VP Mike Pence on inequality, coronavirus relief for states

VP Mike Pence

CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: VP Mike Pence speaks with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” today

WHEN: Today, Friday, June 4, 2020

WHERE: CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street

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Vice President Mike Pence on addressing inequality, coronavirus relief for states

VP Mike Pence on China tensions, whether the White House is worried about inflation

Vice President Pence: Coronavirus recovery aid talks will continue despite big May jobs gains


JIM CRAMER: Well, yeah, we’ve got someone who I think has got his pulse on the situation right now. This market, the Dow up 700 points. Joining us exclusively is VP Mike Pence. Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for coming on “Squawk on the Street.”

VP MIKE PENCE: You bet. Great to be with all of you. And it’s a great day for America.

JIM CRAMER: Well, let’s talk about that. It’s a remarkable number. There is no doubt about it. We were looking for, maybe as much as 20% unemployed. We got 13%. Nice growth. So, we have to ask, first, is the worst over? And second, do you need to do more than you have already done?

VP MIKE PENCE: Well, I really believe that today’s extraordinary economic news where we saw unemployment declined to 13.3%, we saw two and a half million jobs added. It is a tribute to President Donald Trump’s leadership throughout this pandemic. But long before, remember, under this President’s policy of less taxes, less regulation, free and fair trade, unleashing American energy, we created more than 7 million jobs. But the President’s decisive action from January forward, where we suspended all travel from China, the mitigation efforts to put the health of American people first, the more than $3 trillion provided for families and small businesses to see us through this pandemic and the recovery efforts, and then ultimately, the President’s guidelines to states across the country to reopen their economies, is all working. We’re seeing it. It’s remarkable to think that this Jobs Report today was actually from a survey in mid-May, when roughly 50% of small businesses around America were starting to reopen. The U.S. Chamber just did a survey, where they think 80% are reopening. In all of our discussions with Governors, our focus in the month of May, at the Coronavirus Task Force has been to safely reopen America. And this Jobs Report today shows you the American people are stepping up, standing on that strong foundation that President Trump laid. The strong resilient economy, the resilience of the American people, and this recovery begins today.

JIM CRAMER: Well, Mr. Vice President, if that’s the case, do you need to coalesce with the Democrats who would like to have a $3 trillion plan? We know that the bountiful, versus what it was, unemployment claim number, with the additional $600, expires at the end of July. Is it okay to let that expire? Do you need to have talks with the Democrats? Do you need to do something about say, minatory aid packages to cities because of what happened not so long ago, the tragedy in Minneapolis? Are these on the table, or do we just let it run?

VP MIKE PENCE: Well, look, those discussions are ongoing and we’re going to work in good faith to put the interest of American families and American businesses first. But what’s absolutely essential about any additional recovery package is that we have the kind of pro-growth policies that President Trump’s been advancing. Look, we’re going to be there for families to see them through. The President said early on, and I’m sure he’ll reiterate in just a few moments today from the White House, that we’re going to do whatever it takes to get the American people through this pandemic. And we’ve done that. We’ll continue to do that for families and small businesses, particularly businesses that have been severely impacted in our inner cities including businesses that have been subject to rioting and looting, in recent days. But what has to be there, this President believes, is we’ve got to have a payroll tax cut we’ve got to have the kind of pro-growth policies that will continue this economic recovery. You know, the only thing that could slow this economic recovery is if Joe Biden and the Democrats won the election this November and brought about their higher taxes, their war on coal, their Green New Deal and all the policies that President Trump has been pushing back on. And that’s the choice the American people will face in November. But today, what you see is the strength of the American people who have heeded this President’s guidance. We put the health of the country first, the mitigation efforts worked, our recovery and relief plans were in the President’s guidelines to states across the country to reopen America are working. Now all 50 states are reopening their economy. And you see the evidence of that in these numbers today.

JIM CRAMER: All right. I understand the political aspect of that. But I want to stick again with the opening remark and what it means for jobs. Because that’s, I think, fundamental. But this may be the chance, Mr. Vice President, you gave one of the most — speeches I can recall, it was a towering speech in front of the Hudson Institute. It was October 4 of 2018. I know I was concerned our economy might be tweaked to be able to do this. But you said, and it was somewhat prophetic, but I come before you today, because the American people deserve to know that as we speak, Beijing is employing a whole government approach, using political, economic, and military tools as well as propaganda to advance his influence and benefits and interests in the United States. Sir, if you were doing that speech now, would you include the term biological?

VP MIKE PENCE: Well, look. What I said in 2018, the speech that I spoke on behalf of the administration simply articulated President Trump’s leadership from the very beginning. Jim, you’ve talked about this many times. No president in my lifetime has done more to rebalance our trading relationship and to stand up to China’s abuses than President Donald Trump. And you’ve seen that action in in recent days. And when you look at China’s conduct in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it just — it reaffirms the strong stand that President Trump took from very early on in his administration, relative to China.

Now that we see China, you know, extending its authority violating and violating its international agreement relative to Hong Kong, again, it’s just an affirmation. What China did in, in, in keeping from the world. The information that America, and every nation on Earth needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic was, it was a travesty.

That the fact that China’s suspended traveled within China but allowed people to continue to leave the Wuhan area to travel to the United States and around the world.

But again, I just have to tell you that, you know, before there was a single domestic case of community transmission in the United States, the American people can take great comfort in the fact that in late-January President Trump suspended all travel from China.

I can tell you, having been leading the Coronavirus Task Force now over the last three months, that act alone bought us an invaluable amount of time to stand up — on hold of — America’s response that unquestionably, because of the cooperation the American people, because of the leadership in state and local leaders and incredible health care workers, and the leadership of President Trump, we slowed the spread, we flatten the curve, and we saved lives.

But now going forward we’re going to continue to hold China accountable for what they did and what they failed to do, to give the world, the information that we all needed and deserved.

CARL QUINTANILLA: Mr. Vice President, not to get too wonky, but you know, money supply in this country is up 80% annualized in the last few months, as we’ve been trying to respond to the pandemic. If the recovery really does begin today, and I know there’s conflicting views about the direct correlation, but are you worried inflation? Is the White House on guard for inflation?

VP MIKE PENCE: Well, we’re always mindful of inflation. But I must tell you, one of the numbers that our economic team presented to the President earlier this week is savings are up across the country. And, make no mistake about it, the President’s priority from early on in this process was first the health of the American people. It’s why we asked the American people in the middle of March to do extraordinary things, to embrace the guidelines for America, the mitigation, the social distancing. But the second thing was, the President wanted to make sure that the American people, starting with families, had the direct support necessary to make their way through this time that fell upon our nation. And I want to tell you that that the numbers that are coming out today, what we’re hearing in states across the country as Americans are returning to work, I think is a real testament to the decisions that the President made, the bipartisan support that we had for those relief efforts on Capitol Hill, and that’s where we’re going to stay focused in the days ahead, making sure the American people, American businesses, large and small, are able to fully recover and then some. But I do want to tell you, that we’re going to do what needs to be done to bring this economy all the way back. We believe that the real threat to the economic recovery going forward are the policies of Joe Biden, the policies of Democrats in Congress that are already advocating raising taxes, increasing regulation, the Green New Deal, you know, restarting the war on coal. All the opposite direction that laid that solid foundation, President Trump laid that created more than 7 million jobs. That’s the foundation that you see in evidence today, the strength of the American people, the fundamental strengths of this economy, and that’s the path that we’re going to keep this nation on for the rest of this year and for four more years.

DAVID FABER: Mr. Vice President, it’s David Faber. I think the market may have decided that war on coal already. But my question is more to the growing potential disparity between rich and poor in the country. When your administration came into power, you were certainly focused on it. It may very well have been one of the reasons why Donald Trump was elected. You passed a tax cut. You said it would potentially address it. Very much unclear that was the case. And then the pandemic hit. And it does seem as we come out of this pandemic, that one of the effects is going to be to widen the disparity between rich and poor in this country. What policies are you going to put in place to potentially address that? In addition, of course, the social unrest we’re seeing right now, which in part may also be a reflection of that?

VP MIKE PENCE: Well, it’s, look, I’d want to do respectfully is take issue with the premise of your question. When the President cut taxes across the board, when we rolled back regulation, unleashed American energy, we saw unemployment drop across this country, we saw wages rise across this country.

We just came through a period where we have the lowest unemployment ever recorded for African Americans, the lowest unemployment ever recorded for Hispanic Americans, and when I was Governor of the state of Indiana from a manufacturing state, we were always pushing on how we can increase wages.

That was, you all know here on this network, that was the stubborn indicator. But under the President’s leadership and the policies of the last three years, we actually saw wages rising, and then rising most rapidly for hardworking blue-collar Americans.

And so, we were closing the gap with the policies that President Trump put into effect. And I want to assure you that if there’s another phase of recovery efforts, we’re going to make sure we have more pro-growth policies in addition to direct relief for families and businesses, as we put this Coronavirus more and more in the past every day.

But the contrast between the policies this President enacted over the last three and a half years and what Joe Biden and the Democrats are advocating could not be more clear. It was the President’s policies expanding opportunity that we’re seeing wages rise, that we’re Closing that income gap, unemployment at record lows, particularly for minorities and that’s the message we’re going to take to the American people from November 3rd.

DAVID FABER: Right. And now many of those same populations are both on the front lines in terms of the pandemic and also make up a lot of municipal workforces around the country, Mr. Vice President. We’ve had a parade of governors and mayors joining us on CNBC over the last few months, both blue states and red states, and many of them are concerned, given the significant decrease in revenues that they’re seeing as a result of the pandemic and the shutdown.

What, if anything, is the administration willing to do to help those states that potentially have to cut their municipal workforces in order to meet budget shortfalls?

VP MIKE PENCE: Well, one of the things that we did early on, the Treasury Department gave greater flexibility in some of the initial relief funding that we distributed so that it can support payroll for firefighters and police and first responders. But make no mistake about it, the President has expressed a strong openness to another relief bill. We’re speaking with governors. We had our latest conference call with governors across the country this last week.

And I have to tell you, since the day the President tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus, Task Force, he told me it was to be a whole of government approach, but that meant bringing together all of the governors, all of the state governments around the country with the full resources of the federal government. And that’s really been a seamless partnership every step of the way–through the mitigation period, through the relief programs. But also, remember, it was April 15th, a month before today’s survey was taken, that the President directed our team to send to the states guidelines to open up America again.

And so, states could be ready in early May to begin to put those guidelines into practice. And I think the results that you’re seeing today and the fact that in states across the country — now all 50 states are reopening, they took those guidelines and phased approach put them into practice.

But Governor’s around the country know, President Trump and I are ready, willing, and able to work with them to see them through this time. And those expenses directly related to the Coronavirus are, we believe, will be appropriately a part of any additional relief effort. But guys, I’m telling you, the President is very firm and very clear on this. We’re going to help families. We’re going to help small businesses.

And we’re open to helping states with Coronavirus related costs. But President Donald Trump believes to keep this recovery growing in moving we’ve got to have the pro-growth policies that have contributed to the fundamental strength of this economy from the beginning. That includes a payroll tax cut, and we’re going to be rolling our sleeves up and going to work with Democrats on Republicans in Congress to accomplish just that.

JIM CRAMER: Mr. Vice President, I know you’re a historian. So, you might be remembered that 52 years ago, Bobby Kennedy was in Indianapolis, your home state. On the unfortunate moment, when we learned about Dr. King. And he talked about—he quoted Aeschylus and he talked about the idea that out of despair, drop by drop upon the heart, against our will comes wisdom to the awful face of God. And I know you know this. The protesters, what do we tell them? Do we answer into them with what Bobby Kennedy did in honor of Dr. King? Do we say something and do something to meet the hundred and fifty cities where we have protesters, some violent, and I know I don’t regard them as protesters, I’m talking about people, good people, who you and I both know are in the spirit of Dr. King. What do we say to them?

VP MIKE PENCE: Well, Jim, thank you for remembering that Indianapolis was the place that Bobby Kennedy’s historic speech occurred. That was an important moment in the life of the nation. And I must tell you that President Trump and I have been very clear, the death of George Floyd was a tragedy. It is also — it has been heart rending for all of us to watch that video. And the President and I are committed, the Justice Department’s committed to ensure that justice is served. And we stand with our peaceful protesters. We’re listening. But there will be no tolerance for rioting and looting and violence against individuals or law enforcement officers. It is the reason why the President took the strong action that he took. And we are encouraged to see that in in recent days, these, these protests have remained largely peaceful. And we trust that we will continue to see that effort. Since the President called on governors to use their national guard, we went from 17,000 National Guard deployed in states across the country to more than 32,000 as of yesterday. So, we’re, we’re providing for the security of our communities of our businesses, and of peaceful protesters and we’ll continue to do that. But finally, we’re also going to listen. We’re going to we’re going to pray to have ears to hear and have open hearts. I met yesterday with African American leaders here at the White House. I’ll be traveling to a nearby church today. And we really do believe that this is a moment in which we can, as a nation, focus on the challenges that our African American countrymen are facing. And this President, I’m proud to say, enacted policies, we saw the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for African Americans. We passed opportunity zones that have seen 100 billion dollars of capital investment focused on our inner cities. He’s been a champion of educational choice to give families the right to choose where their children go to school. And of course passed the criminal justice reform bill. Those are all policies this President is advanced giving evidence to our determination to lead for every American and the embassy, the prosperity of every American including our brothers and sisters in the African American community. But we’re going to listen, we’re going to, we’re going to have open hearts and we’re gone look for more policies. Because as the President said the night of his election, his determination is to be president for all of the American people. And now as we see, the first shoots, the first strong signs of an economic recovery following the Coronavirus pandemic, I promise you, this President and our entire team, are going to continue to work for the prosperity and wellbeing of every American, regardless of race or creed and color.

JIM CRAMER: Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for joining us on “Squawk on the Street.”

VP MIKE PENCE: Thank you, man.

JIM CRAMER: Okay, cool.

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