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On Quora, Eric Cantor Takes Comments on GOP Debt Plan

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, July 20 2011

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Photo: Medill DC / Flickr

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is a pretty controversial guy. A centerpiece in the ongoing fight over the national debt ceiling, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that any forum where he engages the public on that polarizing issue would get flooded by detractors and pumped full of vitriol or ad-hominem attacks.

But the complete opposite has happened. On July 15, the Republican from Virginia posted an answer on Quora to a question related to the debt ceiling — "How can the US debt problem be addressed?" — and, unlike other politicians, left his answer open for comments. Several days after Cantor posted his remarks, they have collected 29 responses, a healthy amount of disagreement, several "thank yous" for being open for comments and, as I check today, just one quasi-attack — a pretty sound repudiation of any fears politicians might have to opening up on that particular forum.

"Near-term spending cuts are necessary to alter the course, but they will not be enough without long-term changes," Cantor writes in a 273-word piece on Quora that references House Republicans' controversial "cap, cut, and balance" plan for the national debt. "Likewise, promises of cuts 10 years from now mean little without a way to enforce them. The only way to truly guarantee delivery from future elected officials is for the Constitution to demand it."

This is probably the first example of Quora seeing use as a place where a politician can float a set of talking points and leave them open to receive direct feedback. The few other politicians currently on Quora have been reticent to open their answers for comment — including Cantor's fellow Republican congressman, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who also joined Quora last week. By opening up for criticism, Cantor — or his staff — seem to have mostly collected a handful of reasoned disagreements with the last Republican debt plan. While he's accepting comments, neither Cantor nor his staff have waded into the fray to respond to them them and haven't posed any follow-up questions.

"While I appreciate the long-term thinking, Mr. Cantor, any and every serious economist knows that you have to balance the budget with both increased taxes AND entitlement reform," the currently top-voted comment to his answer begins.

Another goes straight at tax loopholes for special interests:

Congressman Cantor, your participation on this forum is welcomed and appreciated.

Has any discussion been given to restricting Congress' ability create loopholes for their special interest of choice by creating a flat tax that is applicable to all taxpayers? Or is this considered a dead issue at this point?

It would seem that this would be a part of the discussion on balancing the budget over the long term.

While disagreement is common, attack is rare. I only saw the one:

"This is a perfect example of how elected officials real constituents are not Americans, but corporations," Paul Denlinger, a Ruby programmer and China strategist, writes in response to Cantor, whose campaign committee received about $533,000 in contributions from individuals and political action committees in the securities and investment industry during the last election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org.

"The Americans are just tools to be manipulated to serve corporate means. So why does the US government continue to serve so-called US companies which have registered addresses in the Cayman Island, BVI and other tax havens, while individual Americans don't enjoy such privileges?"

Cantor's staff are pleased with the results and plan on continuing their experiment with Quora. The majority leader had previously posed a question on H-1B visa reform.