week's letter is about President Obama's recent speech, in which the president correctly pointed out that Reaganomics has failed to create shared prosperity.

Calling the president's speech "rather disturbing," West explains that "The answer is not to blame those who seek to create jobs and opportunities in America, the answer involves accepting responsibility for failed big government schemes and policies, Mr. President." So adamant is he about this point that he even brings out the big guns and quotes Abraham Lincoln: "You can't make a poor man rich by making a rich man poor."

Except that Lincoln never actually said such a thing, and did many things during his time in office to suggest he believed something altogether different. Ending slavery is a clear demonstration that Lincoln was very much willing to take something away from the rich. He also imposed the nation's first federal income tax, the Revenue Act, to help finance the Civil War.

After attacking the president's remarks, West compares economic discontent and income inequality in the United States with the success of the Green Bay Packers versus the lack of success of the Indianapolis Colts:

Mr. President, life isn't fair, which is why the Green Bay Packers are 12-0 and the Indianapolis Colts are 0-12, but do not expect NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to take wins from Green Bay and give them to the Colts. However, next year Indianapolis will get the first round draft pick and that is the difference in the American principle of equal opportunity and yours, Mr. President, of equal achievement and "fairness."

The analogy West offers up isn't just insulting to the tens of millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed; it also doesn't make any sense. Yes, in the NFL, the teams that do well one year do not draft the best players the following year. But in the real world, it's the exact opposite. The people who do well one year are likely to do even better the following year, and every subsequent year after that.

That's because there is very little economic mobility in the United States. Many hardworking Americans actually see downward mobility as a consequence of the policies West advocates for. And income inequality in the United States is among the highest in the industrialized world. But West believes it should be accepted because life just isn't fair. If you're poor, you're no different than the winless Indianapolis Colts. (Although the Colts are winless because their $18 million-a-year star quarterback is out for the year with an injury and not because some wealthy Wall Street types decided to get rich by dealing in mortgage-backed securities.)

Ideally, one of Allen West's primary jobs as a legislator should be to advance legislation that promotes upward mobility and economic prosperity. Instead, his message to his constituents struggling to pay their rent, worrying about how to put their children through college, or facing bankruptcy due to medical bills is that "life isn't fair." Just like in the National Football League.

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