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Congressman Cantor's Remarks On The Economy At The Heritage Foundation

Location: Washington, DC

Today, Congressman Eric Cantor (VA-07) delivered the following speech at the Heritage Foundation detailing how economic freedom will lead the United States to a more prosperous future:

I know we all enjoyed the momentous occasion of seeing the President of the United States come to Capitol Hill for the State of the Union address. It's always a treat for the nation. The President said a lot of nice words and shared positive thoughts about going forward, and proposing the possibility that we all work together, which I'm hopeful of. But in my book, actions speak louder than words and I think we will have to see how it is that this President and his Administration are going to carry themselves in light of the current situation in this country and the election we've just been through.

Last year for the first time ever, the United States fell from the ranks of the economically "free" countries of the world as measured by the Index of Economic Freedom. This year our overall score fell again, in large measure because of the increase in government spending.

This is a wake-up call for all of us in our country and for all of us in elected office.

And restoring economic freedom and prosperity is a top priority for our new House Republican Majority.

Today, I don't hesitate to say that we have arrived at a critical moment in American history. We as a nation are at a crossroads.

A host of obstacles have been thrust upon us, calling into question our ability to carry out the mantle of global leadership in the 21st Century. How we respond is the challenge of a generation. It truly will determine what kind of country we will be.

America has always been the land of unparalleled achievement -- where entrepreneurs and small businesses are the engine of the economy, and frankly, the envy of all nations.

The eagerness on the part of the American people to work and to pursue their ideas -- despite the risk that they might fail -- has spawned unprecedented economic growth from which we all benefit.

The resulting prosperity and job creation have benefited us for sure in our country but also has benefited the entire world.

It defines who we are as a people. It represents also our best hope for the future.

Last year, I received a note from a University of Michigan graduate who was living in Kalamazoo, MI, who is now getting his MBA from Stanford. Prior to starting business school, he had spent some time working in England.

He was amazed at how differently entrepreneurs are regarded abroad.

He said, "Starting a business, even if you fail in the process, is a badge of honor for us here in the United States, but in Europe, entrepreneurship is frowned upon, and consequently, the best and the brightest are actually afraid to take a risk."

He goes on to say in his letter, "Many of my European friends are very smart and educated. But when I ask them about their career path, no one ever mentions starting a business."

"They don't think any big new products or businesses will come from the UK in the next 50 years."

That letter had a big impact on me, and it ended with a pointed request from this student. He said, "please, please be careful that our government does not do anything to discourage entrepreneurship and innovation in America."

We all know there is a lot being written today as some are actually asking whether the United States is really losing its competitive edge. And over past year, when I've talked to entrepreneurs around the country, when I meet with people making decisions of where allocate capital and whether to put money to work, they're actually questioning whether it's worth the risk for them to do so here in the U.S.

Why is that?

Because over the last several years, the U.S. marketplace has been increasingly defined by runaway debt, by ever increasing growth-stifling regulations coming out of this town and frankly, an anti-competitive tax structure.

The recent midterm election that we just experienced was about many things: health care, government spending, deficits, lackluster job growth. But above all, I would argue that it was a repudiation of an agenda that responds to these problems by siphoning money away from the private sector -- and therefore reducing opportunity and freedom -- and concentrating the power and resources here in Washington.

For us conservatives, this election represented a golden opportunity to show America a better way forward. We have a second chance to produce first-rate results by applying our commonsense conservative principles.

When you redistribute wealth and impose stringent regulation, it comes at a direct cost to freedom and economic opportunity.

Right now government is growing so large that it is crowding out the private sector.

That is why our first priority in the Majority is to arrest the ever-growing government spending and debt which results -- and ensure that it is not higher taxes which we all must face.

That is why we are intent on removing a dark cloud that has formed over our country and our economy and we are committed to getting our country back on track towards the path of opportunity, responsibility and success.

In short time, it is my hope that this Congress under a Republican Majority will become known as the Cut and Grow Congress. Cut spending and job-impeding regulation and grow private-sector jobs and the economy.

This idea of Cut and Grow can be put into contrast, perhaps with some of what the President said last night and certainly with what some in the White House have been talking about for the past several days. They envision that their Administration to be about "cut and invest," that somehow we have to go about cutting spending so we can "invest' it from Washington somewhere else. Now, all of that gives most of us pause, because using the word "invest" in this town through the prism of the federal government, to me, means more spending.

That's why each day our response in the new Majority is to wake up and ask three questions: One, are our actions focusing on jobs and the economy; two, are our actions focusing on cutting spending; and three, are our actions focusing on shrinking government and thereby protecting and expanding freedom? If our actions do not fall within one of those three lanes, we must ask ourselves: why are we doing it?

During the current fiscal year, we have pledged to return spending to FY 2008 levels or less.

We have many more miles to go, but in our first month we have cut our own budgets by 5 percent in the House.

We have renewed our moratorium on earmarks, eliminating billions of dollars in pork-barrel favors that have always been used to buy members' votes on larger, more wasteful spending packages.

We have implemented new House rules that make it easier for Congress to cut spending and grow the economy. For example, all mandatory spending increases must be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. No more new taxes.

We have moved to repeal the health care bill because it threatens to bankrupt our country and serves as an impediment to job creation. We have already instructed our committees to start work on a replacement and that starts with patient-centered care with an emphasis on lowering cost and affording more flexibility and choice for all Americans.

The coming weeks and months will not be easy. We need to wean America off its dependence on debt, loose monetary policy and government programs -- and we must blaze a new trail rooted in long-term investment, strong businesses, innovation, entrepreneurship and exports.

We must remember that the strength of our republic resides not in a vast government safety net, but in the innovative spirit of our people. Not in our people's desire to take from the government, but in their drive toward self-sufficiency and controlling their own destiny.

My pledge to you today is that we will act to restore America as the freest, most prosperous nation on earth. And we in Congress are going to count on groups like the Heritage Foundation to come forward with your best ideas to help us, to help our country do what it does best -- to innovate, compete and lead in this 21st Century.

No doubt about it, the stakes are very high. But we all must commit ourselves to do all we can to preserve and protect the country we love. That starts with protecting and expanding freedom.

Thank you.

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