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Lincoln analogies gone awry


Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) spoke at a local Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner over the weekend, and thought it'd be a good idea to invoke the name of a famous Confederate military officer.

"As I close tonight," the Republican congressman said, "I want to remind you of the great farewell speech of Confederate General Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson -- when he bid farewell to his brigade, as he was elevated by Robert E. Lee -- and he said to his brigade that they would always be first in his heart. Broward County will always be first in my heart, and I will never forget you."

Invoking Stonewall Jackson at a Lincoln Day Dinner struck me as deeply foolish, but Travis Waldron flags this gem from Richard Mourdock, the Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, who made an even worse Lincoln analogy.

For those who can't watch clips online, Mourdock compared Republican concerns about less-wealthy American families not paying federal income taxes to Abraham Lincoln's concerns about slavery.

"What [Lincoln] meant by ["we are a house divided"] was that slavery was either going to be totally eliminated from the United States or it was no longer just going to be restricted to the Southern states, it was going to go everywhere. I am here to suggest to you that we are in a house divided."You know this past April, when our federal taxes were paid, 47 percent -- 47 percent -- of all American households paid no income tax. In fact, half of that 47 percent almost, actually got tax money back from the government that they never paid -- because a few years ago we revised the welfare program to make it part of the tax code. When 47 percent are paying no income taxes -- they do pay Social Security -- but they are not paying income taxes, and 53 percent are carrying the load, we are a house divided."

First, comparing existing tax law to slavery is ridiculous.

Second, whether Mourdock appreciates these details or not, he seems to have expressed support for widespread tax increases.

Remember, millions of Americans may be exempt from income taxes, but they still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes. It's not as if these folks are getting away with something -- the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don't make enough money to qualify. Indeed, many are retirees who can't earn an income because they're no longer in the workforce.

But for Mourdock, this threatens to tear our country apart -- if wealthier people are paying federal income taxes, then everyone should pay federal income taxes.

Of course, to make that happen, Mourdock would necessarily have to endorse a higher tax burden on those least able to afford it. He's have to run on a platform of raising taxes on tens of millions of Americans.

In the coming months, it'd be worthwhile to get other Republicans on the record on this. In recent months, Mitt Romney, Rick PerryMichele Bachmann, Eric Cantor, and others have all said they'd like to see those who aren't paying federal income taxes start contributing more. Apparently, this is a new, fairly standard position for the GOP mainstream, but are all Republican congressional candidates on board with this?

I suspect there are millions of American voters who may want an answer before Election Day 2012.