At Stanford, Cantor told a largely Republican audience the country is at a crossroads.
"Do we want to be a country of people that work for the government or a government that works for people?" asked Cantor.
The Republican leader blamed the Obama administration for stifling new jobs and business growth.
"That's why we are taking up legislation in the House this year, bills that will lessen the regulatory burden on everything from the Internet, to airlines, to energy production, to farming," said Cantor.
And he added government spending must reduced.
"The American people are tightening their belts and Washington should too," said Cantor.
But polls show more Americans think cutting federal spending will cost jobs rather than create them. People lined up outside a job fair in San Mateo Monday thought so too.
"I believe it'll cost jobs. It's already costing jobs now," said Craig Richardson from Oakland.
"I don't think the budget cutting is going to do anything for all of us who are out of work," said Donna Kovac from San Carlos.
"I believe you can't spend money that you don't have and to continue to do so is not a smart policy," said Kevin Klumpp from Fairfield.
Prof. UC Berkeley Robert Reich, from UC Berkeley's Goldman School, was labor secretary under President Clinton.
"Government spending is one of the things that is keeping the economy going. If you pull back on government spending, you've reduced the number of people with jobs, who have government jobs, they don't have money in their pockets to turn around and buy," said Reich.
"You know, it doesn't make any sense for us to think we can spend money from Washington and hire people we can't afford to pay," said Cantor. When asked if this is the time to cut those jobs that are paid for by the government, he said, "Well, you can't afford it right now is the point."
ABC7's political analyst Prof. Bruce Cain said there is a political component to this strategy.
"Given the historical track record, if unemployment goes up, they believe that Barack Obama is going to get most of the blame," said Cain.
On Monday night, Cantor planned to attend a roundtable with leaders of Silicon Valley and heads back to Washington on Tuesday.