On Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC, CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer and White House economic adviser Gene Sperling debated the merits of President Barack Obama’s economic policy.
Partial transcript as follows:
GREGORY: All right. But– so Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is a Republican from Kentucky, and he said no, you’ve got to stop putting the band-aids on. Here’s what he said recently talking about the economic impact on this policy on those who are out of work.
(Videotape; Fox News; December 8, 2013)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our– in our economy, and it really– while it seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you’re trying to help.
GREGORY: Is that how you view it?
CRAMER: No. I mean, look, that’s that kind of– we’re way past that. I’m surprised that even has come up again. These people need to be able to have food on the table. But the question is, how do we get these people to where the jobs are? Why are we not more focused on not just upward mobility but mobility to where the booms are in this country, and there are booms.
GREGORY: All right. Let’s get to some of the other issues. Look at the unemployment chart. This is a positive stat for the administration as you see unemployment coming down in November 2013 at 7.7 percent. It looks like it will come down further. What gets it to keep coming down? What does it take for companies to go out there and get past their uncertainty and start hiring in 2014?
SPERLING: Well, I think that’s the right question. We have economic momentum, as Jim has said. What are we going to do with that momentum? I think there’s three things. One, we have to provide more economic certainty. The era of threatening defaults has to be over, the era of shutdowns has to be over. Secondly, it’s time for the Republicans to work with the president on the bipartisan opportunities we have for job creation in housing finance reform, in immigration, on manufacturing. The president has put forward a grand bargain on jobs. He has said he would be willing to do corporate tax reform that lowers rates to 28 percent, simplifies taxes for small businesses, but do it together with a major infrastructure investment. Those are things we can work on together. And then finally, you know, we do want to make sure that this recovery leaves no one behind, that we deal with economic inequality, so we have to admit, and we do admit, that the worst legacy of this great recession is the crisis of long-term unemployment.
SPERLING: And as Jim says, we have to hit it on all fronts. Do job creation and work with CEOs, but we’ve got to give them support.
GREGORY: All right. The president also wants to raise the minimum wage. Is that a fight he should win, Jim?
CRAMER: Yes. I mean, look, again, it’s a bit of a distraction. Now remember, Wal-Mart can pay the minimum wage no matter how– how high it goes. The smaller business guy, it actually is a factor. You don’t want to be able to think, I can’t start a business. But I don’t want to get too caught in the weeds here. Minimum wage, these jobless benefits, they do not do anything versus getting people in the states that are desperate for workers. What’s being done to get people to Louisiana, to Texas, to Ohio, to North Dakota, to Pennsylvania, to soon New Mexico, to Montana, these are states that need workers. But no one is helping them get there. Highly paid jobs, 90 thousand dollars for a trucker this year starting. No high school.
GREGORY: So why is there uncertainty? Do you see the unemployment…
GREGORY: Right. Well, so here– that gets to something in your book that I want to put on the screen that I thought was interesting. You write in the book, this book is about getting rich carefully. Washington is writing a serial novel about bankrupting us slowly. So Washington is a factor in whether the economy takes off the way people think it might?
CRAMER: Well, the CEOs, much maligned in this country, I believe, are trying to figure out how to save the most. Now Gene wrote book not that long ago called Pro-Growth Progressive where he believed in globalization. I’m sure he still does. The problem with that is the CEOs are saying, you know what, other than Boeing with the Seattle agreement the other day, let’s just do it in Ireland. Let’s just do it in Asia. You know what, let’s do it in China. They can pollute all they want. There’s no duty. They can import here, the jobs can go over there, because you know what, they have got a very capitalist government. And we have a government that stands in the way. And by the way, I’m saying government, Gene, I’m not saying Democrat, OK?
SPERLING: Yeah. But– but here’s the good news, Jim and David which is that if you look at the Boston Consulting Group, there are now estimates saying that the United States is more competitive for locating jobs and manufacturing than we’ve been in decades. They’re predicting over 50 percent of companies are thinking about re-shoring a job here. A.T. Kearney just estimated that the United States for the first time since 2001 is the number one place for location. And we can increase that momentum by supporting the type of job creation the president has suggested. Tell me that if we were to pass bipartisan immigration reform that would bring in more skilled workers, more stem workers into our economy, if we were to launch a major effort to create jobs and modernize infrastructure, of course that would increase the attractiveness of job location in our country. The one thing I will say is yes, you know, minimum wage is just one piece of the puzzle. But I tell you, for over 10 million Americans, it’s a big piece. We’re a country that believes that if you work full-time, you should not have to raise your children in poverty. But minimum wage workers with two children, some of them do. We can address that. And by the way, right now the minimum wage is at the same real level it was in 1950. You can’t tell me as a country that over 64 years, we can’t have a higher minimum wage that allows more people to work with dignity.
CRAMER: David, don’t you find it interesting that the dogma is now post-Clinton, pro-immigration at a time when we have a much larger supply of labor than we need, and pro free trade. Even though we are supposed to be green house gas oriented, we know where those jobs go. Those jobs leave this country to countries that can pollute all they want. I’ve always wanted to know, why the Democrats didn’t say, you know what, we need the defense against the countries that take our jobs and pollute all over. But we don’t care about that. What we care about is when workers come to this country from other countries they get jobs. Why don’t we care more about our people?
GREGORY: Let me move on and turn the page here with just a matter of remaining time, the stock market. How bullish are you in 2014?
CRAMER: The stock market is about profits and about Washington staying out of the way.
CRAMER: We’ve got Washington off the table for now, we’ve got profits. That is great for the stock market.