Eric Cantor: Govt Must stop ‘Over-Promising”; Dances Around Perry on Social Security

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.,  told reporters today that Washington could help its credibility among Americans if lawmakers stopped promising grand solutions and focused instead on what they could accomplish.

“We have to stop overpromising here,” Cantor declared at an event sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “It’s part of the cycisim that leads to the perception that Washington can’t do anything.

“I just know from my 10 or 11 years in this town that grand bargains, comprehensive deals are very hard to come by and sometimes when they do happen may not produce the best result,” he said, pointing to the health reform law. “I would rather set our sights on a path to make incremental progress toward  addressing the crises before us. And if we are able to manage expectations and stop over-promising and underperforming, I think that we’ll be a lot better off in this country with the prospects of managing the deficit as well as getting us back onto a path of economic growth.”

Cantor said he generally agreed with Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s characterization of Social Security as a sort of Ponzi scheme perpetrated against the American people.

“I think the point the governor was trying to make is that the math doesn’t lie. The numbers don’t add up,” Cantor said. “I think that’s fairly commonplace among people who are looking at the demographics and the actuarial soundness … of Social Security.

“We need to be focused on the fact that people expect the government to live up to its promises, and right now the numbers do not lie. It is an unsustainable model,” he said. “In that regard, I agree, we’ve got to do something to address the problem of Social Security.”

Cantor coupled his thoughts with a more conciliatory tone toward President Obama, who will lay out his own jobs agenda to Congress Thursday night.  Obama travels to Cantor’s hometown of Richmond to begin selling his jobs agenda to the American people. Cantor will be giving a speech of his own in Richmond on Friday.

“There’s been enough rancor,” Cantor said. But he added that  Obama must be willing to negotiate with Republicans and not expect them simply to vote on and pass his jobs plan.

He expressed some support for elements that have been suggested by the White House as included in the president’s jobs plan.

Cantor said extending a partial payroll tax holiday for taxpayers is “not the best way to create an incentive for businesses to create jobs,” but said it would help Americans. He was more optimistic that a similar holiday for businesses could help create jobs.

He said reforming unemployment insurance is one place where Democrats and Republicans could work together and pointed to the Georgia Works program that he and House Speaker John Boehner have pushed. It couples job seekers with employers.

Cantor said he would work with the White House on infrastructure, but he did not sound optimistic about the notion of a special infrastructure bank that many Democrats support.

“I am wary of an infrastructure bank,” Cantor said, because he fears it could turn into a “Fannie and Freddie for roads and bridges.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the troubled government sponsored enterprises that have the implicit backing of the federal government and are behind many of the nation’s home loans. The agencies guarantee or own more than half of the $5 trillion in U.S. mortgage debt.

Cantor said he respected Obama and has been privileged to work with him but made clear that he has preferred past negotiations with Vice President Joe Biden.  Cantor predicted that Obama would lose Cantor’s  home state of Virginia in 2012, despite winning it in 2008.

“Too many people are out of work,” Cantor said, pointing to health reform, Wall Street reform and the stimulus as policies of President Obama’s that have been unpopular in Virginia.

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