The pro-Obama group Americans United for Change and other liberal groups and unions--including Occupy Philadelphia--are promising a hearty, less-than-warm welcome to Philadelphia for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who is speaking on Friday at the Wharton School of Business.
The advertised involvement of Occupy Philadelphia could be intriguing because of the timing. It comes less than two weeks after Cantor made headlines by calling the Occupy Wall Street protesters “mobs” during an appearance at a conservative event in Washington. He had said he was “increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and other cities across the country."
Cantor has since backed away some from that characterization, telling Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that more important than his use of the word “mob” is the “growing frustration out there across the country, and it is warranted. Too many people are out of work.” But he has continued to be critical of leaders who have embraced the message that Wall Street is to blame for the country’s economic ills.
Occupy Philadelphia involvement would represent a more politically partisan endeavor than simply protesting Wall Street--it would be a more explicit anti-Republican action. According to Philadelphia newspaper accounts, Occupy Philadelphia has increased in size over three weeks to as many as 304 tents.
Cantor’s scheduled 4:30 p.m. appearance at the University of Pennsylvania is to be part of the Wharton Leadership Lectures series. Would-be attendees are being informed on the Wharton M.B.A. program website that “this lecture may be very crowded, and you are encouraged to arrive early to secure a seat,” but that overflow space in another room will be available.
“Due to the anticipated large attendance, please refrain from bringing any bags or bulky objects into the auditorium," the school's website instructs.
As described on the website, speakers typically give 25- to 35-minute lectures, and students “are asked to consider the thoughts expressed by our speakers and apply them to the leadership theories that they discuss in the classroom.”
Cantor’s office says that he will conduct a question-and-answer session afterward.
Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon said he does not plan to host cocktails and a reception for some undergraduate and M.B.A. students, something most speakers from the business world are encouraged by the school to do.
The topic of the Cantor's speech is "A Fair Shot at the American Dream and Economic Growth." A possible preview may have been provided by the House’s No. 2 Republican on Thursday, when Cantor discussed job growth with business leaders at the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park in Richmond, Va.
According to excerpts released by his office, Cantor told the group that they are an example of how “America does work, free enterprise does work--if we can make it easier for innovators, such as yourselves, to go about pursuing your ideas, because you have the ability to improve health care, to improve safety, to improve lives, to improve efficiency and productivity.”
He added, “At the same time, people realize the benefits of your ideas and your services, and you’re creating a lot of jobs along the way.”
“This is what free markets and free enterprise and the capitalist system that we’re about in America is supposed to do,” Cantor said. "Unfortunately, you’ve listed the NLRB; FDA; EPA; the patent problems; access to capital; research-and-development uncertainty from a tax standpoint; a corporate tax rate that disadvantages you; free-trade impediments--all these things are created by what I believe is an overactive Washington that doesn’t get the true essence of job creation."
On Thursday, Fallon had no comment on the plans announced by several liberal groups and unions for hundreds of protesters to be on hand to greet Cantor’s arrival outside the university’s Huntsman Hall.
The media advisory about the event was sent out by a representative of Americans United for Change.Org, with the title “Hundreds to Rally to Tell Eric Cantor We Want Jobs.” The advisory also describes it as a “protest against Eric Cantor’s outdated belief in the ‘trickle down’ economic theory."
The group Keystone Progress is described as organizing the event, and other participating organizations listed are Occupy Philadelphia, Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Fight for Philly, Progress Now, and AFSCME.
“Hundreds of protesters will welcome GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Friday afternoon when he arrives at the Wharton School of Business to peddle his outdated ‘trickle down’ theory of economics,” states the announcement of the planned protests. It goes on to say, “Cantor thinks that we should let the wealthy figure out how to deal with income disparity.”
“Haven’t we already tried that? That is why we are in this economic crisis,” said Keystone Progress Executive Director Michael Morrill, in an accompanying statement.
According to the advisory, the demonstrators believe that the way to solve economic inequality is not by cutting entitlements for the poor and giving tax breaks to corporations, which shipped 2.4 million jobs overseas last year. Instead, the focus should be on creating American jobs for Americans.