House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called for a “Steve Jobs plan” on Friday in an economic speech outlining the Virginia Republican’s views on upward mobility and economic opportunity in the U.S.
“In a Steve Jobs plan, no American -- regardless of their current condition -- believes that they are unable to rise up. And in a Steve Jobs plan, we don’t believe that those who succeed somehow take away from those still working their way up the ladder,” Cantor told an audience at Northwestern University, according to prepared remarks.
The speech took a less political, more personal tone than the Republican leader is known for. Cantor, who is Jewish, used his family’s story as an example of American opportunity and upward mobility. His grandmother fled religious persecution in Eastern Europe, he said, and was able to work hard and thrive in the sometimes unwelcoming American South. Cantor’s father became a success in real estate.
“Each generation is able to get a little further ahead, climbing up the ladder of success in our society. How quickly you move up -- or sometimes down -- should be completely up to you,” Cantor said.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have been battling with President Obama over economic policy for months and have blocked Democrats’ efforts to raise taxes on people who make more than a million dollars a year to pay for the president’s jobs bill. Cantor did not mention Obama or other Democrats by name, though he defended the GOP position.
“There are politicians and others who want to demonize people that have earned success in certain sectors of our society. They claim that these people have now made enough, and haven’t paid their fair share,” Cantor said. “But, pitting Americans against one another tends to deflate the aspirational spirit of our people and fade the American dream. I believe that the most successful among us are positioned to use their talents to help grow our economy and give everyone a hand up the ladder and the dignity of a job.”
The Jobs reference was also a subtle jab at the president. Jobs, an Obama supporter, reportedly was critical of the president’s relationship with big business.
The speech was Cantor’s second attempt at addressing the subject before a university audience.
Cantor canceled a similar speech last week after learning that the University of Pennsylvania’s, Wharton business school had opened the event to the public. Protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street network and other liberal groups had planned to attend.
Friday’s speech at the Kellogg School of Management was invitation-only. Members of the school community were asked to RSVP, and a Northwestern identification card would be required, Kellogg spokeswoman Meg Washburn said.
Cantor was expected to be met by protesters, according to local student paper, The Daily Northwestern.