Over the weekend, former Republican congressman J.C. Watts gave a speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, and later sat down for interviews. Speaking to KARN News Radio’s Dave Elswick, Watts explained that he believes “social programs” are equivalent to a “new slavery.” Watts — who left Congress to become a lobbyist, businessman, and board member to several corporations — said that government programs that “aren’t improving people’s lives or getting them into a life of productivity” are akin to the type of chattel slavery forced upon African Americans in the United States:
ELSWICK: We were talking about social programs, and J.C., she calls them the new slavery.
WATTS: Dave I think that’s a legitimate claim if the programs aren’t improving people’s lives or getting them into a life of productivity. It’s just like, we could say I think it’s slavery to give your kid an allowance unless you say you gotta take the trash out, you gotta keep your room clean. Parents usually don’t give their kids an allowance without saying you have to do something.
Watts’ whitewashing of slavery as something equivalent to giving “an allowance” without requisite chores is the latest example of right-wing Republicans trying to diminish the history and relevancy of American slavery. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) omitted slavery from a Confederate history month proclamation, telling reporters that slavery wasn’t a “significant” part of the Civil War. Though McDonnell eventually backtracked and apologized, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) said the slavery omission “doesn’t amount to diddly.”