Eric Cantor at Harvard: America 'at a crossroads' on spending
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) outlined Republicans' economic vision on Thursday evening, saying in a speech at Harvard University that Washington must reduce the role of government in order to preserve America's role as the "crucible of innovation."
Speaking at the Kennedy School of Government before an audience of graduate and undergraduate students, Cantor drew a contrast between the United States and European countries through comparing last year's protests against pension cuts in France and Greece to the message American voters delivered in November's midterm election.
"Not long ago, in streets of both Greece and France, we saw young people protesting against the government's decision to rein in retirement benefits -- even though they were years away from receiving them," Cantor said. "Translation: Very early in their lives, these individuals were conditioned to rely and depend on the government for their livelihood, for their future."
In America, Cantor continued, "people from a wide array of political backgrounds took to town halls to demand an end to the explosive growth of government. Their desire: for our government to do less, not more. The contrast was astonishing and the message clear: On one side of the Atlantic people expected a government-funded future, while on the other they wanted it to stop."
Cantor said that the key to American innovation lies in the success of the private sector, pointing to Republicans' emphasis on cutting spending, reducing federal regulations, replacing the national health care law and reforming the tax code. Those efforts, Cantor said, will "make it easier for intellectual capital and innovation to flourish again."
"We have a choice to make today about the future of our country," Cantor said. "In order to protect our way of life, the choice we must make is about changing course, and renewing our commitment to what makes America unique: innovation, creative thinking, problem-solving, entrepreneurship, individual liberty and economic freedom. Our renewed focus must be driven by the sense that we have a limitless future in America and every one of us has a fair shot at earning success."
According to local news reports, several hundred protesters gathered outside the event to speak out against spending cuts included in the government-funding resolution passed by the House late last week. Earlier Thursday, two separate groups of students had indicated that they planned to protest Cantor's appearance.
During the question-and-answer session, Cantor fielded tough questions on House Republicans' proposed budget cuts. At one point, several protesters holding signs reading "Fully Fund Global Health" interrupted the event, according to a report by the Reuters news service; they chanted "Budget Cuts Kill!" as they were escorted from the hall.
Asked about President Obama's recent announcement that he was ordering the Justice Department to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, Cantor said that he was "a little taken aback" by the decision and that lawmakers are considering their options but declined to go into detail.
"There are some options available to us legislatively that we're looking at," Cantor said, according to the Associated Press.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee responded to Cantor's speech Thursday night by challenging his credibility on fiscal responsibility.
"While everyone recognizes the need to cut spending and lower the deficit, listening to a lecture on cutting spending from someone like Republican Leader Eric Cantor is only a reminder that he spent taxpayer money like a drunken sailor during the Bush years and is happy to keep spending it as long as it goes to his corporate special interest buddies," DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said. "Republican Leader Eric Cantor is leading reckless choices that protect taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil companies making record profits at the expense of our cops, teachers, and homeless veterans."
| February 24, 2011; 9:20 PM ET
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