Cantor says Obama’s ‘hostility’ to Bain discouraging investors

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggested Wednesday that the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's tenure at private-equity firm Bain Capital could be discouraging others from investing in struggling companies.

"I’m thinking it’s when we were talking with the president about politics and wanting to provide an incentive for entrepreneurs and investors to put capital at risk, because that’s what’s hurting right now, we don’t have enough people with confidence to put capital at risk right now, we don’t’ have people who are willing to seek a loan from a bank and take that risk because they hear the hostility coming from the White House," Cantor said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

The Virginia lawmaker went on to hammer the president over his critique of the presumptive Republican nominee’s business record, arguing it amounted to a fundamental misunderstanding of how a free market economy works.

"My experience with the president dealing with him has demonstrated he either has no ... lack of appreciation for our, our free market economy or is just intent to want to malign those who have been too successful in his mind," Cantor said.

Cantor wasn't persuaded by the argument that private equity firms could be exploiting market loopholes by overloading companies with debt and then allowing them to go bankrupt.

"I don't think it's for the president to decide, as long as there is legal activity, which profit is good and which profit is not. If it's illegal behavior, we ought to stamp it out. But if there is legal behavior, the White House or anyone in Washington shouldn't be determining who should have a profit and who shouldn't," Cantor said. 

"That's business, and that's free markets, where there is always the likelihood of failure as well as success. That's the fundamental discussion here, whether you're going to accept the fact that America does value people who want to go take a risk."

The Obama campaign has received criticism since releasing a pair of ads critical of Romney's time at Bain, suggesting likely GOP nominee put personal profits ahead of the survival of companies he invested in. Those ads have come under fire from Republicans and some Democrats — including, notably, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker — who have said the spots are an overreach and critique an important part of the economy.

White House press secretary Jay Carney defended the line of attack during the daily press briefing Tuesday, saying Romney is “running as a businessman who can do for America what he did for private equity."

“I think Americans would expect that credential deserves some scrutiny,” Carney continued. 

But for the House's No. 2 Republican, the ads represented "a lack of appreciation, frankly, for what this country was built on.” “This country was built on notions of economic freedom," Cantor said.

"We are committed to earning success rather than have the government confer the outcome and guarantee it for you, which is what sets America apart, which has always set us apart, which is why we have so many aspirational people in the world who want to come here," Cantor said Wednesday.