INTERVIEW: Eric Cantor on the deficit crisis, Social Security

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -  Republicans and Democrats sat together for the State of the Union Address as a sign of unity.  But will solving the deficit problem break them apart?

A new staggering report says this year's deficit will grow to an eye-popping $1.5 trillion dollars. Even Social Security is now running a deficit.

Right at the center of this discussion, local congressman Eric Cantor, of course, the now House Majority Leader, who joined NBC12 on First at Four.

RYAN NOBLES: Thank you for being here, welcome back to First at Four.

ERIC CANTOR: Good to be with you. 

RYAN NOBLES: Let's go back to the State of the Union on Tuesday night. I was there. You sat with local congressman Bobby Scott, a symbolic sign of the hope that everyone can work together on Capitol Hill. How do you turn that symbolism into action?

ERIC CANTOR: Ryan, the State of Union is always a momentous occasion and obviously as we had just experienced as a nation, a very tragic event in Tucson, the tenor of the event itself was much more serious and it did lend itself for individuals on both sides of the aisle to join together, to sit together, and in the president's remarks, he actually echoed the fact that maybe now is the time we can all work together. I'm hopeful that we can take that spirit and try and get to work for the people because, as you know, folks around the Richmond area, throughout Virginia and the country, are in desperate need to see the economy get better.

RYAN NOBLES: And the economy is to side to the budget situation. This new report, we're seeing a $1.5 trillion deficit in Washington, tied to the fact that Social Security is basically going to run out of money within the next 40 years, let's talk about entitlements first. How do you get a handle on Social Security reform? Is it possible, and can you too it by protecting people's benefits?

ERIC CANTOR: Well, we've always said that we're going to do everything possible to cut federal spending and to put us on a path of a sustainable fiscal picture so the economy can get back to track. The entitlement programs, which Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and there's many others, are woefully underfunded and given the demographic trends in this country, will run out of money. So what both sides, Republican and Democrat, have said in the house as well as the president, we need to get to work and try to fix those. Unfortunately, right now, the leader in the senate, Harry Reid has said there's no problem with Social Security, so we're going to have do some convincing, if you will, of the Senate Democratic leader to come along with us and engage in the discussion, but Ryan, I think the discussion on Social Security and Medicare starts with the fact that seniors and those nearing retirement, those 55 and older, have to understand that we're not going to change their benefits.


ERIC CANTOR:  No one is saying that. It says for everyone 54 and younger that we're going to start to have a serious discussion because as the law operates, the benefits that many people are expecting are not going to be there because of the bankrupt nature of these programs.

RYAN NOBLES: And there's really no way we can change, that is there? You can't cut enough from the rest of the non-entitlement budget to make sure that everyone 54 and younger can be guaranteed some sort of benefit after they retire?

ERIC CANTOR: They will have some sort of benefit, there just won't be the benefit that exists now. And so the decision that we have to make as a country is, are we going to restructure for those younger folks, looking to right now start a career and get a job, are we going to try and address the obligations of these programs off into the future? And if we do so in a responsible manner, the younger folks will have the opportunities they want now to go to work, you know, my kids who are in high school and college will be able to look to careers as well as sustain the program for existing seniors and those nearing retirement.

RYAN NOBLES: Monumental task ahead of you sir, so good luck with that and we appreciate you being on, once again.

ERIC CANTOR: Absolutely. Thank you.

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