OTR Interviews

Handout 'slavery,' according to Congressman Allan West: 'I don't want people becoming dependent on the government'

Fla. congressman explains why he believes Dems don't promote economic freedom and love 'handouts'

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 16, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Congressman Allen West condemning government handouts as a modern form of slavery. Now, here's what Congressman West said in a House floor speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALLEN WEST, R-FLA.: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: So why does Congressman West say that? He joins us, so we'll find out. So Congressman, explain.

WEST: Well, I think it's very simple. The Republican Party is the party that stands for individual freedom and economic freedom. You know, when I go back to my neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia, as I did last year when I gave a speech there, I was absolutely shocked and appalled at what my neighborhood had become.

I don't want to see people become dependent upon government here in the United States of America, and I do think that that is a mild form of slavery, economic dependence. I think that if we want to unleash an indomitable spirit, the entrepreneurial spirit in this country, we up here in Washington, D.C., should be establishing the type of policies that will allow that to flourish and to grow across all of our communities.

And you and I have talked about this high black unemployment rate. And this cannot be as great if we have the sum of our parts, you know, suffering in ways that we see.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we do that? Because I always -- look at the economy as a -- you know, as a three-legged stool. And it can't just have the middle class and the rich doing well because the stool's going to fall over. You know, we have to figure out some way to empower people who are in a lower economic class.

How do we turn that around? How do we do that?

WEST: Well, you and I talked about this before. You know, Jack Kemp and Art Laffer came up with the urban empowerment zones. How do we stimulate economic growth? How do we get people to go back and reinvest in those communities? And how do we get individuals to invest in those who want to establish businesses...

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we do that?

WEST: Well, I think we have to provide incentives. I think that when you look at businesses -- you know, how can we give certain type of tax credits. Or we definitely don't want to double up capital gains tax, which will dry up investment, which is something that the president talked about.

So I want to see -- and Bob Johnson and I, the former head of BET, had talked about this. How do we incentivize people to invest in those who want to take business opportunities back into the inner city? Because then they will hire the people from that community. And that's how you break that cycle.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we incentivize it? I mean, what -- why would someone want to open a business in those inner city communities? Because most people are terrified of those inner city areas.

WEST: Well, first of all, the security aspect has to be a part of it. You know, just the same as when you're in a combat zone, you can't have nation building until you have a secure environment. So I think that's the first step.

But I think that when you provide those capital gains incentives for individuals that want to go there and see a good return on that investment -- and that's how this country got started as people taking a risk, and we can help them to mitigate that risk with that investment.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that people who are in that lower economic class -- and typically, it's African-American in the urban areas -- are they better off now than they were four years ago, eight years ago?

WEST: No, I don't think so.

VAN SUSTEREN: Or just the same?

WEST: No, I think that they are not. I think you look at the statistics, and it shows that. When you look at the unemployment rate and it's absolutely adversely affected in those communities like the minority communities and also Hispanic communities. So it's not just something endemic to the African-American community.

So I think we have to look at how do we refocus there and make sure that, you know, we can get people to be a part of the American dream, but we have to break that cycle of dependency and that cycles of poverty.

VAN SUSTEREN: It seems to me that there's a very big difference between handing out and inspiring and giving opportunity.

WEST: Is it.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I guess that -- you know, and so -- and so -- you know, and the inspiring and the opportunity is...

WEST: Well, the -- you know, look at myself. I mean, the opportunity for me came -- I had two great parents, and I had parents that had a military background. And I also got involved in the high school ROTC program. So that was the ticket for me to get out.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was your neighborhood like, though, at the time?

WEST: Well, my neighborhood, you know, you had more families there. You had a strong church environment. And we did have those small black businesses. I remember when I would walk from my elementary school down to the Butler Street YMCA down Auburn Avenue. And that was the cradle of black entrepreneurship and small businesses. But that's gone now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I remember when I was practicing criminal defense in this -- in Washington, the inner city, I would have a 17-year-old client charged with murder. And his mother would be, you know, 14, 15 years older and wouldn't even be in the picture, that the grandmother would be in the picture. I mean, these families are really, really busted up.

WEST: And remember, that was something that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan talked about, whereby if you start to reward young ladies for having children out of wedlock with government checks, eventually, you're going to break down the structure of the family.

And when you go back and look through one of the strengths of the black community, it was always the family, the two-parent household. Well, now you look -- I think the latest statistics say that you have between 65 to 70 percent of African-American children that don't have both parents in the home.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I actually think it's so lost in the discussion in this country of what's going on in those urban centers. And it's so important to the well-being not just for the people in the urban centers but for everybody else.

WEST: It is. Like I say, it's the sum of the parts. And that's why we're going to have another conservative black forum in May and we're going to talk about those he urban economic zones.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you. Always nice to see you, sir.

WEST: Always a pleasure.