Cantor’s Curious Contradictions


ouse Minority Whip Eric Cantor is a curious blend of contradictions. Aiming at the anti-government populism stirring about, he wants to be seen as an anti-tax and anti-spending guy. He’s also a Main Street Republican who is very comfortable with the captains of Virginia business at country club luncheons. Plus, he is an excellent fund-raiser.

Once again, these contradictions have come sharply into focus.
Last summer, Cantor, who has complained mightily about President Barack Obama’s stimulus program, was leading the charge for a chunk of the $8 billion Obama had laid out for higher speed rail. Richmond’s captains of industry want to take the train rather than get stuck in hours of Interstate 95 traffic when they have meetings in Washington, you see. Virginia ended up getting a paltry $75 million.
The latest episode of Cantor’s anti-spending schizophrenia involves some $485 million addition that he has so far succeeded in keeping in a $567 billion defense appropriation bill. In a series of delicious ironies, Cantor, believe it or not, wants to use the money to build a military jet engine that even the Pentagon says it doesn’t want.
The engine would be used to power the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter which will be used by the Navy, Air Force and Marines to replace aging, 1970s-era F-15s. F-18s and F-16s. The F-35, worth hundreds of billions in spending over the next several decades, is a remarkably complex machine. Some version have a vertical takeoff capability and have moveable thrusters allowing it to handle spectacular maneuvers.
Lockheed-Martin has the contract to build the jet and has chosen Pratt & Whitney of United Technologies to handle the power plant. The Pentagon is fine with that.
Except for one thing. P&W doesn’t have big facilities in Virginia. Rolls Royce North America does. It has a new headquarters office in Reston and a big $500 million jet engine parts factory complex under construction near Petersburg.
Rolls Royce has teamed with General Electric, a major jet engine manufacturer, to come up with an “alternative” engine for the F-35. Rolls officials argue that having two competing engines will eventually contain costs and make for a better project. The Pentagon wants to save money.
This is where Cantor has become a Main Street Republican again. Although the Prince George County Rolls Royce plant is not in his district (he’s from nearby (Henrico County), Greater Richmond’s captains of industry see the Rolls Royce plant as highly important, if not a salvation for them.
The region has been decimated by the recession far worse than any metro area in the state. As they watch chip-maker Qimonda, retailer Circuit City and real estate financier LandAmerica go belly up and big time financial powerhouses like Wachovia Securities skeedaddle for St. Louis and then get gobbled up by San Fransisco’s Wells Fargo, Richmond’s business elite needs to find alternate jobs for many people.
The Rolls Royce plant will provide 500 high-paying jobs, but plans are bigger still. The idea is to make Richmond a hub of advanced manufacturing by adding aerospace to its mix of chemical and cigarette plants. Former Gov. Tim Kaine was so keen on the idea that Rolls got an incredible package of goodies totaling more than $50 million. The University of Virginia, Virgina Tech and community colleges would all work together through a new center attached to the Rolls Royce plant to train engineers, scientists and highly-skilled blue collar workers.
Sounds good? Sure. But the idea hit rough air. The original plans called for the Rolls plant to make, in part, engine parts for corporate jets, notably a mid-range version made by Dassault.
But, as you recall, during the 2008 financial panic, several high-profile CEOs had the bad form to FLY to Washington in their corporate jets to beg billions in bailouts from Congress. The resulting outrage crashed the market for corporate jets.
So, Rolls Royce had to go back to the drawing board. A lot is in balance. Now they have started construction on one factory to make blades for engines for the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and a couple of late-model Airbuses. A second factory is due to go up next year to make bladed discs for the F-35 that General Electric and Rolls hope to make in Indiana and Ohio.
Cantor’s office says that the Rolls project is worthwhile, helps Virginia jobs and maybe he can cut other projects on the House floor (sort of like a carbon dioxide offset for global warming legislation, I guess). And, there is an argument for having several engine models for combat jets. The F-16 and F-15 both had P&W and GE engines. Even the famed P-51 Mustang of World War II started out with Allison engines but didn’t become legendary until it was outfitted with Merlin engines made by Rolls, no less.
In some ways, it is hard to criticize for Cantor to try to protect a key industry for Virginia. What is hard to take, however, is his posturing for the Tea Baggers and others. Another factoid is that you’ll never read about a story like this in the anti-spending, anti-government Richmond Times-Dispatch where Cantor’s wife serves on the board of the newspaper’s parent firm.
Let’s be honest about things.
Peter Galuszka
PS: Norm Leahy, former BR blogger, posted on this early and deserves recognition.

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13 responses to “Cantor’s Curious Contradictions”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Good post, Peter. The question that comes to mind is: Is DoD opposition due genuine or due to political reasons, i.e., serving the interests of the existing vendor?


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Peter, I fail to see what connection any of this has to the preferred sexual act of a certain group. You lose me there.

  3. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views




  4. Albert Avatar

    I think he is confused by your use of the term Teabagger, which actually refers to one who performs a certain sexual act by inserting something I shall not name here into another person's mouth, not Tea Partiers, to which I believe you mean to refer.

  5. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    I bow to your understanding of sexual activity and my cluelessness.
    So, it is politically incorrect to call the Tea Party, Tea Baggers?
    Please advise


  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Peter. first you post a photo of the woman with the extremely attractive backside and now you are talking about sexual techniques. Dr. Freud could have a field day analyzing your blogging!


  7. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views


    You have no idea!


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    So I take it this won't make it to Eric's YouCut list…..or is it YouBris?

  9. Groveton Avatar

    Not sure how much of a contradiction there is here. The Pentagon (inventor of the $500 toilet seat) wants one airplane engine provider. Once the planes are being built at scale that one builder will have the Prntagon over a barrel. Cantor wants two vendors with the ability to play one against the other if there are problems (and cost overruns) during construction.

    The Pemtagon says having two providers costs more money now. Rolld Royce ssys thst having a choice will lower total cost ownership.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Peter, I am waiting for your auto-biography to hit the market! (Seriously, I suspect you could write some interesting vignettes.)

    A sole-source provider must be under some type of price regulation. Otherwise, two vendors are better, but not as good as three or more. The telecom market has shown that at least three providers in a market are necessary for reasonable competition to develop.


  11. Michael Cecire Avatar
    Michael Cecire

    Um, if you have been following the engine battles, including many defense commentary, you'll know that the current PW F135 was procured on nothing even resembling the modern definition of a competition. For all intents and purposes, its procurement was single source. Whatever Cantor's intentions, I think you'll agree that this is no way for the US to procure its defense equipment – especially when we're talking about an essential component for a plane that will be replacing a large number of the US tacair fleet.

    Also, if you spend time with most anyone in the know, they'll tell you that the F135 was a stopgap and the JSF with the P&W is underpowered. Yes, it will go, but there's a performance issue. The F136, which is actually being designed specifically for the JSF, is seen as strong insurance for such a large project that many DO feel that is needed.

    Let's be clear – when you say that the services don't want the F135, you're mostly talking about brass and bureaucrats – and this is the case after Bob Gates (a boot-centric SecDef if there ever was one) did a rather thorough housecleaning at the Pentagon. And even they are relatively divided. Please do not be so naive to assume that because Cantor is supporting an alternate engine that this must be some nefarious neocon plan. There is a very valid operational, military, and logistical argument to be made (and is being made) to support the F136 alternate engine. Yes, they have their lobbyists, but so do the P&W folks.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Cantor's not just "another big-spending Republican". He's a little more interesting than that.

    One wonders, if the plane is unwanted by the Pentagon, then who does want it, and why would Cantor help? My prediction is that after a half-hearted effort to foist it off on the USAF it will end up being given gratis or at a steep discount to the Israelis. Just Cantor's way of saying "thanks, bros!" His expertise in channeling American taxpayer money to Israel is without peer.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Look at this:

    The F-35 isn't for us, it's for Cantor's masters across the big water. Nothing's too good or too expensive for Israel when the US taxpayer's buying.

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