THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF LABOR ROBERT REICH AND NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL CHAIR, DR. LAURA TYSON
The Briefing Room
9:51 A.M. EST
SECRETARY REICH: There you are.
Q What else can you say?
SECRETARY REICH: Let me just make a couple of very, very brief points. Since August of 1993 when the President's economic plan was passed, 4.9 million new jobs have been created. Those are 93 percent in the private sector. Now, some people who then predicted that the plan would throw us back into recession --you remember there were some comments that that economic plan would throw us into recession -- they are still apparently discontented with what has happened to the economy. They are offering America a different plan -- one which would take us backwards.
They want to give big tax breaks to the wealthy. They want to finance it out of cuts in everything from school lunches and child nutrition to education and job training and summer jobs. They want to essentially do Robin Hood in rewind -- pick from the pockets of the working Americans and the poor and put it into the purses of the wealthy.
The great American job machine is humming. They want to gum up the works.
Do you have something you want to say?
DR. TYSON: I think what we should do at this point, since you've heard two statements, is perhaps take questions.
Q Mr. Secretary, are you suggesting that the Republicans really are not as interested in the welfare of the country as you are?
SECRETARY REICH: Well, you can draw your own conclusions. This is a remarkable, strong, durable recovery. We've created, as the President said, 6.1 million new jobs. We used to have a jobless recovery when we came in. We had a $4-trillion debt. We have reduced that debt. We've had more than $500 billion of deficit reduction, an additional dollop of deficit reduction now. We have invested in education and job training. We have got the economy moving again.
And yet, they are coming up with a plan that takes money out of education and job training and child nutrition and school lunches and summer jobs, and gives the money in the form of very generous capital gains tax cuts to very wealthy people.
They also have a so-called neutral cost recovery proposal, which over 10 years is going to cost way over $100 billion and essentially eliminate the corporate income tax.
You have to draw your own conclusion as to which party, which plan helps average American workers get ahead.
Q Don't you think Americans made that decision last election when they basically said that they weren't too happy with what the Democrats were doing?
SECRETARY REICH: Laura, would you like to chime in?
DR. TYSON: Look, I think I'm here to interpret numbers results, not election results. I will say one thing. I think Americans have -- we know from the numbers very clearly that there has been a stagnation in median family and household incomes going on in this country for 20 years. We know that the -- all of the gains in income over the past 15 years have gone to the top 20 percent of households.
We have a strategy which is working. It's working, obviously, to create a huge number of new jobs. And we have our Middle Class Bill of Rights, our education and training programs. All of our programs are really designed to deal now with the incomes problem, which remains very important for a majority of the American families.
Q Dr. Tyson, what about the combined problem of this impressive growth in the economy, as well as the weakness of the dollar? Won't that simply encourage the Fed to worry about inflation and go forward and increase interest rates further?
DR. TYSON: Okay, well, let me first say -- make it absolutely clear in my comments today that I am not going to comment on the dollar. The Secretary of the Treasury made a strong statement about the dollar yesterday, and I refer you to that in terms of administration statements on the dollar.
In terms of inflation, I think again, you have to look at the numbers. If you look at the numbers in this employment report, it certainly shows no sign of inflationary pressure coming from the labor cost side. If you look at what's happening to productivity growth, employment compensation growth, average weekly earnings and a number of other indicators, you conclude that there is no cost pressure coming from the labor side. Inflation continues to be very well behaved, modest and stable.
Q Dr. Tyson, this was a surprise, this number was a surprise to almost every analyst. Can you explain why -- where this extra growth came from and can it be sustained from looking at the other economic indicators?
DR. TYSON: Let me say that one should never read too much into a monthly number. A month ago I stood here and said that I thought the January numbers were probably anomalous because of seasonal factors in the underlying data for which we do not have precise and perfect corrections, particularly now that we're dealing with a new unemployment survey. So a month ago, the administration view was that that number might, in fact, have been anomalous.
I think without reading too much into a single month's number, what you see from this -- and from other things like a recent manpower survey, the recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Conference Board survey on consumer confidence -- all of those things suggest that the labor market actually remains in very healthy conditions and that there is continuing momentum for job creation in this economy. So I don't view these numbers as a surprise.
Let me say one other thing in response to your question. There are, however, as you well know, some signs that the economy's growth is moderating and we see that in the most intrasensitive parts of the economy -- in housing and in spending on consumer durables. And one would anticipate that that moderation, which is widely expected, would feed into the economy gradually over time. There's no month-to-month link, a certain link between output growth and employment growth.
SECRETARY REICH: If I could just add one small point, and that is that there are no signs of wage-push inflation. Last month, there was no increase in terms of the private, non-supervisory wages, seasonally adjusted. Now, that is good news if you're worried about inflation. I won't say it's terrific news if you're worried about wages or if you're a wage earner. But we have seen last year, 2.2 percent increase in productivity, and productivity -- wages with regard to non-supervisory workers barely keeping up with productivity.
Q What do you think of Congressman Archer's statement that we want to help the employers in order to help the employees?
SECRETARY REICH: Well, it's hard to tell precisely what context -- but, look, this is the proof of the pudding. I mean, if anybody wants evidence as to what has happened since we have come here and the effects of the President's economic plan, take a good look at this. This is a remarkable, sustained performance. And, again, we do not see inflationary clouds on the horizon.
DR. TYSON: Can I just add one other thing to that? The best way to help employers help American businesses is to put in place the foundations of a sustained period of economic expansion. And that requires the -- we believe that our strategy has put those foundations in place; a strategy to bring the deficit down and keep it going down relative to the size of the economy; a strategy which opens up foreign markets on equitable terms to U.S. businesses; and a strategy which invests in the education and training of our work force. That's what we're doing for the economy. A sound economy is a sound foundation for American employers, and it's good for American employees. It's good for everyone.
Q Secretary Reich, why is the unemployment rate among blacks still in double digits, at, I think, 10.1 percent in this latest report?
SECRETARY REICH: Undoubtedly, in this country, African Americans, Hispanics still have major impediments and still face major impediments to employment. We are seeing -- we have seen traditionally, we continue to see gaps, significant gaps, between the unemployment rates of minorities and the mainstream of Americans -- the majority of Americans.
Q Would you support affirmative action?
Q economic plan will send Mexico into --
SECRETARY REICH: I think it argues certainly for the goals of affirmative action. It argues for a renewed commitment on the part of the private sector and the public sector to eradicate the vestiges of discrimination not only for minorities, but also for women at the work force.
We're going to be unveiling very shortly the results of the Glass Ceiling Commission's work, initiated by Majority Leader Dole and also inspired by Elizabeth Dole. And that Glass Ceiling Commission also shows that at the top reaches of our society, at the top reaches of corporate board rooms, there is a troubling dearth of women and minorities.
Q Can you tell us your opinion of the Mexican economic plan?
MR. MCCURRY: Good time to quit.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 10:00 A.M. EST