Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) has been hitting the media circuit speaking out against the President's economic recovery plans
( Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images for Meet the Press
John Hockenberry: Back at the end of February, President Obama, at his Fiscal Health of the Nation Summit at the White House, had this to say about Virginia Congressman Republican Eric Cantor, who is also the Republican Whip in the House:
Recording of President Obama: I'm going to keep talking to Eric Cantor. Some day, sooner or later, he's going to say, ‘Boy, Obama had a good idea.’ It's going to happen. You watch!
John Hockenberry: Congressman Eric Cantor from Virginia, any sign Barack Obama has a good idea yet?
Rep. Eric Cantor: Good morning. The difficulty for all of us now is to figure out a way forward to see how we bring this economy back, and to make sure people can get back to work and we can see growth and prosperity again. I don’t have any difference in the fact that we all want this economy to work. It’s just how we get there. This week we are beginning the budget process in earnest in Washington. What we see is a budget that has been presented by the administration that, frankly, is so far out of the mainstream that we are going to work very hard as House Republicans to try to pull that budget back into the mainstream, try and reduce the level of spending so we are not piling trillions of dollars of debt onto the backs of our children.
John Hockenberry: The deficit was an issue throughout the Bush administration as well, as the President has noted. The numbers are much, much higher here. But I’m wondering if there’s a certain amount of discredited economic theory in the Republicans claiming that it’s more efficient to have tax cuts stimulate the economy, and that deficits will only drive economic growth downward. The federal government and the state government and the public sector is the only sector hiring at this point in the economy, Congressman.
Rep. Eric Cantor: I don’t think it’s helpful to go back and point fingers. Could we have done better? Could the Bush administration have done better? The Republican Congress? Absolutely. But we need to go forward because we need to solve the problems right here and now. I don’t know how anyone can think that if you look at where we are economically in this country and look at the fact that we have a tremendous amount of debt, we are in a hole. How do you say we’re going to get out of that by digging that hole deeper? That’s really what’s going on.
John Hockenberry: I hear that argument. But let’s look at the perspective of the grandkids that the Republicans are talking about consistently as being “on the hook.” First of all, they were on the hook for the deficits in the last eight years. But from the standpoint of those grandchildren, is it more important to worry about their debt when they become adults, or is it more important to get their fathers and grandfathers and mothers jobs?
Rep. Eric Cantor: Right now, you’re right, we need to get food on the table. But if you look at this budget, how do you get food on the table by saying that you’re going to impose a national energy tax on every household in the country when households, when mothers and fathers and grandparents, are having difficulties making their mortgage payments and paying their bills? The Obama administration is proposing a huge, huge energy tax. For every household in this country, the estimates are from the MIT economists, that $3,000 a year will be the tax that every household pays on their energy bill, their gas bill, on anything people purchase manufactured in this country.
John Hockenberry: But the MIT economists don’t use the word “tax” in describing the cap-and-trade system, which is a more subtle way of paying for carbon emissions as a way of dealing with climate issues that there is a mainstream consensus on dealing with. They don’t call it a tax up at MIT, I don’t think.
Rep. Eric Cantor: You call it what you will. If you’re going to have to pay a 50 percent higher utility bill, I call that a tax. Right now, we ought to be very much focused on how we get jobs created again. You mentioned that it’s the government hiring. Frankly, increasing government spending, at best redistributes the wealth. We ought to be about creating wealth, creating jobs. And the way we do that is help small business people and give them relief because they’re the ones that create 70 percent of jobs in this country.
John Hockenberry: I’ve heard that over and over again. What infuriates me about that, again I’m not a fan of Barack Obama per se, it just seems to me that in a recession, small businesses aren’t hiring. It’s the public sector that’s hiring. You give small businesses relief, they’re going to put the money in the bank.
Rep. Eric Cantor: To give you an example, if you want to give the public sector money, to give you an example of the stimulus bill that recently passed through the Nancy Pelosi-controlled House and was signed into law by the president. The almost $800 billion bill. To give you just an example, $3 million went to the District of Columbia. You know what they did with that money? They’re going to go build bike paths, and they’re going to increase the number of bike racks in neighborhoods like Georgetown. I don’t think that that’s a stimulative move.
John Hockenberry: If you were working on the construction crew that was working on those bike paths, you’d think it was stimulus, wouldn’t you?
Rep. Eric Cantor: We need to create lasting jobs, and that’s how we create wealth, and that’s how people get confidence back. If they know that the jobs and the economy are going to start growing again. You don’t grow the economy by only stimulating public sector spending. We’ve seen that over and over again. History has shown in the 70s in the UK, in France in the 80s, we don’t want to go towards a European model of socializing everything. What we want to do is grow the private sector, get the entrepreneurs and small businesses back in the game, because in the end they’re the ones that create 70 percent of the jobs in this country.
John Hockenberry: Getting the debate out of the 70s and 80s in France is probably useful. I’m hitting you pretty hard here, but before we go just let me ask you this question. What do you say to the people who have charged, you can hear it on cable news every night, that some members of the GOP are just basically sitting out this crisis and just hoping that bad news in two years is just going to help elect members of the opposition party?
Rep. Eric Cantor: That is so far from the truth and absolutely untrue. Even the President has said the GOP has no ideas, we’re rejectionist. He knows better than that. I personally handed Barack Obama our plan on the stimulus. We will unveil our budget plan throughout this process, this week and next in Washington. We will have a plan on energy. We will have a plan on health care. We are committed to being a constructive voice in Congress that’s going to reflect the mainstream in this country. The important thing to remember is, we cannot go and spend out kids’ future. If you look at this budget it doubles the amount of debt for every man, woman and child in this country. And it increases it from $35,000 to $70,000 for every man, woman and child. Who’s going to pay for that? Our kids are. That’s why we have to work very hard to pull this budget back in the mainstream.
John Hockenberry:Politico is making a big deal about the fact that you showed up at the Britney Spears concert on Tuesday night, do you have a comment on that?
Rep. Eric Cantor: I don’t know why that’s an issue whatsoever. There was a concert and I had a political event at that concert. Look, that is why I was there.
John Hockenberry: Don’t feel bad about it. Your daughters would probably be thrilled, if you have daughters.
Rep. Eric Cantor: I think my daughter really was mad that she wasn’t there.