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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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BLITZER: Unemployment is still very much at an alarming level. But at the same time, we're beginning to see some -- repeat, some positive economic signs trickling in.

What do they mean?

Who gets the credit?

Let's talk about this with Congressman Eric Cantor.

He's a Virginia Republican, the House minority whip.

Good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Congressman.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Nice to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Does the Obama administration deserve some credit, because a year ago or so, the economy seemed to be on the abyss, near depression. Things are a lot better now than it was -- seemed to be then.

CANTOR: Well, Wolf, you know, you can look at the macro numbers -- CBO, others may say GDP looking better but...

BLITZER: There was economic growth in the last quarter.

CANTOR: ...but the bottom line is 10. 2 percent of the work force in this country is unemployed. So most families I know that I talked to when I was at home for Thanksgiving are feeling very insecure about their economic future. That's the reality and that's the prism through which we ought to be looking at this situation in this country.

BLITZER: So is the country economically worse off today than it was a year ago or better off than it was a year ago?

CANTOR: Well, I mean, clearly, there have been over two million jobs lost in this country since the passage of the Democrats' stimulus bill. So for those people who are out of work, it is a lot worse than it was when the year first started.

BLITZER: Because of the economic growth in the third quarter, there probably will be some economic growth in the fort -- fourth quarter, which would suggest to an economist that the recession is over.

Is the recession over?

CANTOR: Again, I'm not an economist. All I can tell you, Wolf, is the families that I represent don't think that things are the way they should be. If you're out of work, there is an economic crisis. In fact, unemployment now is at 10. 2 percent nationally. When we were looking at trying to do something about this back in January, the administration and the majority in Congress says pass a stimulus bill because it will stave off unemployment and we'll keep it from going over 8 percent.

Clearly, that hasn't worked.

So we've got to look at things another way.

BLITZER: Well, the House Democrats, they have an idea that they're floating right now, to use some of that unused TARP money, the money to bail out Wall Street, to use that to start creating jobs and to get some infrastructure projects going.

You're smiling. It -- it sounds like you...

CANTOR: Well...

BLITZER: don't like that idea.

CANTOR: Well, I mean, look, Wolf, when we passed that TARP bill, nobody really wanted to pass that. That was an extraordinary amount of money. And it was passed because we were in an economic emergency. I think most experts said that our capital markets were on the verge of absolute collapse.

And so we did that with the -- with the notion that we were going to get that money paid back to those from whom we borrowed it. That's borrowed money.

BLITZER: Some of the money has been paid back by -- by Goldman Sachs and some of the other big banks. And what they're saying, the money that was paid back, use that to create jobs.

Is that a good idea?

CANTOR: We don't want to create a slush fund here for the political whims of Washington to spend that money. This country is in debt. We ought to be paying off the debt. We ought not be preserving it

BLITZER: So what's the best way, from your perspective, to go out there and reduce unemployment and create jobs?

CANTOR: Right now, the -- the -- the first thing we've got to do is make job creation a priority. And...

BLITZER: All right, so how do you do that?

CANTOR: Well, first of all, I think you've got to ask the question, is why is the president, why is Speaker Pelosi, why are they jetting off to Copenhagen next week to go and promote the Cap-and- Trade Bill, which everyone knows is a job killer?

Why is it that they're bringing...

BLITZER: So what are you proposing, though?

What is the alternative...

CANTOR: Well, first...

BLITZER: If you had your way, to say to the president, here's the best way to go create a million jobs...

CANTOR: First of all...

BLITZER: ...what would you tell him?

CANTOR: First of all, let's relieve the harm. OK, let's stop doing things that inhibit job creation. And that's what's going on right now. You look at the administration, 100 regulations that have a cost of $100 million or more apiece on job creation.

BLITZER: Is there something positive you want them to do, though?

CANTOR: Absolutely. We -- we can right now say we're not going to allow for tax hikes during a period of high unemployment. We can say we'll freeze discretionary spending. That immediately will save this country $53 billion and send a signal that we're getting serious about deficit reduction.

We can talk about reforming the uninsurance employ -- the uninsurance benefit program in this country so we can actually get people who are out of work back to work.

BLITZER: What about cut taxes?

CANTOR: Absolutely we should be cutting taxes. But at this point, we -- we need to make sure that we don't hike taxes. Embedded in the law, as you know, coming next year, are significant tax hikes -- tax hikes on capital formation, individual income tax hikes that are embedded in the law.

BLITZER: Those are the Bush tax cuts, which will lapse unless Congress packs -- pass -- takes action to keep them going. And that's very much up in the air right now.

Congressman, we've got to leave it there.

Thanks very much.

CANTOR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: A carjacking of a senator's daughter in the middle of a very busy urban area -- we're talking about the 22-year-old daughter of Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. She's thrown to the ground as thieves drive off in her SUV. Stand by.

And we're going to show you how the technology in that car actually saved the day and caught the suspects.


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