By Russell Berman - 10/21/11 08:17 PM EDT
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) planned to call Friday for Washington to “ensure fairness at every level” for people striving for the American dream, but without resorting to “wealth redistribution.”
Cantor published remarks he planned to deliver at the University of Pennsylvania before he cancelled his speech over concerns that it would be flooded with protesters.
In the undelivered speech, Cantor acknowledged growing fears that Americans have about the future, but he criticized “politicians and others who want to demonize people that have earned success in certain sectors of our society.”
“I believe that the most successful among us are positioned to use their talents to help grow our economy and give everyone a hand up the ladder and the dignity of a job,” Cantor wrote.
The Republican offered no new policy prescriptions in the speech and steered clear of overtly partisan criticism. Though he has criticized President Obama and Democratic leaders for pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy, he made no direct reference to them.
Instead, Cantor invoked the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as a “trailblazer” and an example of the classic American success story. “Through his example, you can see that America needs more than a jobs plan. It needs a Steve Jobs plan,” Cantor wrote. In a Steve Jobs Plan, those who are successful not only create good jobs and services “that make our lives better, they also give back and help everyone move just a little bit further up the ladder and everybody wins.”
As he has before, the Virginia Republican sought to distinguish between Obama’s call for wealthy Americans to pay their “fair share” and his own exhortation for Washington to ensure everyone has “a fair shot” at success.
“Instead of talking about a fair share or spending time trying to push those at the top down, elected leaders in Washington should be trying to ensure that everyone has a fair shot and the opportunity to earn success up the ladder,” Cantor wrote. “The goal shouldn’t be for everyone to meet in the middle of the ladder. We should want all people to be moving up and no one to be pulled down. How do we do that? It cannot simply be about wealth redistribution. You don’t just take from the guy at the top to give to the guy at the bottom and expect our problems to be solved.
“Instead, we must ensure fairness at every level,” he added. “We must ensure that those who abuse the rules are punished. We must ensure that the solution to wealth disparity is wealth mobility. We must give everyone the chance to move up. Stability plus mobility equals agility. In an agile economy and an agile society, people are climbing and succeeding.”
Cantor was planning to speak on income equality at a time when thousands of activists in New York, Washington, Philadelphia and other cities have taken to the streets to protest what they say is a failure by political and financial leaders to address the rising gap between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the other 99 percent.
The majority leader had drawn criticism for initially referring to the Wall Street demonstrators as “growing mobs.” Days later, he shifted his tone and said they were “justifiably protesters.”
In the planned speech, Cantor did not mention the protests specifically. Addressing income equality, he articulated a long-standing difference in the language of Republicans and Democrats.
“The basis upon which America was founded and the basis upon which America thrives is providing people with the equality of opportunity – not equality of outcome,” Cantor wrote. “There is a ladder of success in America. However, it is a ladder built not by Washington, but by hard work, responsibility and the initiative of the people of our country.”