Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, 112th Congress discusses his family history, Congressional activities, and directions for America. October, 2011.
>> Susan Collins: Good afternoon, everybody and welcome. I'm Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Wild Dean of the Gerald R. Ford's School of Public Policy. And I am so pleased to see all of you here with us this afternoon. I would like to give a special welcome to our speaker, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. We are very pleased to have you here with us this afternoon. This speech was originally planned for last February, but we were snowed out and so we are particularly pleased to been able to reschedule an opportunity to host the Congressman, to hear from him, and to be able to engage him with some questions. I would also like to recognize some dignitaries in our audience. In particular, we are joined by Regent Andrea Fisher-Newman, by Regent Andrew Richner, and by Regent Catherine White. We're very pleased that you could join us.
[ Applause ]
>> Susan Collins: We also have with us a number of elected state and local officials and it's a pleasure for us to have them here with us this evening -- this afternoon. We have the president of the university, Mary Sue Coleman and a number of university leaders here with us, as well. Welcome to all of you. Please, I'd like you to note that after his remarks, Congressman Cantor will be taking questions. I know a number of you have already given your questions to members of our staff and there will be other -- there will be opportunities for that. The questions will be read by members of the Ford School community. In particular, Professor's John Chamberlain and Phil Potter, as well as three of our graduate students who will introduce themselves to you. They are also following on Twitter and those of you who are watching online I invite you to send along your questions for the Congressman, as well. Well, with that for a formal introductions of our speaker, it is my great pleasure to welcome to the podium University of Michigan's President Mary Sue Cantor.
[ Applause ]
>> Susan Collins: Mary Sue Coleman [laughs].
[ Laughter and Applause ]
>> Mary Sue Coleman: Well, no -- no, this is -- this is just because last night I was giving a speech and I had a Freudian slip as well, so Susan welcome to the club. But thank you, Susan for hosting today's program and for your leadership of the Ford School. The Ford School is one of the nation's leading schools of public policy and just a few years shy of its 100th anniversary. As one of the -- this universities most distinguished graduates President Ford honored us by allowing us to use his name for this distinguished school. I believe that he would have appreciated today's program and all that surrounds it. He served as a member of our faculty after leaving office and like our speaker today, enjoyed interacting with inquisitive students. He was competitive as both an athlete and a politician and appreciated a spirited battle. And he advocated the importance of free speech and diverse viewpoints. His alma mater after all was the birth place of the College Republicans, as well as, students for a Democratic Society. [Applause and Cheer from the crowd] Few campuses can lay claim to such diverse political views. The University of Michigan has long prided itself on its diversity and that spectrum includes the appreciation of and respect for varying viewpoints and political philosophies. President Ford understood this. Listen to his words. Tolerance, breadth of mind and appreciation for the world beyond our neighborhoods, these can be learned on the football field and in the science labs, as well as the lecture hall, but only if students are exposed to America in all her variety. As a university, we take seriously our obligation to open the world to our students through course work, study abroad, museum collections and campus visitors. Today we welcome the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Congressman Eric Cantor. [Applause] Representative Cantor is in his 11th year in Congress where he represents the 7th District of Virginia. The 7th District includes much of Richmond, where the Congressman was born and raised. Prior to his election to Congress he served nine years in the Virginia House of Delegates. Congressman Cantor became House Majority Leader this past January after severing two years as Minority Whip. He holds degrees from Washington -- George Washington University, Columbia University and William and Mary. The Congressman has once more -- has won more significant accomplishment to this name and that is being the parent of a Michigan student. His daughter Jenna is a U of M sophomore and I'm sure that it's a thrill to have her father visiting today. We are pleased to host this visit. Please join me in welcoming Congressman Eric Cantor.
[ Applause ]
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Thank you. Good afternoon. Thank you, President Coleman for those very kind remarks. Dean Collins, thank you very much for the invitation. I'm thrilled to be here. It truly is always a treat to be here in Ann Arbor, certainly as a parent of a sophomore as a budding Wolverine that she is. Also, I'm glad to be here as a strong admirer of this institution, the University of Michigan, that is a world-class center of educational excellence, that I have seen over and again throughout my visits here is an institution based upon the spirit of innovation and American know how. Our 38th President Gerald Ford, for whom the School of Public Policy is named said, "The world is every conscious of a -- of what Americans are doing, for better or for worse because the United States today remains, that most successful realization of humanities universal hope." It is that hope that is always so support and made America such a special place, but today, that hope is challenged. I come to you at a very controversial time in our nation's history. A lot of us are asking what the future holds for you and for our country. And in a much bigger way, we are wondering what kind of country do we want to be. When I think about the kind of country that I want, when I think about the kind of country that I want to leave my children, I think about my grandmother's story and how my family got to America in the first place. My grandmother and her family fled religious persecution to come here to America at the turn of the last century. Like so many of her generation in Eastern Europe, my grandmother faced a future where no matter how hard she worked, no matter how much she studied, no matter how smart she was, there were limits. Just because of who she was, who her parents were and where she was born there was only so far she could go, only so much she could do. But our country is not like that. America offered opportunity. My grandmother eventually made her home in a working class neighborhood in my home town of Richmond. As you can imagine, in the earlieth 20 -- earliest -- early 20th century the south wasn't often the most accepting place for a young Jewish woman. Widowed by age 30 she raised my father and uncle in a tiny apartment above a grocery store that she and my grandfather had opened. She worked day and night sacrificing tremendously to secure a better future for her sons. And sure enough, this young woman how had the courage to journey to a distant land with hope as her only possession, lifted herself up into the ranks of the middle class. Through hard work, her faith, through thrift, she was even able to send her two sons to college. All she wanted was a chance. A fair shot at making a better life for her two sons. And if she were alive today, I know she'd be blown away by the fact that her grandson is not only a member of the United States Congress, but is also the Majority Leader of the U.S. House. In deciding as a country who we're going to be we need to be sure that the opportunity my grandmother realized is here for all of us. It really is about that fair shot. No matter who you are or where you're from, all of us should have access to the opportunity to earn the success that we're after. 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. There is a ladder of success in America, however, it is a ladder built not my Washington, but by hard work, responsibility and the initiative of the people of our country. It is built by people like Henry Ford who work hard and took risks to bring up us the hallmark symbol of innovation, [someone speaking in crowd] the American automobile. My grandmother worked her fingers to the bone so, that her sons could have a better life than she did. Her sons, my dad didn't disappoint her. He respected her sacrifices to send him to college. He took that opportunity and started his own business in real estate with little more than the drive to succeed. Emulating my grandmother's work ethic, he was able to provide a quality of life for my mother, brothers and me. Why? For the very same reasons that inspired my grandmother, he wanted a better life for all of us. It is this foundation, hard work, faith, family, and opportunity that provides each of us with the prospects of unlimited potential in America. Each generation is able to get a little further ahead, climbing up the ladder of success in our society. How quickly you move up or sometimes down should be completely up to you. Much of the conversation today in the current political debate has been focused on fairness in our society. Republicans believe that was is fair is a hand up, not a hand out. We know that we all don't begin life's race from the same starting point. I was fortunate enough to be born into a stable family that provided me with the tools that I need to get ahead. Not everyone is so lucky. Some are born into extremely difficult situations facing severe obstacles. The fact is many Americans are coping with broken families, dealing with hunger and homelessness. Confronted daily by violent crime or burdened by rampant drug use. I was recently asked, what does your party say to that 9-year old inner city child scared to death, growing up in a life of poverty? What can you do for that little girl? Well, we know there are no easy answers, but I believe that child needs a hand up to help her climb the ladder of success in our country. She also needs some guarantees in life. She needs to know that the rules are the same for everybody. That although she may have to work harder than many of us, she needs to know that she has a fair shot at making it in this country. She also needs the advantages of a solid family around her and a community that encourages her to learn and work hard. She needs some semblance of stability. The question for us is, how can we help provide that? Stability starts in the home, but it can also extend to places of learning, especially for those children facing the toughest circumstances. We need to ensure access to the best schools available, if that is a public school, great. Some say charter schools help to provide greater stability and I whole heartedly agree. In fact, President Obama has also expressed support for charter schools. Earlier this year the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act, that encourage states to support the development and expansion of charter schools while streamlining the federal funding to reduce administrative burdens. In California parents have banded together to ensure that schools are being held accountable and can transfer their kids to better schools or even start a new one where it's needed. Kids in many cities actually line up for lotteries for open slots at better schools. No child should be forced to stay in a school that is failing her. We should give that little girl a hand in attending a better school, providing a chance at greater stability, thereby increasing her opportunity for success and happiness. We also need to be concerned about helping parents. Take the single mom living down the road in Detroit. After she puts her kids to bed and rests her head down at the end of each grueling day, she may be wondering if her job will still be there in the morning. She's probably stopped dreaming about moving up the ladder just about now. She's more likely just worrying, hoping, praying she doesn't fall down or off of it. We need to find a way to restore her faith that moving up the ladder even slowly is still possible in this country. That mom sacrifices most of her life for her children. She lives paycheck to paycheck. Maybe she works two or even three jobs and has to worry about how she can take her sick child or parent to the doctor. Maybe she'd like to attend a play that her little girl is performing in in school, but has to work. What is this working mom to do? How can we provide both her and her children just a little bit more stability? When asked, many working moms say what they need most is just a little bit more time to be with her kids. We should find ways to encourage employers to provide working parents the flexibility to attend to their children's needs. One option is to allow private sector workers the ability to negotiate with their employers to choose between comp time or overtime pay, a benefit that federal, state and local government workers have had for years. Does this solve all the problems? Of course not. Maybe with a little hope and a helping hand that makes life just a little easier that single mom can send her children to college. Maybe one day her children will be like many of you. As students at Michigan most of you will be much better positioned than most to land a job of your choice after graduation, but for the majority of young people in this country small businesses will give them their start. These employers are the restaurant owners, the healthcare providers or the auto parts distributors. Small businessmen and women are the key formula for success and opportunity in America. Each one of them took a risk and did whatever they needed to make it work. They dipped into their savings or borrowed from family to start their dream. They committed countless hours and determination. They committed their lives in pursuit of that dream. They employ just a few people, but each one of these individuals is able to start building a better life for their families just because one person took a risk. We should make it easier for people to take it risk and to start their dream. This week, the House of Representatives will be moving a bill to ease regulations on access to capital, so we can give these risk takers a hand up to achieve their dream. In America happiness is defined as a pursuit and that definition comes from our founders in the Declaration of Independence. Pursuing both happiness and independence derive from the ingenuity and grift of the American people, not the American government. America is a special place, different than any other on earth. Here's an illustration, last year I received a letter, actually from a recent Michigan grad, who was taking a year to work in the UK. He was amazed how differently entrepreneurs are regarded in Europe. How opportunities seem limited. How existence seemed somewhat dull and how hope was missing. The friends he met said they couldn't even imagine an entrepreneurial hot bed like Silicon Valley existing in Europe, or how they would have handled such an amazing chance to advance. He wrote, "Starting a business even if you fail in the process is a badge of honor in the U.S., but in Europe entrepreneurship is often frowned upon and consequently the best and the brightest are afraid to take a risk, even though they are very smart and educated. When I asked him about their career path, no one ever mentions starting a business." Think about it. In America starting a business isn't something that's only possible, it's something to be expected, however, today that is now being questioned. People in this country have become afraid to take a risk. Many have lost their optimism about the future. They're frustrated. And the core of this frustration stems from a belief that the same opportunities afforded to previous generations no longer exist today. In a recent poll 82% of Americans think that their children will be worse off than they are. What happened to the hope of surpassing the success of your parents? What happened to the unyielding American exceptionalism in the sense that in America impossible dreams are possible? There are politicians and others who want to demonize people that have earned success in certain sectors of our society. They claim that these people have now made enough and haven't paid their fair share, but pitting Americans against one another tends to deflate the aspirational spirit of our people and fade the American dream. 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. We should encourage them to extend their creativity in generosity to helping build the community infrastructure that provides a hand up and a fair shot to those less fortunate like that little 9-year old girl in the inner city. These groups of innovators are the leaders of companies that create lifesaving drugs for our sick parents and children. They take risks like Henry Ford did to create companies that employ our families, our neighbors and our friends. They are also the social entrepreneurs to support the charter schools, the opportunity scholarships, the private job training programs, the community centers and other elements of community life that provide stability and constructive values to children and their families who are struggling. They are trail blazers, like Steve Jobs. A man who started with an idea in his garage, and ended up providing IPads and IPhones to millions and changed the world. Job building and community building are what successful people can do. Through his example you can see that America needs more than just a jobs plan, we need a Steve Jobs plan. In a Steve Jobs plan, whether you're Republican or a Democrat it doesn't matter. In a Steve Jobs plan no American, regardless of their condition believes that they are unable to rise up. And in a Steve Jobs plan we don't believe that those who succeed somehow take away from those still working their way up the ladder. Why? Because those who earn their success not only create good jobs and services that make our lives better, but they give back and help everyone move just a little bit further up the ladder and everybody can win. So 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. 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. A recent survey of over 500 successful entrepreneurs found that 93% came from middle or lower class backgrounds. Most of them were the first in their families to launch a business. And those at the very top are the very first members of the Forbes 400 list published 29 years ago, less than 10% remain. So people are moving up and down the ladder. They're just not moving up fast enough. That is precisely why we must ensure fairness at every level of the economic ladder. We must ensure that those who abuse the rules are punished. We must ensure that the solution to income disparity is increased income mobility. We must give everyone the chance to move up. Stability plus mobility equals agility. And in an agile economy -- in an agile society people are climbing and succeeding. So income mobility is the key, but far too long indicators in our country reflect a sagging rate of mobility. Too many people are not moving up. So our efforts should be geared toward figuring out how to accelerate income mobility. From how we help those who are unemployed to ways to encourage entrepreneurs in startups, to encouraging the best and brightest to stay here in America. There are many solutions that will help people succeed and grow the economy. As Americans we care about everyone. We should want everyone to be successful. We want everyone to see the path forward. Now our country faces big challenges. We've always been a county of risk takers and innovators. We need Washington to remember that and to believe in innovation and the kind of innovative excellence and leaders who are here at Michigan. When this happens more people will be moving up the ladder. Victor Frankel, who wrote Mans Search for Meaning, one of the most influential books of the 20th century had a vision that I share. On the east coast of America stands the Statue of Liberty, but on the west coast, said Frankel, should stand a statue of responsibility. In my vision when these two statues join hands the American people create a bridge that stands the whole country. A bridge of opportunity and on the pillars of that bridge, we must erect our ladders, with those who are successful extending their hands to those who wish to climb. It is students like you, the successful leaders of the future who can be the designers and builders of our ladders. It is you who can determine the dimension, the durability and the direction of America's ladders. Each of you will move on from U of M and into the workforce. Many of you will take a risk and earn success. And who knows, some of you might forever change the world like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs did, but as you do, don't forget that we want everyone to be moving upward. As you do, hold out your hands and help pull others up the ladder. Help them move up in school, in your community and in your workplace. That's who we are as Americans. We should all be committed to Americas rising. Thank you very much.
[ Applause and booing ] [ Laughter ]
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
>> My name is Alex Harver and I'm a graduate student of the Ford School and I'm reading a question from the audience. Recently a majority of economists reported that the extreme austerity measures you support would be detrimental to our economic recovery in the near term, while realizing that in the midterm we need to address the deficit. How do you respond to these comments?
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Well, you know, I think the [inaudible] the situation in our country is this, we've got two crisis', we've got a debt -- deficit crisis' that has been in the works and the making for several decades and we've got a jobs and economic growth crisis'. And the goal should be to try and solve each without hurting the other. And so the deficit crisis is caused by annual deficits we're racking up with the federal government that exceed a trillion dollars annually. We cannot continue to sustain that kind of spending because at some point the world investors will stop granting us loans to exist. [Talking in background] So some of the issue is how do we go about trimming the fat that has garnered and grown in Washington without damaging the prospects for growth that I just spoke about. And so we've got to strike the balance. We believe very strongly fiscal prudence is needed right now. And you do that by making sure that reform sets in in Washington. That we don't just continue to allow things to operate the way we are. And we try and do so without taxing those people that we're looking to to create jobs and get economic growth going again.
>> My name is Caroline [inaudible] Francis. I'm also a graduate student at the Ford School. And I'm reading you a question from Twitter. You talked about charter schools as a mechanism for providing stability so that people can move up the economic ladder, but is there a chance that charter schools will become a mechanism for segregation widening the achievement -- widening the achievement gap between those who can move to them and those who cannot.
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: I think where we have seen charter schools succeed most is in areas of social economic challenge and that's where the need is greatest because as I indicated before, people who can afford to move to areas where the public schools are good are going to do so. The problem is we leave behind children who are trapped in failing public schools. So we need some reform to the public school systems for sure in this country. Charter schools have provided to be a great way to effect that kind of reform, and as I indicated evidence across the country seems to be that parents are signing up, because they want what's best for their children. And so I don't believe that the data is there, certainly we always want to guard against a potential outcome such as you suggest, but I think the evidence is pretty strong that charter schools in many areas of the country offers the only hope for children to receive that quality education. Yeah, I'm a big fan of the public school system. All three of my children attended public school system all the way through K through 12 and now, one here at the University of Michigan, one at the University of Virginia. I've got another still in public school systems in Virginia. So if it can be a public school, great. If not, we ought not look over those kids who desperately need our help.
>> My name is Maureen [inaudible] and I'm also a graduate student at the Ford School Public Policy. Last Thursday, the Bertelsmann Foundation Germany issued a report on social justice in 31 OECD countries. The United States ranked 27th on the list. We ranked 28th in income and quality and the bottom third on key indicators of equal opportunity. The study notes that social justice economic performances are by no means mutually exclusive. Northern Europe -- Northern European countries in particular demonstrate that the opposite is true. This study paints a very different picture of the American dream that you have presented. It would appear that the American dream is alive and well, but living in Scandinavia. What role does the pursuit of social justice play in your party's efforts to confront the economic and budget crisis facing our country?
[ Applause ]
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Social justice is about fairness. Fairness is making sure that we afford opportunity for everyone to pursue their happiness and again, I see there's a lot -- there's several folks who have stood up to say tax the rich, that that's somehow fair. And again, I spoke to this just early saying that many people today, including some of our elected leaders, think that some on the top of the income scale have made enough. And that all we have to is redistribute that wealth and we're going to create the American dream for more. I think economic data would indicate that doesn't work. Something else is amiss. And what I would say is amiss is the fact that we don't have enough jobs and opportunity for the middle class in this country. And we need to focus on how we return to where we can allow for wealth to be distributed, but it's not by having government take from one and give to another because that's not going to work. We need to make sure the rules are the same for everybody. We need to make sure that the concentration of power and the ability to allocate capital coming out of Washington is limited, because we've seen the dangers of allowing Washington to pick winners and losers. The government's role in this country is one to ensure equality of opportunity. That means certainty of rules and their application. That means more opportunity for all, not necessarily equal outcomes. And again, I spoke earlier about the fact that all of us don't start in the same place and the proper role for government is to identify those who are struggling and to allow them a better sense of stability so they can get back on that track to pursuing their happiness through earning their success. That's what this country is about.
[ Applause and cheers ]
>> Between 1981 and 1993 Republican administration has tripled the debt and between '01 and '09 Republicans doubled the debt, as well. Why should we trust a Republican administration now?
[ Applause ]
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Well, I don't -- I don't want to miss the opportunity to at least put the facts out there and the incurrence of debt over the last three years, far exceeds, that which was incurred over the periods you mentioned. But let's -- let's not go about blaming, because there's enough blame to go around on all sides.
>> We blame you. We blame you.
[ People in audience speaking at once ]
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Let's -- again, to be...
[ Woman yelling from crowd ]
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: ...again, to be constructive -- to be constructive here is the goal [applause], right? So if we're going to solve problems -- if we're going to solve problems we all have to accept the fact, that there's too much spending and yes, too much spending on the Republican administrations, too much spending on the Democratic administration. [Man yelling from crowd] Too much spending on our Democratic control Congress, too much spending on the Republican controlled Congress before, but things have changed now. The urgency is upon us. We can no longer afford to incur trillion dollar deficits off into the future. [Applause] And that's the math does not lie. We cannot -- we cannot afford [man yelling in crowd] -- we cannot afford to continue this route, which is again why as you've seen a Republican majority in the House has insisted that we begin -- that we begin to turn the corner and to begin to solve problems rather than, continue to kick the can.
[ Applause ]
>> I have a question from our audience. Looking back on your career in public service, would you please discuss one instance where you have experienced that you have learned a lesson from?
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Well, I think any of the parents here can agree with me, you learn lessons every day as a parent, but, you know listen we have -- we have instances that throughout the Legislative process where you have to continue to be able to look towards the future and you need everyone to help solve the problem. And the Legislative body that means in Congress you've got 435 people that you need to work with. And I think probably the most recent and probably topical lessons that we're learning right now, has to do with the debt ceiling debate. And what has come through over the last eight or nine months throughout that debate is there's a real divide in Washington. The two sides really don't see eye to eye as to how to correct the problem on the deficit and frankly, we don't see eye to eye on how to grow the economy. So it's really taxes and the issue of the deficit caused largely by healthcare entitlement that we can't yet come together on, but what I've learned throughout this process is, there is a tremendous amount of progress that can be made sort of in the middle. If we begin to try and set aside differences. Agree to disagree. Reasonable people can do that. I think that many of us know that's how you conduct your life. That's how you conduct your business. I love to say my wife of 22 years is here with me, and believe me we've learned how to raise a family coming as two different individuals to this unit of ours as a household. Agreeing to disagree every day, but yet, being able to move forward with the ultimate goal of providing a constructive and stable environment for our children. That's how it's done. And the same can be learned in Washington and as we face the challenges that we -- that are upon us with the debt ceiling deadlines, and the necessity for us to curb spending and to grow the economy, we can deliver on that.
>> How do you reconcile your position state's rights and the Constitution with your support of the Defense of Marriage Act?
[ Applause ]
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: So I've always been very straight forward about this. I just believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman [booing and yelling from the crowd] so I, you know, I think obviously a very controversial subject, but something that I believe in and obviously there's a lot of others who perhaps feel differently.
>> I'm gay enough for my family. Is he in your bedroom?
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Well, I would again say that we all, no matter what we are, who we are, what the background in the country should allow for equal opportunity to earn the success that we're after. That's what this country is about and I think that's where we all need to stay focused.
>> Again, from the audience.
>> Answer the question.
[ People from crowd speaking at once ]
>> States in some cases, localities have flexibility in how they administer income support and workforce development programs. What are some examples of programs that you think embody the ideals that you talked about in your speech?
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Well, one of the issues that we're confronting right now is how to deal with 14 million plus people unemployed. And in fact, there are four million people in this country equal to the size of the population of Kentucky that have unemployed for over a year. So it's a huge issue. And how do we deal with unemployment benefits in that environment by helping promote access to a job because I don't think people really want just an unemployment check they want a job. And so how do we relate some of the federal benefit program to getting a job. And there are some states out there, Georgia for one who has a program called Georgia Works. And there is sort of a hybrid situation where an individual can have some type of apprenticeship or a position while also receiving benefits under an unemployment benefits program. Again, this is exactly I think the direction that we need to go. The kind of felicity that was taken advantage of in Georgia that perhaps we can see on the national level. And it's really a place where both sides can agree. When the President addressed Congress a few months ago, he actually mentioned some progress that we can make together on the unemployment benefits program.
[ Applause ]
>> I'm John Chamberlain member of the board school faculty. You spoke a few moments ago about working in the middle and I wonder if you could tell us what the middle looks like to you, in terms of coping with the cost of healthcare, the availability of healthcare, where do you see there to be work that both parties can engage in and what does the future look like?
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: Sure. Well, I think when you talk about the middle and healthcare. We all start with the notion that we care about people's healthcare. I mean no one wants anyone to be sick, but it happens and we want to try and provide a solution to that. So we do need to be able to afford as a country the social safety net that's there for the people who can't afford it or take care of themselves, and that's a priority. How we get there means we've got to have an affordable delivery system while at the same time allowing for access to most of us who are enjoying the world's best healthcare in the world -- in the world's best healthcare. And I will say it today, even though there are plenty of problems with our system, if you're sick anywhere in the world and you can afford it, you're going to come to America to be cured and to be treated. [People yelling from the crowd] You will come in fact to Ann Arbor to come be treated. So we know we've got a system that's able to produce quality. It's just expensive and too out of reach for too many people. So the middle is about how we can control costs and how we can get to a place where more people can access the program. Unfortunately, the healthcare bill that was passed a year and a half -- two years ago, went in the opposite direction. And the budget folks in Washington have validated that the Patient Protection Act does not do anything to curb costs. [Someone yelling from crowd] And public option would be the worst because what you would have is even more government centered care without the ability for patients and their doctors [someone yelling from the crowd] without patients and their doctors [applause] to be the -- to be the critical decision makers. You don't want -- you don't want third parties deciding for you what best the treatment is. [Several people yelling from crowd] And you want patients -- you don't want insurance companies being the primary decider either that's for sure. [Several people yelling from the crowd] So we can find a middle here. We can all agree that it's patients and their doctors that should be the important piece [someone yelling from the crowd] in building a successful healthcare.
>> Thanks. My name is Phil Potter. I'm an assistant professor at the Ford School of Public Policy. And I had a foreign policy question. You've been a strong supporter of the state of Israel throughout your career, can you tell us do you believe that support for Israel is in the U.S. strategic interest?
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: First of all there is no doubt in my mind that Israel plays a huge role in the strategic security interest of the United States. It is our only democratic ally in a very tough region. And over and again it is demonstrated its will to continue to stand up and fight in the same war, that we're fighting in this country. You know several months ago we observed the ten year anniversary of 9/11. I think that reminds most of us that we are at war. That there is an enemy out there that seeks to destroy everything that we're about. We're about freedom. We're about human progress. We're about rights of minorities, rights of women, freedom of expression, the freedom of the press, transparency of the judiciary, these are the things that we're about. These are the things that Israel is about in a region that does not share those values. In a region that has players with dictators and regimes intent on destroying those us who stand for those values. So from a strategic standpoint Israel is critical and from a moral and values standpoint, American Israel start and end at the same place. And as we go forward, we must through our policies look to see that Israel's security is maintained and its ability to secure its population is inextricably linked to the security of the United States and our interest in that region.
[ Applause ]
>> I have another question from the audience. Why are you in support of reducing or getting rid of Pell grants when they help many middle class college students like myself ^M00:50:54 [ Applause ] ^M00:51:07 get to college?
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: I think the underlying and your direct question allegation I don't know is accurate, but let me just say this. The underlying issue around which Pell grants and other programs are built is the increase in cost of higher education in this country. We need to focus on that. We need to focus on whether that's going to be a priority and certainly I think when we were talking with some of the administration earlier today, the investment in higher education has an infinite return for parents who want their kids to have the critical thinking ability, we'd do anything to try and afford the access to that quality education. And as budgets are squeezed there is nowhere else perhaps for some to turn but to raise tuition. And across the country this is becoming a real problem. And so it's not just Pell grants, it's much larger than that. How do we deal with the situation as it is and put incentives in place for better management, for more efficient use of facilities. There are any number of issues that this university and others deal with to try and accomplish the goal that I think is behind the question, which is to reduce the overall costs to a student so that he or she can have the benefit of a quality education.
[ Applause ]
>> Unfortunately, we're almost out of time and we just have one last question for you from the audience. Do you think the Occupy Wall Street protestors have any legitimate concerns? If so, what are they [cheer from the crowd]?
[ Applause ]
>> Congressman Eric Cantor: All right. Those involved in the Occupy movement are frustrated just like many, many Americans are frustrated right now. And why shouldn't people be frustrated given the ailing economy. And what I've said before is the ire really should be focused toward the policies that have been coming out of Washington that have really provided the platform for a lot of the activity and results that those who are frustrated see. And so with that frustration and again, my message today is let's not pit one against another. Why is it that there is part of this society okay and part of it not okay? That's not who we are in this country. This country is an aspirational country. We are built on the hope that all of us will reach the American dream. And again, it goes to the core I think of my message and that is we shouldn't root for anyone to be torn down. We should encourage, implement policies that allow for wealth mobility, not just for wealth redistribution. It doesn't work. We've seen that. We've seen that in Europe. We've seen that elsewhere in the globe. Simple wealth redistribution to accomplish what we're talking about which is to even out the wealth distribution doesn't work. We want increased wealth mobility and those -- that should be our focus. So again, frustration yes. Ire and hatred towards certain people is not something that is constructive and I don't think is reflective of the majority of American people. Thank you very much.
[ Applause and cheers from crowd ]
>> Congressman Cantor.