I think that being a good host is an important obligation.

And I want to like Eric Cantor. I really do.

The House Majority Leader (R-Va) looks like a nice guy in his official photo. We even have some things in common — glasses and family who came from Eastern Europe early last century.

But Cantor is coming to speak at the Michigan League next Monday, and I have to confess I’m anxious to ask him some questions.

Why, Cantor, did you vote against regulating the subprime mortgage industry after it helped plunge our economy into some pretty major trouble? Things like adjustable-rate mortgages just seem a little shady. I understand your family has been in the real estate business for a while and that you have a big stake in a mortgage brokerage firm. Then there’s the $2 million that banks have put into your campaigns (nothing out of the ordinary these days, I’ll admit). But really, is it worth bringing down the whole housing market again?

Let me share a little more about my family. My dad’s father designed radar systems for guided missile destroyers. My mom’s father worked in a coal mine. Both were union members. During their careers, the U.S. was more prosperous than at any time in our history. Since then, corporate attacks on unions have cut their ranks in half, and the country hasn’t been faring well either. Cantor, you’ve got a zero percent rating from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations — meaning that you’re basically opposed to anything that helps working families. Shouldn’t we be a little scared by that?

And did you really mean it when you said folks to your left were pushing “efforts to incite class warfare?” The private jet business has soared to record-breaking heights. Coach reports that sales of $400 handbags are taking off. Meanwhile, people on the ground are getting laid off, their houses are getting foreclosed and they’re being thrown off public assistance. Sounds like “shock-and-awe” to me, and it’s not coming from Occupy Wall Street.

That reminds me: You described those protesters as “growing mobs” who are “pitting Americans against Americans.” Well, golly! What do you call voting against minimum wage increases while slashing taxes on the rich?

Speaking of “pitting Americans against Americans,” can we talk about your record on gay rights? You’ve voted for allowing job discrimination based on sexual orientation and against enforcing hate crime laws when gays are singled out for persecution. Talking about social harmony when you don’t believe in protections against prejudice just seems a little, well, queer.

Then there’s the planet, which has been a little under the weather lately. You called the reaction to last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill a “hyperbolic fuss.” Seriously? This wasn’t a drop in the bucket. It was 5 million barrels. It contaminated almost 500 miles of coastline. Eleven people died. You do realize that hyperbole means exaggeration, right?

On the other hand, maybe nonchalance towards disasters is just how you roll. When a tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo. in May, you said you wouldn’t support any relief unless Congress cut other programs. As you put it so generously, “(I)f there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental.” Warms the cockles of the heart, doesn’t it?

OK. There’s a lot more I’d like to ask. But I’m hoping that other folks will bring similar questions to your talk on Monday. Just don’t skip out on us, all right? You decided to cancel a talk at the University of Pennsylvania last week when you learned it was open to the public. In fact, it had been open to the public all along, but when the “mobs” got word about it, and turned out to protest, you reconsidered. Maybe you’ll deign to address them this time.

For reference, we’re hosting Cantor at 1 p.m. Monday at the Michigan League. With all due respect to his office, we might want to let him know that our hospitality has its limits. It may be Halloween, and these are pretty terrifying times, but there’s a time to face our fears.

Joel Batterman can be reached at jomba@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *