Ann Arbor, Michigan — October 31, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Protesters meet Eric Cantor in Ann Arbor on Halloween, hold a “Funeral for the Middle Class”


On Halloween 2011, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor arrived on the campus of the University of Michigan to deliver a speech that was snowed out in February. When he arrived, roughly 200 protesters were there to greet him.

A large banner reading “Cantor works for the 1%, Who will work for the 99%?” was surrounded by gravestones representing the death of the Middle Class and many of social achievements that Republicans are now trying to do away with.

Protesters chanted and held their signs for the many media folks there along with campus drivers and pedestrians.

Before the speech, “Eric Cantor” delivered at eulogy for the Middle Class. Toward the end, he pounds a final nail into the coffin of the American Dream and the Middle Class in America.

A “mourner” during the Funeral for the Middle Class

A ticket was required to attend Cantor’s speech. Those that did not receive one were able to watch the speech on a livestream in another building.

Cantor’s speech was full of typical Republican talking points. In a nod to the 1%, Cantor created a straw man saying that there are many who want to “redistribute their wealth” and that this is the wrong thing to do. What we need, he said, is for the 1% to be generous to the rest of us.

Their are politicians and “others” who want to demonize people who 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. But pitting Americans against one another supplace [sic] 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. We should encourage them to extend their creativity and generosity to help us build the community infrastructure that provides a hand up and a fair shot to those less fortunate like that little nine-year old girl in the inner city.

These groups of innovators are the leaders of companies that create life-saving drugs for our sick parents and children. They take risks like Henry Ford did to create companies that employ our families, our neighbors and our friends.

They are also the social entrepreneurs who support the charter schools, the opportunity scholarships, the private job training programs, the community centers and other elements of community life that provide stability and constructive values to children and their families who struggle.

They are trailblazers like Steve Jobs, a man who started with an idea in his garage and ended up providing iPads and iPhones to millions and changed the world. Job building and community building are what successful people can do.

Through his example, you can see that America needs more than just a jobs plan. We need a “Steve Jobs Plan”. In a Steve Jobs Plan, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat doesn’t matter. In a Steve Jobs Plan, no American, regardless of their condition, believes that they are unable to rise up. And in a Steve Jobs Plan, we don’t believe that those that succeed somehow take away from those still working their way up the ladder. Why? Because those that earn their success not only create good jobs and services that make our lives better, but they give back and help everyone move just a little bit further up the ladder and everybody can win.

So instead of talking about a fair share and spending time trying to push those at the top down, elected leaders in Washington should ensure that everyone has a fair shot and the opportunity to earn success up the ladder. The goal shouldn’t be for everyone to meet in the middle of the ladder. We should want all people to be moving up. And no one should be pulled down.

How do we do that? It cannot simply be about wealth redistribution. You don’t just take from the guy at the top to give to the guy at the bottom and expect our problems to be resolved. […]

We must ensure that the solution to income disparity is increased income mobility. We must give everyone a chance to move up. Stability plus mobility equals agility. And in an agile economy and in an agile society, people are climbing and succeeding. So income mobility is the key…our efforts should be geared to figuring out how to celebrate income mobility.

During Cantor’s speech, those protesters that were unable to get a ticket continued their raucous protest and were clearly audible to those in attendance.

Protesters during Eric Cantor’s speech

After his speech, over a dozen protesters stood up, removed their jackets to reveal shirts with various pro-99% slogans on them and then, one by one, turned their backs to Cantor and remained this way during his entire 30-minute question and answer session.

During the question and answer session, Cantor was asked if he felt the people in the Occupy Wall Street movement had any valid concerns. He repeated the word “Occupy” with an audible sneer then went on to say he understood their frustration but thought they should be directing their ire toward the White House and the Obama administration’s policies.

As I drove home, I passed the Occupy Ann Arbor encampment. It is clear that Eric Cantor does not have any idea whatsoever what these people are protesting.

Occupy Ann Arbor