I was alarmed to hear Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., declare that emergency aid from the destructive Hurricane Irene should be offset by equal amounts of spending cuts. Being mean-spirited, it's also hypocritical. Cantor made no such budget recommendation when Hurricane Gaston hit his home district several years ago.
As Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., noted on a news program recently: "We are the U-N-I-T-E-D States of America. We believe in our government and depend on it when citizens are in need. Government must work, must be effective to make our republic viable."
Are we losing that belief? I don't know how Eric Cantor got elected, but he has no business speaking for anyone about the responsibility of government. Mr. Cantor is probably the worst example of current congressional leaders who have turned sharply to the "right," losing their moral compass. They sell our country to the highest bidder (the Koch brothers and their ilk) and turn the middle class into a population that is living from hand-to-mouth, whose children may not do as well as their parents.
These right-wing ideologues (the current leadership of Congressional Republicans) must be stopped, or we will lose all that is great about our country: a republic with representatives who understand and support government; leadership that supports middle-class workers and their need for good-paying jobs; leaders who are willing to develop and support a strong educational system; and representatives who believe that government can and should address the needs of those who need health care, help and retraining when citizens are unemployed. The measure of a great society is not how well those at the core prosper, but how well society treats those at the edges.
One must ask Mr. Cantor, "Why, when Virginia was on the edge during Irene, did you propose if they couldn't find the money to offset federal expenditures, they could take care of themselves?" He should be ashamed. Cantor eventually backed off, but not before we all looked in the "soul of his right-wing caucus" and saw the ugly ideology that resides there.
I believe in government and business working as partners when appropriate, and government providing oversight to business when needed. These roles are frequently debated politically, and should be. But President Ronald Reagan was wrong when he proclaimed "government is the problem." His anti-government sentiments did damage to our country then; it continues today. Cantor's blunder is mindlessly committing to this right-wing ideology.
The Congressional Republicans are attempting to resurrect Reagan's bankrupt political ideas. Eric Cantor and his right-wing bullies should "exit, down stage, right."
If we don't vote them out, they may destroy the republic.
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.