CNBC exclusive: CNBC transcript: Vice President Mike Pence Speaks with CNBC’s Wilfred Frost on “Squawk on the Street” today on the latest jobs report and coronavirus outbreaks
WHEN: Today, Thursday, July 2, 2020
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WHERE: CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street”
The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Vice President Mike Pence and CNBC’s Wilfred Frost on “Squawk on the Street” (M-F 9AM – 11AM) today, Thursday, July 2nd. The following is a link to video from the interview on CNBC.com:
Vice President Mike Pence on latest jobs report and coronavirus outbreaks
WILFRED FROST: Carl, thanks so much. And a very good morning to Vice President Mike Pence who joins us now very good morning to you.
VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Good morning, Wilf. Good to be with you. It’s a great day in America.
FROST: Indeed, Mr. Vice President. As you're suggesting, a very strong jobs number adding 4.8 million jobs, the expectation 2.9. Two months in a row of positive beats in that regard. You must be very pleased.
PENCE: Well, we're very pleased. As the President said this morning this is evidence that the American economy is coming back strong, which is a testament to the resilience and strength of the American people, but it's also a testament unquestionably to the historic steps President Trump took to see our nation through this coronavirus pandemic. The mitigation efforts, the rescue packages. They're all confirmed, today nearly 5 million jobs created and when we look at the number of jobs that were lost initially through this pandemic – at the worst moments some 22 million jobs lost, we've cut that now by a third. 8 million Americans we've lowered that number, unemployment down to 11%. This is a great day for America. And it's a great tribute to the leadership of President Donald Trump.
FROST: Mr. Vice President, the absolute numbers as you're suggesting are very impressive, though that slightly misses the context. You know, unemployment 11.1% nicely down from a near 15% peak, but well above the 3.5% low back in February. I'm sure you'll agree that we're not quite in the moment of real celebration yet. We need a couple more months, like we've just seen before we'll get there, and on that note, I wondered whether you were worried, the spikes we've seen in various cases in certain states in the last couple of weeks might derail this economic recovery.
PENCE: Well, let me say first we couldn't agree more that we're making tremendous progress. Last month, nearly 3 million jobs added. This month nearly 5 million jobs added. But we have a ways to go. But the good news is because of all the policies that President Trump put into effect over the first three years, the foundation of this economy is strong, and I think that's what you're seeing. Certainly, the mitigation efforts, the American people have embraced and continue to embrace and hotspots around the country have had a tremendous effect. Certainly, the rescue packages, but I have to tell you Wilf, the fact that that this President cut taxes, rolled back regulation, fought for free and fair trade, unleashed American energy I think explains a “why now” for two months in a row we've seen strong economic numbers and it's on that strong foundation that we're going to continue to move our nation forward. But to your point about the pandemic, I was in Arizona yesterday, Texas over the weekend, I'll be in Florida later today because the President's instructed us to make sure that in those states that are seeing a rise in coronavirus cases, and particularly a rise in positivity rates, that we want to make sure those states have everything they need. And, again, what I heard yesterday in Arizona, is that because of the steps the President took to reinvent testing – now more than 33 million tests performed across the country – PPE supplies are strong, testing are strong, more therapeutic medicines are available every day. And we're going to stay with these states that are seeing rising cases every step of the way as they continue to take steps to mitigate the expansion of the coronavirus, but we're going to keep opening up America again and have more days just like today.
FROST: Mr. Vice President, when we do see cases spike, there's always a lot of finger pointing as to who's to blame. Sometimes you and the President, sometimes that the respective state governors. But I wonder whether certainly compared to February and March, given that people are much more aware of the virus, much more educated about the virus, whether individual people may need to take more responsibility if they do decide to go out and do things and if they do catch the virus it's really down to them.
PENCE: Well Wilf, I have to tell you I couldn't be more proud of this President's leadership in the coronavirus pandemic. Remember before January was over, he suspended all travel from China, and stood up the White House coronavirus task force. We mobilize not only a whole of America – a whole of government, but a whole of America approach. And the American people for those 45 days to slow the spread made incredible sacrifices. And what we see happening across the Sunbelt today, particularly in four states of California, Arizona Texas and in Florida is really a function of the fact that we're expanding testing, and it may well be that younger Americans began to congregate in settings where the coronavirus was apt to spread. That's why the President and I support efforts by Governor Ducey, Governor Abbott, Governor DeSantis to modify or pause aspects of their reopening. But I must tell you the fact that we're finding that roughly half of all of the new cases across the Sunbelt are younger Americans. It's good news that we know who has it. We can take steps to slow the spread by focusing on encouraging younger Americans to practice social distancing, wear a mask when it's indicated or when social distancing isn't possible. But also it's good news because as we all know younger Americans are much less susceptible to serious outcomes and as we see the fatality rate today is roughly where it was in March, that's a testimony to what all the American people are doing to our healthcare workers, and to the steady progress that we're making. Every day we're one day closer to putting this coronavirus in the past.
FROST: You mentioned wear a mask Mr. Vice President. Why not take the extra step and make that a national directive? That the tradeoff seems so attractive it doesn't take away, much of our experiences as economies reopen and there's such proven benefits on the flip side.
PENCE: Well, I don't think there's a need for a national mandate. The truth is that we're monitoring right now 12 states that have rising cases and rising positivity. And we're fully supporting efforts that the governors are taking, and local health officials are taking to encourage people to practice good hygiene, social distancing. Wear a mask when social distancing is not possible or as indicated by the local circumstances. But the reality is, as you see in these economic numbers today, this economy is coming back strongly because the American people have learned along the way, how we get our country back to work, how we get back to worship and ultimately how we get back to school. Just earlier this week the CDC issued updated guidance on K-12 education on higher education, and we're going to get the kids back to school this fall just every bit as much as this report today shows that America is going back to work.
FROST: Goldman Sachs put out some research this week, Mr. Vice President, saying, “a face mask could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP.” A face mask mandate nationally. Does that sway your argument at all?
PENCE: Well, look, I think the President said yesterday that we support wearing face masks and every time that they're indicated or social distancing is not possible. But I think one of the keys to the historic leadership that President Trump brought to the coronavirus pandemic is we recognize that this pandemic would impact different parts of the country in different ways. And so we formed a partnership with governors across America to make sure they had what they needed, when they needed it. We gave them guidance to practice the kind of mitigation that was appropriate. I mean there are some areas of the country, in fact large areas of the country will, where we have a very low number of cases at all. And so, it's not a one size all approach, whether it be on testing or on supplies. And on mitigation efforts what we want to do is empower governors and local officials to give the guidance to the people in those communities that's most appropriate for their circumstances. But make no mistake about it, what you see today is that America is going back to work, and the American people are finding a way every day to put this coronavirus farther in the past. And our part, we're just going to continue to make sure the states that are seeing rising cases have everything they need to meet this moment for their healthcare workers, for testing, for therapeutics and medicine. And we have every confidence that standing on the solid foundation, building this economy over the last three years, that we're going to continue to see America growing stronger and healthier every day.
FROST: We had Larry Kudlow on CNBC earlier in the week, and he said, or made clear, that the administration position has been that you don't want to extend the extra $600 of unemployment benefit that currently expires at the end of this month. Is that position changing at all? Does the strong number today cement the position?
PENCE: Well I think you've heard the President say we have a real concern about creating an unintended incentive for people to stay on the sidelines in this economy, and that $600 plus up in unemployment – many believe has contributed to that. Now you see these numbers today people are coming off the sidelines, the increase in labor participation is encouraging. But the next rescue package was President Trump has made clear that we're supportive of really needs to focus on growth and getting people back in the workforce, but also growing this economy. That's why we want to deal with issues like a payroll tax cut, which will put money in the pockets of working Americans immediately and make capital available for businesses on an ongoing basis. We think liability protection is critical as businesses adhere to state, local and CDC guidance, that they would be able to do that without fear of an avalanche of lawsuits that would stifle our economy. And all of those policies will be what we look at. But the most important thing is the next rescue package provides support for families and creates the kind of incentives that keep this economy growing strong, as evidenced in the jobs numbers today.
FROST: I totally get that Mr. Vice President. You mentioned the numbers earlier. 22 million jobs lost since March, added back 7.5 million. It's almost certain next month we're not going to add 15 million jobs because there won't be 15 million new jobs available. So what would you say to those people that lost their job in March, through no fault of their own and still didn't have a job, offered to them to go back to, if that extra unemployment benefit expires at the end of the month?
PENCE: Well, I would say to them that we're going to make sure there's unemployment benefits, but whether there's a plus up of that was in the last legislative package is the only thing that's being debated. I mean, look what we want to do with President Trump is determined to do is to be there for families who through no fault of their own have been impacted by this pandemic, to be there for small businesses. I mean, you see the jobs numbers today nearly 5 million jobs created. That's a lot of people that were sidelined and laid off, simply because of this pandemic and we made it possible through paycheck protection for those small businesses to find their way through, to keep people on the payroll and now they're coming all the way back into the workforce. But I want to tell you Wilf, that as we go forward, we're confident that states across the Sunbelt are going to be able to take the kind of steps necessary to stem the tide of rising cases and positivity rates. We're confident that they're going to have the testing and the PPE supplies and medicines to meet that moment. And I think the only long term threat to a vibrant, American economy is the kind of policies that Joe Biden and the democrats are advocating. Where you have a President who built this economy on a foundation of tax cuts and rolling back red tape and unleashing American energy. In Joe Biden, you've got some – even this week in the midst of challenging times in the life of our economy Joe Biden said he was going to raise taxes in America. And we know that their plan his version of the green New Deal crushing the economy through regulations, crushing the American energy economy by banning fracking. All of those policies, I really believe that most Americans know would be exactly the wrong prescription, as we're seeing the American people standing up again and moving this economy for. And that's why President Trump and I are going to fight every day, between now and November 3 to make sure that we get four more years in the White House to bring this economy all the way back, and then some.
FROST: That said, Mr. Vice President, could there be an argument in the future to increase taxes? Sust the stock markets right next to the chart of it, as we speak, it's already experienced its V-shape bounce. The economy is bouncing, but still has a long way to go to complete that V-shape. And, I guess, as we stand, it does look like the virus has hurt and the responses by both government and central banks has hurt the have nots in society more than the haves. Is there any case to increase for example, capital gains taxes on stocks, at some point in the future, given the stocks have risen so much to rebalance things?
PENCE: I think the last thing that you would ever want to do at a time of a growing economy, or for me as a conservative anytime, is to raise taxes on working families or businesses across this country. Look, President Trump has made it clear from the outset of this administration. The key for this nation's future is growth. And from early on the President focused on getting this economy growing again. More than 7 million jobs created in the first three years, wages were rising and rising most rapidly for hardworking blue-collar Americans. And I think as you're seeing this economy coming back, 400,000 jobs created of African Americans. Literally seeing people coming off the sidelines. It should be a strong affirmation that the foundation President Trump laid of less taxes, less regulation, more American energy, free and fair trade is exactly the right prescription. The democrats and Joe Biden, they're laying out their prescription for America, and it's exactly the wrong approach, not just in a time of a pandemic. But it's the opposite of the policies that grew this economy the last three years, and they're going to get this economy growing more than ever before in the next four years.
FROST: Mr. Vice President, I know we're up against the clock. One final question if I may, which is on China. Have they crossed a line past the point of no return of normal relations, if you will, by passing the National Security Law in Hong Kong this week?
PENCE: Well the National Security Law that that China passed and now is imposing on Hong Kong is a betrayal of the international agreement that they signed, and ultimately, it's unacceptable to freedom loving people around the world. And President Trump has made it clear that we're going to be modifying our trading relationship and the trading status with regard to Hong Kong and we're going to continue to speak out on behalf of the people of Hong Kong and on behalf of human rights of people within China. Look, China has a choice to make. They can join the family of nations through, not just economic engagement, but through further political liberalization and human rights or they can continue down this authoritarian path. And what we hope is, as the President has done, he stood strong against China. He stood up by imposing tariffs on China, he's been tougher on China than any president in my lifetime, but all through the while the President has always made it clear that we want a better relationship with China. We want to reset the trading relationship, but we want China to recognize international agreements, to recognize the human dignity of all of their people, and that includes all the people of Hong Kong.
FROST: Mr. Vice President, we thank you for your time today and wish you a very happy Fourth of July weekend.
PENCE: Thank you, Wilf.