Congressman Eric Cantor mouths off

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Suffice it to say that this will not go down as Rep. Eric Cantor’s finest moment. Appearing at Richmond Times-Dispatch “Public Square” healthcare forum, Virginia’s most-photographed congressman was confronted by a Virginia voter with an all-too-common tale of woe: One of her relatives had recently lost her job and her insurance, leaving her without the ability to pay for a much-needed operation to remove some nasty stomach tumors.

Virginia’s most-photographed congressman, Eric Cantor, did not shine at a health-care forum, advising a voter with a healthcare complaint to seek out an “existing government program.” Huh?

Now, Cantor is a high-profile opponent of President Obama’s plan to reform America’s insurance system, so this wasn’t exactly a constituent dilemma that played to his strengths. Still, this was a healthcare event, so one would think that he would have at least prepared some decent talking points.

Instead, Cantor—who has long derided the so-called “public option,” which would allow the government to provide low-cost insurance to the uninsured—advised the woman’s relative to seek out an “existing government program.” And if that didn’t work out, he explained helpfully, “there are programs, there are charitable organizations, there are hospitals here who do provide charity care if…the individual is not eligible for existing programs.” In summation, Cantor casually contradicted the entire Republican party line with one glib sentence: “No one in this country, given who we are, should be sitting without an option.”

Unfortunately, that’s just where a great many Virginians—and Virginia institutions are sitting these days: high and dry, with very few options to be had. Now, we don’t want to poor-mouth our glorious commonwealth too much—after all, it’s not like we’re living in some bankrupt pit of despair like California or Nevada. (In fact, the state unemployment figures have actually been falling as of late—all the way down to a still-fairly-grim 6.5 percent as of July.) But the economic picture sure ain’t pretty. Sales and income tax revenues are way down, and Governor Kaine has announced that he’s planning to plug the resultant $1.3 billion budget hole by firing nearly 600 government employees, closing three prisons and slashing college and university funding.

And lest you forget, the foreclosure crisis is still in full swing, and the transportation budget is such a godawful mess that Virginia’s two gubernatorial hopefuls have been forced to grasp at some electoral live wires to address it: Creigh Deeds has intimated that he might actually be willing to (gasp!) raise taxes, while Bob McDonnell has proposed such controversial measures as offshore drilling and selling Virginia’s much-beloved chain of ABC liquor stores to a private company.

So what’s the answer? Well, if you’re the state tax department, it involves slapping a yellow smiley face imploring “Get Square on Back Taxes” on a bunch of bus shelters and waiting for the revenues to roll in.

That’s right—after previously trying to scare tax cheats with a picture of a guillotine and a freakish, scofflaw-chasing monster, the tax department is hoping to get delinquent taxpayers to pay up with a cheerful, feel-good amnesty period.

Which, come to think of it, isn’t such a terrible idea. In fact, if you happen to be recently unemployed and facing massive medical bills, we strongly suggest that you draw a smiley face on the area that needs surgery, and then walk around until someone offers you a large pile of free money.

Trust us—we guarantee that this will work at least as well as Eric Cantor’s plan.

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