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-- Brad Delong

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Do You Call A Man Who Stands to Profit From His Country's Misfortune?

I call that person a traitor.

What do you call it when a person stands to profit when taking an action that is detrimental to the community and his sworn duty to that community?

I call it conflict of interest.

What do you call it when a person can control events in such a way that he profits directly from influencing the market value of assets he owns?

I call it insider trading.

What do you call a person who does all of this with a single policy stance?

I call him Eric Cantor.

When Eric Cantor shut down debt ceiling negotiations last week, it did more than just rekindle fears that the U.S. government might soon default on its debt obligations -- it also brought him closer to reaping a small financial windfall from his investment in a mutual fund whose performance is directly affected by debt ceiling brinkmanship.

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.

Sure, $15,000 is chump change to a multi-millionaire like Cantor.   But this is not a situation where size counts.  It is a situation where Cantor can control the events, to his advantage - financially as well as politically (he thinks), and to the disadvantage of the entire U.S. economy.

If I thought Cantor was stupid, like the majority of newly-elected tea-party-backed Rethug congresspersons who clearly have no clue what the hell they are doing, this could be shrugged off as insignificant.

But he's smart, cagy, powerful, ruthless, and greed-motivated.  I cut him no slack whatsoever.

We are well and truly screwed, and it's because we have selected lizard-people like Cantor for leadership positions.  The end of this road is the 12th century, and we are well on our way.

H/T to Randi Rhodes.

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