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Eric Cantor's Cant | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Eric Cantor's Cant

Editor's Note: Katrina vanden Heuvel first noted Eric Cantor's budget hypocrisy two years ago—unfortunately, her critique hasn't aged.

Virginia congressman Eric Cantor may be a GOP rising star, but he sure is a hypocrite. How else to describe someone who's a leading critic of President Obama's Recovery Act and joins his congressional colleagues to urge Virginia's Department of Transportation to apply for stimulus money for high-speed rail? If that isn't two-faced, what is?

He's also a demagogue: "Millions of jobs will be crushed by the Administration's policies." Say what? The stimulus may have been too small and overemphasized tax cuts, but it's helped states, including his own, with longer unemployment benefits, expanded food stamps and subsidies for people who've lost jobs to extend their health insurance. It's also kept teachers in the classroom, cops on the street and got workers rehired. Hours after Cantor delivered the GOP's weekly radio address blasting the stimulus, Vice-President Biden announced that $1.5 million of the bill's money would go to the Richmond Police Department to retain officers. And $20 million is going to Chesterfield County, a suburb of Richmond, to help 275 teachers from being fired. Virginia's working men and women should remember that Cantor fought hard to cut a provision in the stimulus bill that was designed to help low-income workers.

As Obama marks his sixth month in office, his Presidency will be judged by its laser-like focus on creating jobs, good jobs, and many of them. Double-digit unemployment is a ticking time bomb and his economic team needs to work quickly to defuse it. But Cantor & crew don't care about creating jobs. They want to spin the debate about the economy so their party, which has absolutely nothing to offer working people, games the 2010 midterm elections.

It may be, as some argue, that the politics of getting a second stimulus through a Congress filled with GOP obstructionists and conservative Democrats is too tough at this time -- especially with the battle for healthcare reform in full gear. If that's the case, what's needed instead is a simple and comprehensive package that focuses on job creation. In their must-read Nation article, "A Jobless Recovery" (July 13), Leo Hindery Jr. and Leo Gerard lay out a set of common-sense proposals for a job-led recovery. "We can either focus our economic recovery efforts on creating full employment for the 150 million workers who are not part of the top 0.2 percent and on rebuilding the country's manufacturing base. Or, as we have been doing for nearly three decades, we can concentrate on policies that mostly just benefit the incomes of the wealthiest 300,000."

The economic spin battle underway -- disconnected from the real economy and working Americans' lives -- is filled with demagogic and alarmist rhetoric about out-of-control government spending and federal debt. But in the absence of consumer spending and with banks failing to lend -- even while they report record profits and hand out huge bonuses -- government is the last resort. It must spend in order to avert a deeper recession.

But Eric Cantor and his crew just don't get it. Instead of laying out job creation policies, they whine. And they whine. The question is, why are we still listening to people who broke the back of the middle class, engineered the largest redistribution of wealth upwards to the very rich, and now dare to attack fairly modest government-led efforts to help working families weather this economic crisis?

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