Published October 16, 2011
Changing the talk from "wealth redistribution" to "income mobility," Republicans are trying to move the conversation away from the "class warfare" that President Obama and Democrats have pursued in recent weeks to legislation that will get businesses to spend money.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Sunday that he gets the growing frustration of too many unemployed and underemployed Americans and the need to encourage people at the top of the income scale to "actually put their money to work to create more jobs so that we can see a closing of the gap."
"We know in this country right now that there is a complaint about folks at the top end of the income scale, if they make too much, and too many don't make enough," Cantor told "Fox News Sunday."
"We are about income mobility and that's what we should be focused on to take care of the income disparity in this country," he said.
Ignoring criticism that he referred to recent protesters across the country as "mobs," Cantor said that more important than his vocabulary is the effort by some Democrats in Washington "to blame others rather than focus on the policies that have brought about the current situation."
"A lot of folks on the other side of the aisle want to boil this down to personality," Cantor said. "Let's take some of the credit or blame here in Washington. ... I mean, these are policies that they put into place and there's a lot that can be done here in this town to turn the economy around, and promote against income mobility and not go in and excoriate some who have been successful. We want success for everybody."
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz agrees, but she said Republicans are to blame for the failures in Washington because they are ignoring the benefit of a "short-term infusion" of cash from President Obama's proposed jobs act. That plan was rejected by the Democratic-led Senate last week.
"We need Republicans and Democrats to work together. You know, where is the leadership on the Republican side? You want to talk about sitting on the sidelines. They're the ones that have just been crossing their arms and hoping for failure," Wasserman Schultz told CNN.
Speaking at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Obama spoke in more unifying terms, saying the civil rights leader would have supported workers who condemn corporate excesses, but would have urged them not to demonize everyone associated with helping businesses succeed.
King's eldest son, Martin Luther King III, speaking during a jobs rally Saturday offered a more stark take on his father's ideals.
"Over 45 years ago, my father talked about a redistribution of wealth. In fact, that is probably why he was killed," King said. "Because he said if America is going to survive responsibly, then it must have a redistribution of wealth."
Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod, who only a month ago said the president's plan could not be treated like an a la carte menu, said the administration is "going to take it apart and we're going to go piece by piece. The American people support every single plank of that bill, and we're going to vote on every single one of them."
"They will be done sequentially, and the sequence is being discussed right now," he told ABC's "This Week."
Cantor said parts of the $450 billion stimulus plan could be coaxed out of it and win Republican support but the president must abandon his "all-or-nothing approach."
"I think you'll see within the next month, we will take portions of (the Republican) plan that match up with his, put them across the floor to help small businesses," he said.
He noted that already Republicans and Democrats last week approved three free trade bills with Panama, Colombia and South Korea that have been years in the making. He said cutting the 3 percent withholding tax would help small businesses as would access to financing and capital and unemployment insurance reform.
But as for the $35 billion the president wants to give states to avoid layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters, Cantor said that misses the mark.
"Here we go again," Cantor said, calling it a redux of failed stimulus policies. "We saw what happened with the stimulus money. Much of that went to the states. And you know what happened? It sustained some jobs for about a year and then the states were faced about with billions of dollars in debt once that year was over it."
Noting that since the president took office, there are 1.6 million fewer jobs in the private sector and there have been 7.5 million foreclosures, Cantor said the way to get business operating is to start with the entrepreneur.
"We oppose raising taxes on small businesses," Cantor said. "We believe in private enterprise. We believe in small business."
Wasserman Schultz said Republican proposals to get the economy moving would "just allow corporate America to write their own rules again."
"There isn't even a certainty it would create any jobs at all. No one has found any evidence that it would. So at the end of the day, we need jobs now. That's what the American people are clamoring for. The public needs to get on-board," she said.