About a week ago, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) became the first congressional leader to condemn the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement. Now, he’s taking a rhetorical detour.
Reading from a prepared text on Oct. 7, Cantor told a right-wing audience, “I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.” In apparent reference to Democrats sympathetic to OWS, he added, “[B]elieve it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.”
A few days later, Cantor tried (and failed) to make the case that Tea Partiers are legitimate, Occupy demonstrators are not.
Republican pollsters must have told him this kind of talk was a bad idea, because all of a sudden, the oft-confused Majority Leader has discovered some areas of general agreement with the protesters.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said repeatedly Sunday that Republicans agree that too few people control too much wealth in America.
“We know in this country right now that there is a complaint about folks at the top end of the income scales, that they make too much and too many don’t make enough,” Cantor said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, toning down his earlier criticism of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
“We need to encourage folks at the top of the income scale to actually put their money their work to create more jobs so we can see a closing of the gap,” he added.
This marks a shift, not in Republican policies, but in how GOP leaders talk about their policies. As Cantor now sees it, the concerns of the “mob” are not without merit. He told Fox News the “growing frustration … is warranted.” How gracious of him.
The problem, of course, is that Cantor’s message to these outraged protesters is, in effect, “The best way to address your grievances is to approve more regressive, far-right economic policies.”
The status quo is tilted to reward wealth? Middle-class incomes are stagnant? The gap between rich and poor has reached scandalous proportions? Millionaires pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than their working-class staff? There’s no end in sight to the jobs crisis? Never fear, Cantor says, all we need now are more of the kind of policies that created these messes in the first place.
If we just adopt an agenda that “encourages folks at the top of the income scale,” he said, conditions will improve. Give them even more tax breaks, coupled with deregulation that frees them from the burdens of worker-safety rules and clean-air safeguards, and eventually, the wealth will trickle down to everyone else.
This is how Republicans plan to communicate their agenda to those concerned with tax fairness and economic inequality. GOP leaders are simply counting on large swaths of the populace being easily fooled.