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Former Labor Sec. touts ‘clear through line’ between U.S. investment bills, jobs

Tom Perez, American Bridge 21st Century co-chair and former Labor Secretary discusses the latest employment data.

Video Transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: All right, for more on today's jobs numbers, we're joined by former Labor Secretary and American Bridge 21st Century co-chair Tom Perez. Nice to see you, sir. I'm sure you just heard--

TOM PEREZ: Good to see you.

DAVE BRIGGS: --our senior columnist Rick Newman say that President Biden will take credit for the jobs numbers. Will he, sir, get any credit for what he's doing?

TOM PEREZ: Well, Joe Biden cares far more about jobs numbers than poll numbers. He cares far more about making sure we get people back to work. And as you've correctly pointed out, the two best years for job growth in over 40 years were last year and the year before, the first two years of the Biden administration. And with all due respect to Rick, I think there's a really clear throughline between the investments that the Democrats and the Biden administration are making, whether it's the Inflation Reduction Act, whether it was the initial American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

We learned the lessons from the Great Recession. I was Labor Secretary during the second term of Obama. The thing that kept me up the most at night was the plight of the long-term unemployed. And the reason we had so many long-term unemployed is that the stimulus package, then, didn't meet the moment. We needed it to be more robust. And we learned that lesson this time around, and people are back at work.

And as to the question of, is this going to sustain, I think the answer is absolutely yes, because the infrastructure bill has barely been implemented. There's more to come on infrastructure. There's more to come on the implementation of the CHIPS Act. There's more to come on the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act. Those bills are about jobs, jobs, jobs. And as you correctly point out, we have seen deceleration in wage growth. And we've seen an even greater deceleration in inflation.

So I think it's really important for the Fed to understand that the drivers that are having them think about further raises, further hikes in interest rates, those drivers were a war, a supply chain disruption, the pandemic. It's not wage growth. We can continue to have great job growth numbers without throwing ourselves into another recession.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, and certainly, these job numbers are very impressive. And like you said, President Biden does have a long list of accomplishments during his first two years in office. I know you're saying he's not focused on the polls, but you've got to start thinking about the polls when you look ahead to 2024. When it comes to the administration, their messaging, what do you think that needs to be on the heels of this very, very strong report?

TOM PEREZ: Well, that's, again, the poll that matters the most was what took place in the midterm elections. And if history is a guide, we should have gotten our butts kicked. And yet, we didn't. And we won because we feel the good candidates. And we were able to make the case to the American people that we're on their side. We're fighting for them. We've got more work to do, but we are making that progress. And I think the results of those midterm elections demonstrate it.

The results also demonstrated that when you field extreme candidates, as the other side has done, candidates that want to cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, I'd like Speaker McCarthy to outline specifically what he wants. They summarily increased the debt ceiling when Donald Trump was President, and now suddenly they're getting religion on this stuff.

So, you know, I think if we continue, and I think the next two years are about implement, implement, inmplement, and then explain to the American people that that $35 a month payment now for your insulin if you're on Medicare used to be 350 bucks or more. That's because of Joe Biden and what he did. That road project that's bringing jobs and alleviating traffic, that's because of Joe Biden. The in-sourcing of chip manufacturing in Arizona that's taking place right now is because of the policies of Joe Biden. We need to be relentless in creating the causal link between improvements in people's lives and things that were done by the federal government.

DAVE BRIGGS: Tom, I got to ask you. I got to ask you. I can't disagree with any of those accomplishments. Do you know how much Biden's approval rating moved despite all those? Zero. It started at 40. It ended at 40. I'm not disagreeing with you. But why hasn't it moved?

TOM PEREZ: Well, again, I think we're a divided nation. I mean, that's-- I don't think I'm giving away a state secret when I say that. But again, those were the numbers at the time of the midterm elections as well. And so if history was a guide, then we should have gotten, to quote Barack Obama, we should have gotten shellacked. And that didn't happen. Elections are not referenda. They are choices.

And when people see the investments that Joe Biden is making in people through the American Rescue Plan, through the bipartisan infrastructure bill, through the Inflation Reduction Act, if you see the progress we made in reducing child poverty with the child care tax credit, if you see the progress we continue to make in addressing climate change, I think people-- and then, again, the issue of a woman's right to choose is an economic issue for mothers and for families. And again, the Republicans are on the wrong side of that.

So I think we have to continue to be relentless in explaining to the American people what we have done. And I agree. I know the polling numbers now. But again, I know what they were in November when we did quite well. And now you have kind of a circular firing squad on the Republican House side where it took them, whatever, 15 votes to get a Speaker. And they're talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare. And I can't believe that they would want to do that because it's wrong, and it would hurt the economy and hurt the people that are most vulnerable.

SEANA SMITH: Tom Perez, we got to leave it there. Thanks so much, as always, for coming on Yahoo Finance. Have a great weekend.

TOM PEREZ: Always a pleasure.