Cantor Uses Job Fair in District to Attack Stimulus
MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — With Democrats in full defense mode over health care reform during the August recess, one leading Republican spent Monday reminding voters in his district that there is another reason to be angry at the majority party: jobs. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) found fertile ground at home for his assertion that Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration haven’t done enough to pull the economy out of recession and deliver on the promise to create millions of new jobs. But in addition to holding traditional town-hall meetings, Cantor on Monday took the unusual step of organizing a job fair that attracted 86 employers and an estimated 3,500 job-seekers to a high school south of Richmond. Cantor has been one of the most vocal critics of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that Democrats pushed through Congress in February, and Monday’s well-attended job fair was a chance for Cantor to combine that criticism with old-fashioned constituent service.“There is so much of the stimulus money that hasn’t been spent yet. We ought to seriously sit down, roll up our sleeves and begin to prioritize how we go about deploying these resources,— Cantor said. “If we are not going to direct them in the direction of job creators then we ought not be spending taxpayer dollars, and that comes out loud and clear to me here.— Polls are increasingly showing that the public is not happy with the pace of recovery and job creation, despite Democratic assurances and tangible proof in districts throughout the country that stimulus funds have put people to work.Jack Kay, 54, and his daughter Emily, 23, both residents in Cantor’s Congressional district, were among those in line at the job fair and were unconvinced that the economic stimulus bill was worth the price tag.“What stimulus?— said Jack Kay, who worked in the construction business before he was laid off five months ago. His daughter has been unemployed even longer.“I was laid off about a year ago … and I’ve just been working in the service industry to make ends meet somehow,— said Emily Kay, who holds a degree in marketing and management. “I’m looking to put my degree to use somehow.— Cantor used the experiences of his constituents to make the point to reporters that Democrats should have listened to Republicans who tried to block the stimulus.“You’ve got stories about people who have been out of work five months, you have people who have been out of work a day, but it does give me added urgency to go back up to Washington and say let’s stop the senseless spending and attempts by Washington to fix everything under the sun,— Cantor told reporters later inside a room marked “in-school detention.—As hundreds of people like Kay and his daughter waited for an hour or more in the 90-degree heat for a chance to enter the school, Cantor stood in the parking lot, shaking hands and offering words of encouragement. “What kind of work are you looking for today?— Cantor asked scores of former bankers, information technology professionals and construction workers. The rupture of the financial industry hit Cantor’s district hard. LandAmerica Financial Group Inc. and electronics giant Circuit City, both headquartered in Richmond, declared bankruptcy late last year. Yet last month, Cantor’s district still remained 2 points below the national unemployment rate of 9.4 percent. Even though plenty of employers stood ready to talk to job-seekers at Clover Hill High School, Jack Kay suspected some came out of loyalty to Cantor rather than to actually hire new people. “I think they are doing it out of courtesy more than the need of people,— he said. Even though the job fair was Cantor’s show, he was unable to avoid questions about a stimulus-funded high-speed rail project that Cantor has lauded despite its inclusion in the recovery package he has pilloried. “The suggestion that I can’t support a project that creates jobs without supporting almost $800 billion in stimulus money that doesn’t make any sense,— Cantor said. “That’s the sort of tired, old reasoning and way that people [are] really rejecting across this country that Washington has committed to for so long.—Cantor’s anti-stimulus narrative was echoed by many of the employers who came to the job fair to network and collect résumés for future openings. Linwood Cobb III, sales manager for Mainline Supply Co., a maker of plumbing and engineering supplies, said that the stimulus money would likely create a short-term benefit but would not be a long-term solution to the economic downturn. “I don’t think much of anything that comes out of Washington,— Cobb said.