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Eric Cantor's Know-Nothing Wealth Disparity Speech: "Every Man a Billionaire"

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Even more egregious than Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) cowardly retreat (because it was open to the public) from delivering a speech on wealth disparity is what this undelivered speech actually said.

In this highly touted oration, Cantor proposed... absolutely nothing.

Cantor's "solution" to wealth disparity was not surprising -- private enterprise, especially small business entrepreneurs, would start businesses and give everyone a job.

But, of course, just giving people jobs does not solve the wealth disparity problem. So, Cantor talks about "wealth mobility," that everyone, somehow, can become a billionaire.

This is standard right-wing abuse of optimism. Sure, anyone "might" become a billionaire. But, with a $45T economy, there would only be room for 45,000 billionaires, assuming no one had more than $1B, and no one but those 45,000 had anything.

There are more than 300 million people in the country. 400 families control as much wealth as the bottom 160 million. There is nothing in the Constitution, and nothing in our history since World War II, that suggests there is anything god-given or ordained about that disparity. It is the natural outcome of a rigged system. Indeed, there is very good reason to believe that it is not compatible with true democracy and freedom.

Cantor provides the example of his own family. His grandmother, an immigrant (!) from Eastern Europe, worked hard so her sons could go to college. His father graduated college, went into real estate and did well financially. Eric had an upper middle class upbringing.

Hey, that seems pretty good, all done on their own, no one else helping out, and certainly no help from government -- until one begins to fill in the gaps in the story that are far larger than the high points of Cantor cherry-picks.

One wonders why Cantor aspires to recreate the America of the 1930s (his grandmother's time). That country was not, as Cantor might think, a ribbon of highways with Model-T Fords in place of Toyotas. One-third of the nation was "ill-clad, ill-housed and ill-nourished." Rural areas had no electricity. Grain farmers in the plains states had overused and misused their land producing the dust bowl. Poverty among the elderly was the rule, not the exception.

Much of that was fixed. By government action.

Then, there is Cantor's father. He received a public education, and apparently made good money in real estate -- that would have not have been possible had government not built roads, sewers and water systems, and provided courts and a justice system to enforce contracts, and had Fannie and Freddie and the VA not supplied funding and supported the housing industry. Of course, Fannie and Freddie got out of control along with Wall Street, but for decades they were critical elements of a sound housing market. Without them, home ownership would never have reached levels it did even before the bubble, and Cantor's father would have been in a very low margin, low volume business. Who knows, he might have needed the earned-income-tax-credit and Medicaid for him and his family to survive.

Cantor then turns to Steve Jobs. One can make the obvious point that Steve Jobs is the poster child for entrepreneurship because he is unique. Sure, there are several more stories that will emerge in the next decades in which new "Steve Jobs's" will arise, but they will be a distinct minority. One has no doubt they, whoever they are, will change the way we do things, and become very rich in the process.

It is not clear how that will address wealth disparity.

As for jobs (lower case "j"), if the new breed follows Cantor's new idol, many of those jobs will, like the Jobs' jobs, be created overseas. Why? In part because China, India, Taiwan and other emerging countries are putting major government funds into education and infrastructure, while the US, thanks to Cantor and his gang, forswear such sins.

But, even if one ignores all that reality, there is one unarguable fact that may make Cantor wish he had never mentioned Steve Jobs:

When Jobs started Apple, the top tax rate was 70%.

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