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Posted by on Apr 2, 2009 in Economy | 6 comments

Eric Cantor: Let’s Not “Overreact” to the Economic Crisis

You would think that after Barack Obama’s resounding victory in November, and with his job approval and favorable ratings at 60% and 69%, respectively, Republican leaders would recognize that the “tired old policies of the past” are the ones the public just rejected — not the ones we’ve been suffering under for the eight years prior to the election.

Instead, they seem to be leapfrogging over each other to see which of them can do the most damage to the GOP’s chances of coming back from irrelevance. As of yesterday, the so-called “alternative” Republican budget was the latest example. Today, there is a new one: Eric Cantor told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that Democrats are “overreacting” to the economic crisis.

Brian Beutler provides the full transcript of Cantor’s remarks and thinks that, in context, Cantor was making a general statement and not referring specifically to Democrats:

Here’s the full context of Cantor’s remarks on overreaction:

As far as Rush [Limbaugh], Rush has got ideas, he’s got following, he believes in the conservative principles that many of us believe in, of lower taxes of making sure that we turn back towards and focus on entrepreneurialism in this country, to promoting innovation, and not stamping that out by overreacting, if you will, which this town often does, to crisis.

This may be a backhanded critique of Democrats, but it’s less overt than the Politico piece reported–Cantor was boosting for Rush (who loathes Democrats) and was criticizing Washington (now controlled by Democrats), but did not say that Democrats per se over react to crises.

True, but that is somewhat of a distinction without a difference — as Beutler notes, criticizing Washington is pretty much synonymous with criticizing Democrats, given that Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress.

And criticizing Democrats for “overreacting” to the economic crisis may not be the best way to gain favor with the American people at this time:

Cantor’s timing could have been better. While he was accusing Democratic officials of caring too much about economic growth and ending the crisis, the Labor Department reported that “initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to a seasonally adjusted 669,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 657,000. That total was above analysts’ expectations and the highest in more than 26 years.”

With that in mind, Cantor handed Democrats quite a gift this morning. For every American who has lost a job, lost their healthcare, lost their home, and lost their savings, the majority party has a simple message: the Republican leadership believes Democrats are “overreacting” to the crisis.

It’s hard to imagine what Cantor was thinking. Democrats care too much about fixing the economy? That’s the pitch from the House Republican leadership?

Steve updates his post:

Cantor’s office is arguing, aggressively, that he wasn’t referring to Democrats when he talked about the “overreaction.” It’s unclear, though, who else he might have been referencing.

D-Day adds:

I think Steve Benen is largely right. Regardless of the specific context of Cantor’s remarks, he is broadly saying that the biggest worry at a time of massive unemployment and financial turmoil is that policymakers do too much. Therefore doing nothing, by contrast, is seen as a greater virtue than doing something. I just don’t think that the 669,000 people tossed out of work and onto unemployment last week would agree.

Oliver Willis (whose new mast banner graphic is pretty darn cool) says, “Republicans remain completely and absolutely out of touch with the people.”

Yes, and also absolutely clueless. Cantor said what he said on the same day that the new unemployment numbers were released:

Just a couple hours ago, Chris posted the latest gloomy economic news: Jobless claims hit 26 year high.

But, one of the top Republican leaders thinks that Democrats are “overreacting” in their attempts to fix the economy. Overreacting?
If Eric Cantor ever took one step outside of the Capitol Hill bubble, he’d know that people are suffering — and want their government to act.

Matthew Yglesias echoed many others when he asked “if Cantor really wants to repeat the ‘fundamentals of the economy are strong’ fiasco of last fall?”

It did not go over well when McCain said it, and it’s not going to go off any better now.