James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:37 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House for your daily briefing. As you know, on Thursday President Obama will travel to Iowa, where he will highlight the latest item on his congressional "To-Do" list, urging Congress to support American jobs and manufacturing in the clean energy sector by passing legislation to extend the production tax credit, and expand the 48C advanced energy manufacturing tax credit.
Today I am joined by Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy, who just concluded a meeting with wind energy developers and supply chain manufacturers, to discuss the value of the PTC and the 48C tax credits to a range of industries, companies and communities, and how we want to work together to ensure that they are passed.
We are also joined by one of those manufacturers, Terry Royer. Terry is CEO of Winergy Drive Systems Corporation, which is headquartered in Elgin, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. Winergy started here in the United States with 11 employees in 2001, assembling and testing gearboxes, a key component inside a wind turbine. Today, Winergy operates two factories in Elgin and has 380 employees. Winergy, and the jobs they have created in Illinois, is an example of what is at stake if Congress fails to act and fails to extend clean energy tax credits.
As you know, as with all the items on the "To-D"” list, this one has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. We certainly expect and hope that it will garner that same support moving forward.
As is the case when I have a guest, what I’d like to do is turn it over to Heather, who will have some remarks; she’ll turn it over to Terry. I’ll call on you for any questions you have for the two of them on this particular issue. You can save for afterward, questions on other issues. Once they leave I’ll be here to take those questions.
And with that, I give you Heather Zichal.
MS. ZICHAL: Thank you. As Jay mentioned, the President recently proposed his "To-Do" list for Congress, which contains a number of key provisions that help create jobs and strengthen our economy. As you know, there’s a key energy provision on that list.
First, the production tax credit, which expires at the end of this year, provides a credit per kilowatt hour for utility scale wind producers. And second, 48C, the Advanced Energy Manufacturers credit, provides a 30 percent credit to manufacturers who invest in capital equipment to make components for clean energy projects in the United States.
Now, what’s true of all the proposals, as Jay said, on the list is that they have historically been supported by both Democrats and Republicans. The President will be in Newton, Iowa on Thursday to visit TPI Composites, a wind manufacturer, where they employ 700 workers. And it demonstrates how important the production tax credit has been not only to the success of their industry but, looking forward, their continued success.
When it comes to the PTC, is has very broad support across the political spectrum. The extension is supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Governors Association, including governors like Brownback and Branstad, as well as Republicans in both the House and the Senate. Just last fall there was a bill introduced in the House to extend the PTC. It has about 100 co-sponsors, 21 of which were Republicans.
Part of why you're seeing real bipartisanship -- bipartisan support is because we've made significant progress over the last few years in building up renewable energy in this country. And it just doesn’t make sense to undo all of that progress, especially because thousands of American jobs across the country would be lost.
Keep in mind where we stand today. Thanks in part to our investments in clean energy, the largest in history, the U.S. has nearly doubled renewable energy generation from wind, solar and geothermal sources since 2008. Generation from wind turbines has increased 27 percent in the last year along, continuing a trend of rapid growth.
Moreover, the administration's combination of tax credits in deployment and manufacturing has helped increase the domestic content of clean energy technologies in recent years. By some industry estimates, domestic content of wind turbines and components has now reached 60 percent, which is up from around 25 percent in 2005. That means more American jobs. In fact, today, the wind industry supports tens of thousands of jobs all across the country.
While these are encouraging trends, it also means that thousands of jobs, including those in the supply chain, are at risk if Congress fails to act on renewing the credits. This isn't guesswork. We know from the past the when the PTC expires, orders of turbines slow, installations drop, and job losses occur.
As Jay mentioned, we just wrapped up a meeting with Secretaries Salazar and Chu and a number of individuals from -- representing the wind industry. We met with developers, those involved in construction and manufacture. I think some of the key takeaways from that meeting I'd like to share with you.
Wind, overall, we heard has made significant progress in terms of cost, reliability and efficiency. This year was a banner year for wind production. But without an extension of the production tax credit, we could see job losses up to 37,000. Some of the direct quotes: "Without a PTC, industry is about to fall of a cliff." Because of the uncertainty, we heard stories about companies refocusing their efforts outside of the United States, taking jobs and investment dollars with them. Another direct quote: "We don’t foresee any projects for 2013 in the United States." And finally, "All of our construction base will be laid off or moved to Canada without the PTC."
So I think these underscore just how important this is. And again, with the history of bipartisanship, we are hopeful that we will be able to work with Congress and get this extension renewed as quickly as possible.
I'd like now to introduce Terry.
MR. ROYER: Thank you, Heather. It's a pleasure to be here today. It's a pleasure for me to be one of the many more than 450 manufacturing companies here in the United States that came about over the last five years because of bipartisan support for the production tax credit. And as a result of that stable tax policy, the industry has had the ability to scale up and to grow and create real manufacturing jobs.
For myself, as a 28-year manufacturing leader, there is no more passion than I have, and that is to create here in the United States, and that it was has happened. As Heather has mentioned, we went from over 20 percent of a wind turbine production being made in the U.S. to more than 65 percent being produced here today. So these are real manufacturing jobs -- jobs like my family had growing up in southeast Iowa many years ago. So for me, as a longtime manufacturing person, the stories about job creation and continuing the work that we’ve started five years.
Four years ago, when the wind industry started to see this boom with this stable tax policy, more than 70 percent of the capacity that came online, this happened in the last four years of the installed base in the United States. So you can see quickly how much the industry has grown, and it’s created more than 75,000 direct jobs and indirect jobs as a result of this growth over these last four years.
So for a company like mine -- again, I’ll reiterate, I’m speaking for more than 450 companies. We started with 11 employees 10 years ago and have more than 380 employees today. But I will tell you, with the uncertainty we’ve already created by not extending the tax credit, my company will be impacted and many of the 480 companies will be impacted. And not only those manufacturing companies, but all those companies -- the diner down the street from my factory, the supply chain that supplies my factory will be impacted as well.
So for me and for all of us, we need to consider the support we have for this legislation and move it forward, because this has created real jobs and can continue to do so into the future.
MR. CARNEY: With that, we’ll take your questions for Terry and Heather. Who would like to start?
Q For all of you maybe, can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing to get congressional support for this, and what sort of reaction you’re getting from them? How likely is it that this will pass?
MS. ZICHAL: Thank you for your question. I think that, as you will hear from the President on Thursday and as you’ve heard from this administration from the very beginning days since we were in office, investing in clean energy is a priority for the President. As I mentioned at the outset, the good thing about this proposal is it has a long history of bipartisan support. It also has the support of NAM, the Chamber and others. So we are working to expand that list of support. We are working hand-in-hand with those in industry that are able to communicate the potential job-loss stories and translate to members that are looking at this question of an extension -- to translate what that means in terms of jobs in their communities and in their home districts. And we are working every day with our legislative team to continue the dialogue with the Hill and find vehicles to move this as quickly as possible.
MR. CARNEY: Jared.
Q Thank you for taking our questions. Do you have an estimate or I guess a timeframe for how long you would need the tax credits in place in terms -- because I’ve heard estimates of two years or four years or six before the industry can kind of be self-sustaining.
MR. ROYER: Sure. One of the things we’ve got to clearly stop doing and that is starting and stopping the production tax credit. If you look over the last four years while we’ve had it, the industry has been able to scale up, the equipment has become more efficient, the cost of a turbine has decreased by more than 30 percent over those four years. So the industry is getting to scale to where it can stand on its own. So the question becomes is, how much longer?
And we believe firmly long term that it can stand on its own. In fact, today, without the tax credit, we’re competitive with everything with exception of natural gas at current prices. However, we all know that natural gas is a commodity that can change.
One of the things I like to always point out when people talk about competition to other forms of energy -- they’re all important. Let me make that point. We need all forms of energy in our portfolio for producing energy. But let me make one thing clear. Wind is not a commodity. The price of wind 10 years from now will not cost any more than it does today. So unlike natural gas, today it’s very inexpensive, but what will it be tomorrow? So clean energy, clean forms of energy, has got to be part of our solution long term.
Q So do you have an estimate?
MR. ROYER: The question is how much longer. One thing that we can’t do is we’ve scaled the industry up this year -- or the last four years -- and we can’t pull the rug out. And that’s what we’re getting ready to do. I think there’s a time horizon -- you know, is it three, four, five years, but after that I think it’s good. If you look at the trajectory we’ve scaled up and the cost that we brought down through the supply chain and the efficiency gained with the turbines, I think we’re in striking distance. But it’s hard to predict. Now, if we had the stopping effect that we’re getting ready to do without the production tax credit, we just kill all that momentum, for sure.
Q Another question for Terry -- Terry, in other testimony, I’ve seen that developers are saying that if they don’t get these tax credits down the pike that they could see production for 2013 -- calendar year 2013 end because if those tax credits aren’t in place soon enough, you won’t be able to make those assessments. Is that something that is sensitive? And I guess -- Heather was saying something about moving to Canada -- your company, are you -- without these tax credits, are you not making anything next year or are you moving to Canada?
MR. ROYER: That’s a very good question. My company is an example of many of the component suppliers to the turbine industry by where -- and you’re right, it is very time sensitive. In fact, that’s why last year, last fall, we really started talking about the extension of this credit now, because it does have an 18-month cycle time when you go from developing the property to get permitting to ordering the equipment to those orders that come to my factory for the gearbox. So it does have a long cycle. So we do expect impact next year without immediate action on this topic.
Q What’s it going to take for your company to expatriate, I guess?
MR. ROYER: You know, again, all the companies like mine in the industry will be impacted and we’ll be making business adjustments accordingly.
MR. CARNEY: Kristen.
Q Sometimes the administration has been hesitant to give specific numbers in terms of job creation or losses. What gives you confidence in the figure that you said, the 37,000 job losses that are a possibility?
MS. ZICHAL: The number that I cited was the number that we heard directly from the industry in our conversations today. And I think as Terry represents, there is certainly job -- there are certainly job opportunities in the clean energy sector, certainly with respect to wind energy there are tens of thousands of jobs because it’s not -- as Terry said, it’s not just about the manufacturers, it’s also about the supply chain and the additional jobs that are created there.
And because of this uncertainty, businesses are forced to make very difficult decisions. One woman in our meeting told us about the first layoff that she’s ever had to make in the 30-year history of their company. So I think the point here is that we know that these are jobs, they’re real jobs, they’re in communities across the country whether it’s in the development or manufacturing side, and we need to continue to support this industry because it’s at a pivotal time.
MR. ROYER: Can I make a follow-up statement on that?
MS. ZICAHL: Sure.
MR. ROYER: And to further answer your question, there is a study that was put out by the American Wind and Energy Association called the Navigate that actually speaks specifically to those statistics, of the 37,000 jobs lost. However, it’s important to look at that study also and see what the growth trajectory can continue to be if we continue on this path with this industry, and what it can mean for further job growth I think is also important to talk about.
Q Do you know what numbers those are?
MR. ROYER: I’d rather not quote that because I may not state it right. But it is in the study and it’s available.
MR. CARNEY: Okay. Thank you both very much for coming, and I’ll continue with the briefing. Heather, Terry, I appreciate it.
Okay. I expect nothing but easy questions today for obvious reasons. (Laughter.)
Q Happy birthday.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you.
Q We're ready for you. (Laughter.)
Q Is “haha” your response?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, it is. So let’s start at the top.
Q Did anybody in high places sing to you today?
MR. CARNEY: I had -- well, my children, in the highest place of all. So -- but other than that, no, and I’m waiting. Come on. (Laughter.)
Q Thanks, Jay. The International Atomic Energy Agency today said that they’d reached a tentative agreement with Iran to get access to scientist sites, documents. Last week you said that Iran needed to show concrete steps to explain what its nuclear program is about. Is this the kind of concrete step that the administration is looking for, and does it suggest that this is the kind of thing that ultimately leads to easing sanctions?
MR. CARNEY: Well, progress is important and we appreciate the Director General’s efforts to conclude an agreement with Iran on the procedural framework to address the international community’s concerns about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
I think it’s important to note that the announcement today is a step forward -- it’s an agreement in principle that represents a step in the right direction. But as we’ve said in the past about the totality of Iran’s obligations and their fulfillment of them, we will make judgments about Iran’s behavior based on actions, not just promises or agreements -- which is not to say that this is not an important step or a useful step. It is. The P5-plus-1 negotiations, as you know, deal with the totality of the international community’s concerns. The IAEA has its specific track that it works on and this is a piece of that, which is certainly significant.
But again, broadly, we judge, and will judge, Iran by its actions. And we are at this stage because, as you know, when the President took office three years ago, three and a half years ago, the world was not unified in its view of Iran. Iran was internally unified in the position it took with regards to its failure to meet its international obligations. That equation has reversed because of the efforts that the United States and our allies and partners on this issue have taken to develop a broad consensus about the fact that the issue here is Iranian behavior -- its refusal to live up to its international obligations, its refusal to take steps thus far to eliminate concerns about its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Iran faces a choice. The regime faces a choice. They can meet their international obligations and rejoin the community of nations, or continue to fail to fulfill their obligations and face significant and harsh consequences, the likes of which we’ve already seen through the unprecedented and comprehensive sanctions regime that has been leveled against Iran.
Q I guess the question is, how adjustable are the sanctions, and does Iran specifically know what it needs to achieve for sanctions to start to peel back?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that the process of discussions within the P5-plus-1 framework is where that kind of -- those kinds of issues will be brought up and litigated. The principle that I talked about at the beginning, however, is the principle that will be applied by the United States and other members of the P5-plus-1, which is that promises are one thing; actions and fulfillment of obligations are another.
We are very clear-eyed about Iranian behavior and what has taken to get us to this point. So we will continue to pressure Tehran, continue to move forward with the sanctions that will be coming online as the year progresses, and we expect those to have the kind of effect on Iran in terms of making it clear to the regime what the price of a continued failure to meet its obligations will mean for that country and for its economy.
But it is also important to note that, as we’ve stated in the past, the first round of negotiations were positive. They produced an opportunity to have a second round tomorrow in Baghdad, and we look for further progress. But we’re not at the stage of negotiating what Iran would get in return for fulfillment of its obligations beyond the general principle, which is they would be able to rejoin the community of nations.
Q Quick question on Colin Powell today. He said he wasn’t ready to back the President, and wondered if the President is disappointed that a big -- a key supporter for him in '08 is not quite there and says he wants to "keep his powder dry."
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, I think that the President's appreciated General Powell's support four years ago. Obviously he had served in numerous -- several Republican administrations; was a self-identified, I believe, Republican. And it's up to him and every American to decide whom they will support going forward.
The President -- the commitments that the President made in terms of national security and domestic policy are commitments that he has worked extremely hard to fulfill in office. I think in the national security realm, which has, I think, particular resonance with General Powell, the President's record has been judged to be exemplary by outside observers and commentators, whether it's taking the fight effectively to al Qaeda, ending the war in Iraq, having a plan to refocus our efforts in Afghanistan and then begin to end that war -- something you heard a lot about over the weekend at NATO -- the rebalancing of our foreign policy towards Asia because of the importance of that region of the world in the 21st century. These are all significant accomplishments that the President has achieved just in the past three-and-a-half years. And he certainly looks forward to discussing that record in the debate that comes as the year progresses.
Q Jay, does the President, the White House expect to get any kind of a political bump out of what happened this weekend and yesterday? A lot of the issues were obviously foreign policy issues, but also have resonance in the campaign.
MR. CARNEY: I think the kind of thing that you -- the kinds of issues that were discussed, both at the G8 and at the NATO summit are matters of international economic growth, as well as U.S. national security and alliance security. These are weighty substantive issues. They're not something that I think most Americans view through a political lens, and they're certainly not something that the President views through a political lens. When it comes to the first basket that was a subject of discussion at the G8 -- the international economy, the measures that Europe has taken and needs to take to address the eurozone crisis -- obviously those have an effect on the American economy, and, therefore, Americans as they cope with their personal economic situation as we emerge from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The President has spoken very clearly about the fact that Europe and instability there remains a headwind to the global economy and therefore the American economy, which only reinforces the need for us in the United States, for the elected officials who were sent here by their constituents to get the work done that the people want, to focus on the things they can get done to help the economy grow and help it create jobs.
And that’s why the President has an agenda that does just that and is filled with items, as we talked about earlier, on the "To-Do" list that have traditionally enjoyed support from both Democrats and Republicans. So we need to act on the things that we can control to help insulate the American economy and the American people from the kinds of headwinds that we’ve experienced in the past and we continue to experience.
Q Outside of Chicago do you get the impression or think that Americans -- have we been paying attention to the summit?
MR. CARNEY: I think Americans care deeply about the issues that were discussed at NATO. For example, the United States has been at war in Afghanistan for more than 10 years. The cost of that war as well as the war that President Obama ended in Iraq have been profound both in terms of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform as well as the financial cost. So the American people I think have a keen interest in this, and they have a keen interest in a policy that is very focused on Afghanistan, that has the support of all of our ISAF and NATO allies, and that contains within it a vision for transferring responsibility for Afghan security to Afghan forces as the United States draws down.
The President has a vision for ending this war responsibly, ending U.S. engagement in this war responsibly, while fulfilling the mission objectives that he laid out after review of a policy, which, as you know, was adrift when he came into office. That situation has changed dramatically, and I think the United States and I think the American people have a great interest in that.
Q Do you think that the G8 statement in sort of linking towards -- or leaning towards growth versus austerity, does that help the President in his similar debate with Republicans?
MR. CARNEY: I think you’re seeing this through -- everything through sort of the political lens or sort of electoral lens, and that’s not how the President views it. I think that these macro issues affect and matter deeply to the American people at a macro level. The need for balance in the approach that European countries take to the eurozone crisis I think is one that is broadly -- is something that is shared by leaders across the region, as well as obviously by the President.
I think most Americans simply want to make sure that their President is working with his European counterparts to advise the Europeans on a way forward for them that creates the kinds of stability in Europe that European leaders clearly want, the European people -- people in these European countries clearly want, and obviously that would be beneficial to our economic growth.
Q The current round of P5-plus-1 talks, does the President see this as the last chance of resolving the issue over Iran’s nuclear program diplomatically, meaning that if they break down at some point with positive results in the first, the second is not so positive?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I wouldn’t want to speculate about specific meetings and the results of -- the turns that may await down the road. The President has made clear that there is a limited period of time here. The window is open, the potential for a diplomatic solution here remains, and it is the best possible solution to this problem.
And that’s why the President has put not only significant U.S. resources into this effort but has rallied the international community in support of this effort -- not just the negotiations but everything that preceded it, which was unifying the international community, creating a consensus about Iranian behavior, creating a broad coalition of nations that have agreed to the most stringent sanctions regime in history -- a regime that has resulted in real impacts on the Iranian economy and the Iranian political situation.
But the President has made clear that this -- there is not an infinite amount of time here for the Iranians to act. That’s why it is so important for them to take seriously these negotiations, to take seriously the opportunity created here for Iran to rejoin the community of nations if the leadership so chooses to.
Q On another matter -- the President has voiced support for the Occupy folks in the past, or at least their goals. Did their actions in Chicago sour his support?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you’re making broad comparisons between different groups. What the President has said in the past is that he has understood the frustrations that Americans have about the failure, in particular, of Wall Street, in some cases to -- well, because obviously Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis that helped precipitate the worst recession since the Great Depression. That is I think, one channel here that he was talking about in the past.
The President addressed the protests in Chicago yesterday in his press conference and commended Chicago for how it carried out the NATO summit, and believes that every leader who attended felt that it was a success.
Let me move around a little bit, then I'll come back. Tommy.
Q Thanks, Jay. Happy birthday, by the way.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you so much.
Q I have two questions. First of all, this morning, Ed Rendell apparently became the latest Democrat to pile on President Obama in defense of Bain capital. I'm wondering if you could tell us just how angry is the President that he's sort of become this -- like a reverse Sister Souljah for every Democrat who wants to score points with private equity?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think the President addressed this yesterday when he was asked about it in the press conference, so I would point you to his words. And I will echo them by simply making the point that the issue here is not whether private equity plays a role in our economy; the issue is what experience do you bring to the presidency.
And the President I think was very clear that the President's job is not just to maximize the profits of a few; it's to look out for all the shareholders in America -- in other words, all American citizens. And that includes -- from top to bottom, that includes the most fortunate among us as well as those who might have been laid off from a company that failed, or in a downsizing or restructure; help making sure that programs are available for job retraining, or to ensure that those Americans have adequate health care.
So it's not -- I think the point that the President made yesterday was very clear. The issue is, if you're -- somebody who aspires to the presidency is saying that the number-one criterion for the job that he has is his experience in business, and that he would bring to the job of the presidency the same approach that he brought to business, it is absolutely appropriate to examine what that would mean in practice, and what that approach would mean. And his point I think yesterday was simply that that is not the approach that he has. And he doesn’t -- I mean, I think it's --
Q But isn't he angry that every Democrat -- I think he addressed --
MR. CARNEY: No. I think he addressed this yesterday. Well, I think "every Democrat" is a gross abuse of the facts, but, yes.
Q My second question was sort of related. Another question I've heard asked a lot about this is, isn't it hypocritical for the President to attack Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital and yet hold fundraisers and take donations from --
MR. CARNEY: No. The issue is -- those folks aren't running for President. They do not believe that their experience in their line of work wholly qualifies them to sit in the Oval Office and be Commander-In-Chief and make the kinds of decisions on the economy that a President must make.
He appreciates support from Americans from every walk of life and from every area of the economy. And as you know -- I'm sure you've reported on it -- the fact of the matter is, the President's support, as demonstrated by contributions, comes demonstrably from small -- people who just contribute a little bit. They are not from huge donors at all. And for more details on that, I'm sure the campaign can help you fill in the blanks.
Q Just to follow on Tommy's question. Why would you conclude, or why would the White House, the President conclude that because Mitt Romney ran his private equity firm a certain way that he would run the country the same way? He's -- Mr. Romney has talked about experience that he has from that. That doesn’t mean that he would then start taking the same actions as President, right? The President took his experience -- didn’t mean he started running the country like a community organizer or like a state senator; he just had experience.
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, but the experience he had as a community organizer and state senator, and then as a United States senator were the experience that he believed helped qualify him for the presidency. He made the case that that record --
Q He didn’t do it as a community organizer; he did it as President. And my only -- my question is, why are you saying that he would run things as --
MR. CARNEY: Well, because the governor himself -- the former governor himself has said as much. He’s not running -- that I can tell -- on his record -- or that you can because he hasn’t -- on his record in Massachusetts. He’s running as a businessman who can do for America what he did in private equity. And I think Americans would expect that that credential deserves some scrutiny. That’s all that’s happening here.
And I think it’s also important to put it in the context of different ideas about how we move the country forward, economically -- what the President’s vision is, both what his record is so far and since the end of the recession, since his policies have kicked in, the creation of more than 4 million private sector jobs, 11 straight quarters of economic growth -- and then compare that to -- and what he would do to continue to invest in education and infrastructure and innovation to ensure that our economy grows, his balanced approach to deficit reduction and dealing with our long-term debt challenges -- and compare that to what Republicans in general, across the board, Republicans who support the Ryan/Republican budget, including the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party and the President’s opponent, what they would do. And what they say they would do is revert to the same policies that were in place in the run-up to the financial and economic collapse, the worst recession any of us -- most of us -- Lester, sorry -- I’ve seen in our lifetimes. (Laughter.) Maybe I’m wrong about that. (Laughter.)
What the Republicans haven’t put forward is an alternative that is any different from the very policies that helped bring about this -- so policies that maximize benefits for the wealthiest Americans and hope that those benefits trickle down to --
MR. CARNEY: No, I will entertain another question -- but trickle down to middle-class Americans are not policies that this President agrees with. He has a different vision. They are also not policies that we need to theorize about because we’ve seen them tried and we saw what happened. We saw middle-class incomes stagnate or decline. We saw the most fortunate and wealthiest Americans see their incomes increase dramatically. And then we saw the whole economy collapse. Not really what you would expect somebody who wants to be President to say he wants to repeat, but there you have it.
Q Okay. So there’s a new ABC News-Washington Post poll in which twice as many people say they are worse off now, under President Obama than say they’re better off. For most people it’s about the same. But I think it’s 30 percent say they’re worse off now, 16 percent say they’re better off. Under the tried and true standard of, are you better off than you were four years ago, does this not give President Obama pause?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that a finding like that needs to be viewed in context, and I’ll explain why.
Q You're going to step back?
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, not that far. The fact is, four years ago today, we were just in the early stages of economic freefall. Unemployment had not yet skyrocketed to the point that it would as a result of the recession. We had not quite gotten to the period where the economy would contract by 9 percent -- nearly 9 percent -- as it did at the end of 2008, where four years ago would be the middle of 2008.
So it is a fact that the worst recession since the Great Depression had not fully blossomed four years ago. But if you look at the same data, most Americans I think agree with the idea that that recession was caused -- its causes predated President Obama taking office. There is no question that most Americans recognize that. It’s a simple fact.
And it is also a fact that if you ask most Americans, do they want to go back to the policies that helped lead to that situation, the answer would be no. And it’s a fact that since President Obama’s policies have taken effect, we’ve seen a reverse of all those trends. We’ve seen economic growth, steadily -- not enough, but steady economic growth. We’ve seen a situation that went from hemorrhaging of 800,000 jobs a month to a situation where we’ve created private sector jobs every month for over two years.
We still have further to travel on this road to recovery, but there is no question that the circumstance we’re in now, economically, and the trajectory that we’re on, economically, is better than the trajectory that this country was on four years ago today.
Q Okay. Just one last quick one. The Romney campaign has put out a web video about Delphi in which workers from that company, who are non-union workers, who feel like they got shafted in the deal that the Obama administration helped put together during that bailout, talk about how they feel like they were victims, and how the Obama administration picked winners and losers and opted to give union personnel a better deal than non-union personnel. Do you have a response to that?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t seen the ad, but I think the President is very proud of the record that he has and those who worked with him on it to help save the automobile industry. I think if that’s a debate that Republicans want to have in the summer and fall, I personally look forward to it.
The fact is, is that every one of those workers at companies like that one and many others across the country would have lost their jobs if General Motors and Chrysler had been allowed to fail and eventually liquidate, which was the only alternative to the action that the President took. It is simply a fact that had that action not been taken, against a lot of the sage advice of both economic and political of a lot of people, those jobs would have been lost and we would no longer have the number-one automaker in the world. We would no longer be in a situation where we are creating manufacturing jobs at a rapid pace for the first time in this country in a long time.
Q The non-union workers who felt --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I haven’t seen this specific ad, but the --
Q But do you know the details of that particular company’s bailout?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t, but just, again, listening to what you say -- I don’t know the details of that particular company’s situation. What I would say is that the alternative to the actions the President took is the loss of all those jobs -- everybody’s job in that industry. The President wasn’t prepared to let that happen. He insisted that companies that received taxpayer support only received it if they took steps to reform themselves and improve the kinds of products that they were producing. That has happened, again, and for that reason GM, Chrysler as well as Ford are stronger now than they’ve been in years.
Q Thank you. On Bain, is the Bain attack not driven in part by concern in the administration and in the campaign that when you look at the national numbers out there, that most Americans think that Romney is better on the economy than the President?
MR. CARNEY: I can just repeat what I said. I would point you to what the President said. Again, citing the President, if someone who is running for President and is, in this case, President Obama’s opponent, is citing as his primary credential, the reason why he should be voted into the White House, his experience in business and that experience is what he did at this particular firm, it certainly bears scrutiny. And that’s what the President was talking about yesterday.
Q But aren’t you trying to undermine the fact that most Americans think that he is stronger on the economy than the President?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, I would say "most Americans" is a -- again, Tom, is a slight exaggeration of the facts. But what we have said when you’ve asked questions about polls showing that Americans still have anxiety about the economy is we completely understand that, and that’s why we have to continue to make sure we're taking steps in May of 2012 to help the economy grow and help it create jobs. Because the hole dug by that terrible recession was very deep and we are still only part of the way out of that hole, and we saw this economy lose 8 million jobs as a result, in part, because of the policies that were in place prior to when President Obama took office. We've now recovered a substantial number of those jobs, but not nearly enough.
And that’s why we have to continue to do everything we can, working with Congress, working in an administration way, to help the economy grow, to help businesses like the one represented here earlier at the briefing grow and hire American workers for manufacturing jobs here in the United States. We need to do all these things to make sure that this economy continues to grow.
Q What is behind Ambassador Crocker's decision to leave Afghanistan early? And what kind of impact do you think this will have on the wind-down there?
MR. CARNEY: The Ambassador, Ambassador Crocker, is leaving for health reasons. And I would point you to the State Department as well as the Ambassador himself for more on that.
As you know, at the President's request Ambassador Crocker came out of retirement to take this post. The President is enormously grateful for that, for Ambassador Crocker's hugely valuable service to this country and his long career in Afghanistan, in Iraq and previous posts. He has done an extraordinary job in this current post, and he has been a key part of the implementation of the President's strategy in Afghanistan. That strategy will continue, obviously. The leadership team is strong, and the President looks forward to the further implementation of his strategy, as we just discussed over the weekend at the NATO summit.
Kate, and then Norah.
Q Has the President spoken with Corey Booker since Sunday? And if not, has anyone in the administration or any campaign officials reach out to him?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any calls to read out. I'm not aware that the President had a conversation like that and I'm not aware of anybody who has spoken to him. I'm not saying they haven't, I just -- I have heard nothing on that.
Q Was there a plan in place for Corey Booker to campaign on the President's behalf? And if so, is that --
MR. CARNEY: Again, the President addressed this. The President cited Mayor Booker's very significant work as mayor; he's done a terrific job. The President believes that. And I think on this issue, the President spoke eloquently about how he views it and why he think it's -- it goes right to the heart of what we fully expect, and you fully expect, and, apparently, the President's opponent expects to be the main subject of the campaign, which is, what is your vision for America's economic future? And is it doubling down on the policies of the past? Is it going backward to an economic policy that envisions not just the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans but even more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; envisions retaining subsidies for oil and gas companies and corporate jets and the like? It envisions voucherizing Medicare, and an overall deficit and debt reduction plan that would result -- because it asks nothing more of the wealthiest -- would ask a huge amount from students and seniors and veterans and the like.
So there's that vision on the one hand, and the President's vision, which is a balanced approach towards deficit and debt reduction; investments in education, innovation, research and development and infrastructure; a situation where we deal with our long-term fiscal challenges by ensuring that everyone gets a fair shot and everybody plays by the same rules. That’s the President's vision and that’s going to be central to the debate this fall.
Q So will Corey Booker, though, be campaigning on his behalf?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the campaign for matters of campaign surrogates.
Q Okay. Does the President think that having been in private equity is a disqualifier for holding the office of the President?
MR. CARNEY: No. No. The President's point is that it is not the -- that private equity is an important part of our economy. The difference -- the issue here is that his likely opponent has made clear that his number-one credential for being President, as he sees it, the one that he is telling the American people is the reason he should be voted into the highest office in the land, is his experience running a financial company. And we know how that has played out -- the policies that are produced from that vision played out in Massachusetts. We know, broadly speaking, how the policies that the Republicans support and the likely nominee supports played out in the first decade of this century.
The President just has a profoundly different view of how we need to move forward. And I think he made a very important point about what a President’s job is. A President’s job is not the job of -- is not the same as being a CEO of a financial firm where your absolute primary objective is to maximize profits for your shareholders and investors. And within the economy, that is a very valuable thing to do, but it is not the same experience -- or the same perspective that the President believes is the best for a President to have when he or she sits in the Oval Office.
Q There has been criticism, though, that there’s been some cherry-picking of some negative examples and there were jobs created by Bain, too. So what’s your response to that? I mean, Sununu said on a conference call today, a Romney conference call, that the Obama campaign is cherry-picking just the negative examples.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I didn’t see that, but I did hear that he also said it was absolutely appropriate to examine that record. If we’re going to get into the specifics of a campaign ad, I really encourage you to talk to the campaign. When it comes to what the President’s vision is, what his perspective is, the things that he said in the press conference yesterday, I’m happy to take your questions. But on the specifics of campaign strategy and the contents of this or other ads, I refer you to the campaign.
Q On contraception, as you know, Catholic institutions are now suing the administration, and they said that the administration is stifling religious freedom by defining who’s exempt from providing contraception. Cardinal Dolan was on CBS this morning and he said that it’s a "straight-jacketing and a hand-cuffing exemption." Any response to Cardinal Dolan’s comments? Is that what the President is doing, is straight-jacking and hand-cuffing religious institutions?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Norah, the administration has worked closely with all communities of faith, including officials from Notre Dame and other Catholic institutions, to hear their concerns and promote the common good. And our doors remain open to faith and community leaders.
As you know, the President -- the policy the President has outlines -- or rather, that he has outlined, meets two important objectives. One, it ensures that women have access to important preventive services, including contraception. Two, it respects religious liberty. Under this policy, no religious university or religious organization will have to pay for or refer for contraceptive services. And no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.
We will continue to work to develop final rules that implement that policy. And as we do, we’ll continue to ensure that millions of American women receive the preventative services that they need.
Q So do you think their suit is meritless?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I can't comment on a specific lawsuit. I can simply tell you what the President’s policy is and remind you that the President has worked with leaders of religious institutions on this issue. He has instructed his team to do that and we’ll continue to do so as we take further steps to implementing this rule.
But let’s be clear. The objective that the President outlined is twofold -- one, ensure that women across America receive these important preventive services, including contraception; and two, respect religious liberty.
The President, as he has reminded you, began his first job in Chicago in a position that was funded in part by Catholic Charities or Catholic institutions. So he is very well aware of the important role that institutions like that play in our society, the fact that they can provide services that can be more helpful than any government program as he has said. He believes strongly in religious liberty and the need to protect it. He also believes strongly in the need to give women access to and provide preventive services that are essential, including contraception. And the policy the President put in place meets those objectives.
Q Thanks, Jay. Is it a failure on the part of the administration that officials weren’t able to secure a deal with Pakistan to reopen its supply routes during the NATO summit?
MR. CARNEY: We continue to work with Pakistan on this issue. We did not anticipate that the supply line issue was going to be resolved prior to the summit. And our teams continue to meet and we’re making diligent progress. We expect this issue to be resolved. We have said that, the government of Pakistan has said that and we expect it to happen.
Q Can you guarantee a successful transition out of Afghanistan without this deal in place? I mean, is this essential to --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would refer you to the Pentagon and ISAF for details on those routes and the role they play in terms of supplying resources to our troops in Afghanistan. The fact is Pakistan says it wants to resolve this; we obviously are interested in resolving it; it will be resolved, we’re confident. We did not anticipate it would be resolved prior to the summit. We are continuing to work towards its resolution.
Q But going back to my original question, does the President see it as essentially a failure? Is he disappointed by the fact --
MR. CARNEY: I think -- how could he be disappointed by -- you’re basically setting up a straw man that says it wasn’t resolved before the summit. I just told you we didn’t expect it to be resolved before the summit --
Q During the summit.
MR. CARNEY: -- or during the summit. He met briefly with President Zardari. There was no expectation for it to be resolved during the summit. This is being worked on diligently by representatives of both governments and we expect them to be resolved.
Q I have an easy question. Can you preview at all the President’s speech tomorrow in front of Air Force cadets, if that’s the right phrase?
MR. CARNEY: At the Air Force Academy? I’m afraid that I will have to leave you filled with anticipation, because I haven’t read the speech yet.
I’ll do one more.
Q Tomorrow, the head of the Secret Service is scheduled to give his first public testimony on misconduct in Cartagena. Does the White House believe in light of the embarrassing nature of the scandal and the fact that it overshadowed the President’s visit there that Mark Sullivan should apologize to the public or to the White House?
MR. CARNEY: The President has addressed this issue on a couple of occasions. He has great faith in the Secret Service, believes the director has done an excellent job. The director moved very quickly to have this matter investigated and took action very quickly as a result of that investigation. I don’t want to anticipate his testimony.
Q One final thing. There is now stories that this issue now encapsulates another agency with the DEA now investigating its own staff for having prostitutes in Cartagena. Does the White House believe that this is like the Secret Service is saying, an isolated case or is there something more to be looked at? Are you comfortable with --
MR. CARNEY: My understanding is the DEA is going to conduct its own investigation, so I would refer you to the DEA.
3:33 P.M. EDT