The U.S. safety net is the unfortunate result of liberals who believe people are selfish robots, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) argued Friday.
West delivered a forceful rebuke of both Democrats and government programs to help the needy as he addressed activists at Washington, D.C.'s annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
"Liberals worry that what's best for the individual might not be better for the public at large," said the Florida congressman. "But that philosophy assumes something vicious about each and every one of us. It assumes we only care about ourselves."
One of the most divisive figures in the Republican Party, West has built a firebrand reputation for lobbing stinging and personal attacks at his rivals, even comparing Democrats to Nazis.
"For far too long we've allowed the other side to paint us as racist, as sexist, inhumane war mongers — well, today as a conservative black Republican and former solider, I'm here to set that record straight," West said.
He told activists that when conservatives object to expanded entitlements and redistribution of wealth, they are accused of having no compassion.
"Of course we have compassion. We just don't believe the safety net should be used as a hammock," he said to boisterous applause.
The riled-up crowd gave West one of the most enthusiastic receptions of any of the big-name speakers at CPAC, cheering loudly when a panelist speaking after West uttered the phrase "Allen West for president."
One of the Democrats' top targets in November, West represents a competitive southern Florida district that was made even more favorable to Democrats by redistricting. He announced this month he will leave his district and run in a neighboring district that, while more favorable than his current district, still poses major risks for his reelection.
"We must not allow the liberals to move us away from the conservative values of the American past which sustain our present and shall secure our future," West said. "As for me and my family, we will serve God, we will serve this constitutional republic, we will serve America."