Eric Cantor

From my History in Politics series:

Cantor and other House and Senate leaders meeting with President Barack Obama in November 2010.
A recent front page photo in the New York Times showed job seekers lined up at a jobs fair in Arlington, Virginia. An unremarkable illustration of the plight of the American middle class all over the country, this scene is only noteworthy due to where it is happening. For this portrayal of desperate job searching was occurring in the bailiwick of Eric Cantor, the third ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives and a loud proponent of the GOP movement to bring us back to the days of Hoover, Coolidge and Harding.

I cite Cantor because of the contrast between the image of his fellow Northern Virginians currently seeking jobs and his own recent pronouncements on the future of unemployment insurance.

Representative Cantor wants to end unemployment insurance. His wholly unoriginal illogic, voiced many times in the past by ultra-conservatives, is that if you end unemployment insurance, people will get off their lazy butts and start looking for jobs. I have to wonder if Cantor would dare to face those neighbors of his seen in the Times and tell them that they are really a bunch of lazy bums. Lolling around their houses and living off the fat of their unemployment checks.

The media tells us otherwise. Some if not most middle class job seekers have been at it for a long time, some even for two years, sending out hundreds of resumes, chasing down every possible opening and slowly depleting the resources they worked years to accumulate. What Cantor doesn’t say is that behind his smarmy insistence on cutting unemployment insurance is his real goal of accelerating the impoverishment of the people in the Times photo. Perhaps, he hopes, only after losing their homes, their cars, their nest eggs, their middle class way of life, will they be willing to accept starvation wages, even go out into the fields to cut lettuce or pick strawberries as more and more immigrants are deported.

Which brings up other elements of the Republican mantra that Representative Cantor professes. Arch-conservatives like himself complain loudly when statistics are posted about the huge proportion of our national wealth that is being diverted into the hands of a relative handful of very rich people, and the G.O.P.’s promise to continue down this path, come hell or high water or default. To oppose them, in their words, is “Class Warfare.”

I have commented in a previous blog that it is, indeed, Class Warfare – an unprecedented attack on our middle class American way of life and that, at last, the middle class is beginning to realize this and to fight back. The Grover Norquist concept of an American government so shrunken that it can be drowned in a bathtub must have warmed the cockles of the heart of Osama Bin Laden, our super enemy, who had the same goal of destroying the American government, was taken down by our Special Forces.

Another aspect of the Republican mantra as trumpeted by Eric Cantor and his cohorts is that the Great Recession, as it’s now called [and should be called the Great Republican Recession since it happened under them] cannot be rectified except by exclusively cutting Federal government expenses and reducing revenues even farther.

How plausible is this cry of “Do nothing but reduce the debt?” That cut-cut-cut, and that, alone, will get us out of the jam we have created by fighting two wars on a credit card and instituting humungous job-killing tax breaks, which are just another form of spending.

Our U.S. history shows that the Republican thesis is nonsense.

When the Great Depression began in 1929, President Hoover’s position was much like the Republican position today. Balance the Budget. Most people don’t realize that Franklin Roosevelt initially took the same position. But this was a real mistake and FDR almost immediately recognized the fact and instituted the New Deal. Progress was slow but steady. Five years after he entered office [President Obama has only been in the White House for three years], Roosevelt’s programs were beginning to show results. Unfortunately, in 1937, he listened to the voices still calling for a Balanced Budget and deep cuts. The result was that the U.S. economy faltered once more and unemployment rose again.

So what eventually brought America out of the Depression? Was it ever deeper cuts in Federal government expenditures – the remedy that today’s G.O.P. keeps relentlessly professing?

No way. What lifted us, as everybody knows, was World War II and the colossal increase in U.S. governmental expenditures that pursuing victory against our enemy required.

Had Eric Cantor’s ideas been in vogue then, we might never have triumphed and gone on to become the predominant economic – and military – power in the world.

We all worked together then. Everyone was patriotic. Everyone was willing to sacrifice something for the good of the country. The strength of our domestic economy and the burgeoning of our middle class buttressed the military forces that were able to launch against the Axis.

History shows: the Republican approach of all cuts and no revenue will never solve our problems.

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