Never in the history of this country has someone so perfectly described slavery without realizing it.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) tried to make a poignant point Tuesday afternoon about the government shutdown, but bungled the message so badly he issued an apology. Welch was attempting to promote a bill he introduced that would prohibit federal employees from being forced to work without pay. Quibble with the bill all you like (they’re working for delayed pay, but will eventually be paid for their work), but the problem here is how Welch presented his bill.
“Never in the history of this country has it been legal to make people work for free but that’s what’s happening to federal employees. This can never happen again,” Welch tweeted while linking to a VTDigger article about his bill.
Welch, a seven-term congressman, was quickly reminded that, actually, there was this one other time in our nation’s history where it was “legal to make people work for free.”
Slavery. That time was when slavery was legal.
About two hours later, Welch tweeted an apology for his original tweet.
“Sincere apologies,” he wrote. “Nothing worse in the history of our country than the brutal inhumanity of the horrible, relentless, and savage infliction of involuntary servitude-slavery- on millions of people whose freedom was denied. Nothing.”
This follow-up tweet, naturally, has received much less attention than his first tweet, which received 3,500 retweets, 3,200 comments, and 9,700 likes. His apology only received 621 retweets, 685 comments, and 4,800 likes, as of this writing.
Politico notes that “An estimated 400,000 federal workers are currently facing the reality of working without pay, as the longest federal government shutdown in history reaches its 32nd day with no immediate end in sight.”