An important part of being a politician is to keep your name before the public in the press. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) did a lot of that recently in the debt ceiling hostage taking by the Tea Party wing of the GOP as its articulate spokesperson and rising star. While congress is on vacation, to keep his name in the press, Cantor has signed off on an opinion piece in the Washington Post, “Removing the obstacles to economic growth.” He says there are two: “The first is the federal government’s debt crisis” and “The second is the jobs crisis.” He should know since his majority is responsible for creating the first one and for doing nothing about the second one. Cantor blames President Obama for each.
The real problem with extreme government debt would be the interest burden it would create. If interest payments reached 12% of GDP, that could cause a government default. The US is far from reaching that point. However, it was using the debt ceiling to extort political concessions that made a routine financial process look like the crisis it became. Cantor kept his name in the press then by walking out of negotiations with Vice President Biden.
According to Cantor, however, “the Obama administration’s anti-business, hyper-regulatory, pro-tax agenda has fueled economic uncertainty and sent the message from the administration that ‘we want to make it harder to create jobs.’” HR 1745 takes money away from the long-term unemployed. Where is the job creation in that?
The Treasury Department used $267 million of taxpayer funds to buy preferred stock in a private banking company that employed his wife, Diana Cantor. As part of a Treasury Department program to boost "healthy banks" with extra capital, New York Private Bank and Trust (NYPBT) received its bailout money in January 2009. NYPBT is the holding company for Emigrant Bank, a savings bank with 35 branches in and around New York City. She ran the Virginia branch of the wealth-management division of Virginia Private Bank & Trust, a subsidiary.
To be fair, Cantor's deputy chief of staff Rob Collins said the congressman didn't know the bank was seeking bailout money and never interceded on the bank's behalf with government regulators. Additionally, a spokesman for the bank said Diana Cantor had nothing to do with the operation of NYPBT and was "never aware that the parent bank was seeking or received [bailout] funding."
Last year the Wall Street Journal reported, “Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip in the House of Representatives, bought up to $15,000 in shares of ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury ETF last December, according to his 2009 financial disclosure statement. The exchange-traded fund takes a short position in long-dated government bonds. In effect, it is a bet against U.S. government bonds—and perhaps on inflation in the future.”
Rhetoric and deniability are common in politics and in court. The Department of Justice is investigating the US credit downgrades by rating agencies Standard & Poor and Moody. The downgrade is a direct outcome of the debt ceiling crisis which congressional Tea Party members and House Majority Leader Cantor championed. The credit downgrade also spooked the markets. Cantor’s piece may keep him in the public eye, but it obfuscates the fact that the crisis and the downgrade cannot be laid at the president’s feet. They can be laid at Mr. Cantor’s.
Article first published as Eric Cantor’s Rhetorical Deniability on Blogcritics.