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Hey, Cantor, the “Deficit Crisis” Doesn’t Exist

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Eric Cantor is back home from voting a 40th time to overturn "Obamacare," with a pit stop at Fox News where he spouted the latest right-wing talking points about how we have to cut "entitlements" to get the House to fund the government for the next fiscal year because of the "deficit crisis."  But, guess what? There IS no run-away budget deficit. In spite of the do-nothing GOP House of Representatives and the filibuster-loving Senate GOP minority, the deficit is under control. This deficit reduction wasn't done the right way, nor was it done in a way to actually improve government efficiency. Atlantic magazine this month explains just how deficit management was stumbled into, in spite of the Republican-caused gridlock in Washington.

The first step to lowering the deficit was the fiscal-cliff deal the president got Congress to agree to before the first of the year, the deal that raised income tax rates on wealthy Americans. Then, because Congress refused to act to stop a ridiculous sequester that was so extreme no one figured it would happen, another $1 trillion will be lopped off the deficit by the end of the next decade. Those combined actions, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, are sufficient to stabilize the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio. That means the debt is no longer growing faster than the U.S. economy. The deficit crisis is over. As the economy slowly regains momentum after the Great Recession, the improvement in the deficit picture will become even more pronounced.

It's time to declare victory in the deficit war and work to replace the idiotic sequester with more reasonable and sustainable budget constraints. Plus, Congress needs to raise the debt limit and pass a budget. However, Cantor and his tea-poisoned majority in the House now insist that Social Security and Medicare have to be slashed. Since neither one caused the deficit in the first place, it would be foolish to agree to whatever cockamamie scheme Cantor and company have planned to wreck the social safety net for seniors.  

Cantor Breaks Promise as House GOP Stiffs Sandy Victims

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Eastern Virginia Flooded RoadwayEven for House Republicans, who in the face of crisis are always ready to say no to solutions, this is low:
House Republicans abruptly pulled the plug Tuesday night on their promise to take up this week an emergency supplemental disaster aid bill for Northeast states damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The decision is a stunning reversal since just hours before New Jersey lawmakers were preparing for floor debate Wednesday as outlined under a strategy promoted by no less than Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Indeed the Appropriations Committee had gone so far as to file a $27 billion bill Tuesday together with an amendment to be offered by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) seeking an additional $33 billion to match the Senate passed package of last week.

Absent a change of heart, the upshot now is that the Senate bill will die with this Congress on Thursday at noon. And the whole affair is sure to bring back memories of the famous Daily News headline in 1975-"Ford to City: Drop Dead."

To recap: Hurricane Sandy killed at least 105 people in the U.S., including two Virginians, and knocked out power to 8.5 million homes & businesses, including 180,000 here in Virginia. With at least 240 Virginia homes damaged, Gov. Bob McDonnell asked for federal disaster relief. It's not the first time Rep. Cantor has turned his back on disaster victims, including those in his own district. You may recall Rep. Cantor holding Virginia earthquake disaster aid hostage to Tea Party ideology. Cantor also blocked Japanese tsunami aid, claiming Americans are too poor to help suffering people.

Other, more responsible Republicans from states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy are furious with House Republican leadership:

Crazy Train Wreck? Solyndra-Obsessed, Cantor-Backed Stearns Losing Primary

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Rep. Cliff StearnsRep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is one of Congress' craziest members, a birther who's led the GOP's witch hunt on clean energy investments and called for women who have abortions to be thrown in prison. But after last night's primary, it looks like he'll be going from crazy Congressman to crazy private citizen - he's narrowly losing his Republican primary to a local veterinarian named Ted Yoho. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has stood by Stearns through all of his nuttiness. Heckuva job, Eric.

This is usually where I'd copy & paste some trenchant news analysis, but ... no one seems to know quite why Stearns is down by 800 votes. Even the local Gainesville Sun seems to have no idea what happened, other than to speculate Yoho's attacks on Stearns as a corrupt career politician may have worked. But while politicos like to espouse Unified Theories that prove they're Savvy Insiders, it could simply be that in a multiple-candidate, low-turnout primary in the dog days of August, anything can happen.

Yoho is being called a Tea Party candidate, but it's hard to imagine he could get much further right than Stearns, rated more conservative than GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan by the National Journal & called one of Congress' conservative leaders by the American Conservative Union. If you're a sitting Republican member of Congress, you could look at Stearns' likely loss one of two ways: How crazy do you have to be for Tea Party if Stearns may not have been crazy enough? Or, if even Stearns' craziness didn't satisfy the Tea Party, maybe Republicans are better off just doing what they think is right & playing to the middle?

The Search for Virginia’s Budget Surplus

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For three straight years we have heard a consistent theme from the McDonnell team: Virginia has a budget surplus. 2010: $403 million; 2011: $544.8 million; 2012: $129 million. What hasn't been featured is the growing long-term Virginia debt. 2010: added $2.38 billion; 2011: added $1.89 billion; 2012: added billions more?

This isn't the full story either because the finances themselves are wrapped in derivatives of a sort while the state's infrastructure deteriorates more rapidly than can be mitigated by the maintenance dollars dedicated to preserving it. McDonnell shamelessly went to the General Assembly and asked to issue obligations (through the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEE) Bond Program) backed by the promise of a future federal funding stream that is itself threatened by the state's inability to generate transportation revenue and thus the matching funds required to secure the federal funding. Unlike the Governor, we wait anxiously for the 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the full story.

"The Governor's plan to accelerate the sale of previously authorized CPR (Capital Projects Revenue) bonds, issue federally backed direct GARVEEs, and create a Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank is an innovative approach that doesn't saddle Virginians with further tax burdens." - Senator William Wampler (R-Bristol)

"Innovative:" no taxes...for now. At least Senator Wampler was consistent with Republican fiscal lunacy. Republicans would rather take out a second (or is this a third?) mortgage on Virginia's future than to face the fact that they are fiscally incompetent; that philosophy worked so well for Republicans at the national level. And a hint of the unintended consequences of this charade are reflected in the decreased transportation budget for 2013:

“Mudcat” Saunders Calls Out Cantor’s Gutting the STOCK Act

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I liked Dave "Mudcat" Saunders the first time I met him years ago (we won't say how long ago). Mudcat was one of the people who convinced Jim Webb to take on and beat George Allen. He also has been credited with Mark Warner's successful outreach to rural Virginia in his run for the U.S. Senate. This year, Mudcat is a senior adviser to the campaign of Wayne Powell, who is challenging Eric Cantor in the 7th District.

Now, Mudcat and I are pursuing the same story about the dubious career of Eric Cantor, his rise to majority leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, and conflicts of interest in his own family.. A few days ago, I wrote on Blue Virginia about how the office of Eric Cantor had quietly removed a key provision from the STOCK Act, a bill intended to end insider trading by members of Congress, their staffs, and their families. The section in question related to families of those in Congress. Cantor's office moved the section about families to another section of the bill as passed by the House, thus eliminating the requirement for family members to report stock trades.

That little move miraculously exempted Cantor's wife from having to report her stock trades. She makes her living as a financial adviser for very wealthy clients. Like me, Mudcat raises several questions for Cantor to answer for his constituents:

"Mrs. Cantor's investment firm, Alternative Investment Management LLC (AIM), has a hedge fund in the Cayman Islands with assets of $134,570,536. While she is listed as a partner in AIM, Mrs. Cantor is not listed on any SEC filings. This raises two very serious questions. Is somebody trying to hide her name? Is her only job to sell political intelligence?"

Cantor’s Office Sneaks Loophole into Insider Trading Bill

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Dana Bash and CNN have discovered that the new law forbidding members of Congress, their staffs and families from trading on insider information gleaned from their work has a massive loophole, one that was engineered by Eric Cantor and his office. The loophole is reflected in instructions about the bill sent out by the House Ethics Committee, which exempts family members of representatives from any requirement that they report stock transactions over $1,000 within 45 days.

In the Senate, the Ethics Committee released one page of guidelines last month ruling that members, their spouses and dependent children all have to file reports after they make stock or securities trades. The House Ethics Committee disagreed, sending out a memo saying that while House members and aides are covered by the law, their spouses and children aren't covered. It seems that the bill, which originated in the Senate, was quietly changed by shuffling around sections in the House version. Those changes made it into the final law.

When confronted by CNN with the information it had uncovered, Cantor's office admitted it had made changes to the bill when the House took it up, changes that removed the requirement for spouses and children to file these reports. One reason this smells so bad is the fact that Eric Cantor's wife makes a lot of money by advising wealthy clients on investments and by trading herself. (Not to mention that Bob McDonnell named her to head the Virginia Retirement System)

Without the reporting requirement for spouses, all Cantor has to do tell his wife any insider trading information he gets, and she'll be able to secretly make the deal.  

GOP in Congress Votes To Keep Their Privileged Health Care

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There's more that a dollop of selfishness and self-interest in the votes over and over by the Virginia GOP delegation in House of Representatives to repeal what they call "Obamacare." One little noticed and under-reported section of that law requires members of Congress to get their health insurance in the same exchanges as the rest of us. So, they're losing a sweet deal they had arranged for themselves, one unavailable to us.

Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, stated, "House Republicans refuse to admit they voted to give themselves taxpayer-funded, lifetime-guaranteed health care, instead of having the same health care as their constituents."

"Repeal looks like it's worse than anyone would have thought," a Democratic official said. "Not only are Republicans helping their insurance company donors, they're also trying to help themselves."

Right now, members of Congress and their staffs get their health insurance through the same program as other federal employees. That program enables them to keep the same health insurance policy when they retire from Congress. If we keep in mind that people in Congress become eligible for this benefit after five years, I guess it's no surprise that Eric Cantor and his pals keep voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and return to a system they had gamed for their own benefit. After all, they get some great perks.

How Many Jobs Did GOP Clean Energy Obstruction Just Cost Virginia?

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Blow me awayCongressional Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), have been blocking extension of several key clean energy tax credits, investments that represent a tiny fraction of the subsidies received by the oil, gas & nuclear industries over time. And here in Virginia, officials have dragged their feet on encouraging offshore wind and been accused of letting Dominion Virginia Power slow down the process.

Now the GOP's ideological war is having real consequences and costing Virginia jobs at a critical time for the fragile economic recovery. Wind energy giant Gamesa has announced that if the U.S. and Virginia can't commit to wind energy, it can't commit to the U.S., building key new wind prototypes off Spain & Africa instead:

Cantor’s Budget Solution: Tax the Working Poor

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Eric Cantor spoke at a Politico breakfast on April 19 and gave his answer to the budget deficit created by two wars that weren't paid for and by the Bush tax cuts. His solution: tax poor working Americans, the 45% who don't make enough money to pay federal income taxes. (They do, by the way, pay taxes. It is a GOP lie that they don't. They pay Social Security taxes, state income taxes, property taxes - if they can afford a house - sales taxes, gasoline taxes, etc.)

Just when I think bunch of Republicans running the House can't get much worse, Cantor proves me wrong every time.  

Congratulations to Wayne Powell, Best of Luck Against Eric Can’tor!

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Per The Richmonder and 7th CD Democratic candidate David Hunsicker's Facebook page, it appears that Hunsicker is withdrawing and that Wayne Powell will be the Democratic nominee against Eric Can'tor this year.
Memo to all Facebook friends:

I have seen the Delegate numbers from the counties, and it would seem that only a series of both unusual and lucky events could now allow my candidacy to move forward.

So that the various chairs and committees don't have to hold caucuses and a convention with little value, I wish to suspend my campaign for the Democratic nomination for Congress from Virginia's 7th Congressional District.

I am a Democrat first and a candidate second.
Mr. Powell, I wish you well in your efforts to prevail against Eric Cantor.

Yes, this is a strongly "red"-leaning district, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't strongly challenge a horrible Congresscritter like Can'tor. It also doesn't mean that we can't call Can'tor out for his anti-jobs, anti-women, anti-middle-class, anti-worker, anti-environment, 100% pro-corporate and pro-1% agenda. I look forward to Wayne Powell doing just that in coming months!