Political Correction

Rep. Cantor's Big, Troubling Bet Against The U.S. Economy Is Totally In Character For Him

June 28, 2011 3:51 pm ET - by Alan Pyke

We've been scratching our heads at Political Correction for some time about the counterproductive, shortsighted, and job-destroying economic policies pushed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and the GOP. But part of Cantor's logic is becoming clear: He's placed a pretty big bet, and he needs long-term Treasury bonds to tank if he's going to cash in. Salon's Jonathan Easley explains:

Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, had between $1,000 and $15,000 invested in ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury EFT. The fund aggressively "shorts" long-term U.S. Treasury bonds, meaning that it performs well when U.S. debt is undesirable. (A short is when the trader hopes to profit from the decline in the value of an asset.)

According to his latest financial disclosure statement, which covers the year 2010 and has been publicly available since this spring, Cantor still has up to $15,000 in the same fund. Contacted by Salon this week, Cantor's office gave no indication that the Virginia Republican, who has played a leading role in the debt ceiling negotiations, has divested himself of these holdings since his last filing. Unless an agreement can be reached, the U.S. could begin defaulting on its debt payments on Aug. 2. If that happens and Cantor is still invested in the fund, the value of his holdings would skyrocket.

So Cantor has a personal financial interest in screwing up the nation's credit rating. If you think he's too patriotic, too decent to put his own well-being and stature over the greater good, well, you just don't know Eric Cantor.

He's the guy who didn't take any public action as chair of the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare until September 12, 2001 — when he put out a press release. That record of aloofness on foreign policy and terrorism didn't stop him from giving a fact-free foreign policy speech at the Heritage Foundation to raise his profile, or from holding up 9/11 as a shield against tough questions about the Bush tax cuts.

He's the guy who undercut the commander in chief by promising Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that a GOP House would side with Israel against the White House if need be.

He's the guy who chirped incessantly about strong job growth early this year, crediting it to "#GOPMajority" for political gain despite declaring that "This is clearly President Obama's economy" less than six months after Obama was sworn in.

Usually when a right-wing conservative espouses foolish economic policies, it seems to come from a sincere belief that supply-side ideas will save us. But time and again, Cantor has shown that his naked self-interest will trump logic, intellectual consistency, and public service.

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