Sperling cautiously optimistic on economy, offers few hints on budget
February 20th, 2014
11:14 AM ET
7 months ago

Sperling cautiously optimistic on economy, offers few hints on budget

Washington (CNN) - While warning there is much more to be done to get to a healthy economy, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said, "I would still be cautiously optimistic that the general notion is that there are positive trends in the economy."

Sperling said that he believes data that has been coming out about the economy weakening, including slow housing starts, will probably turn out to be weather related. But he did concede that while the economy is on the right track it is, "not good enough," adding that the country "needs stronger growth."


Sperling was a guest Thursday at morning breakfast hosted by Politico. He tackled the budget rollout next month saying the deal would include, "a mix of future mandatory savings and future revenues that could be used to deal with the long term situation but would put less of a drag on the economy now."

He added that President Barack Obama, "has shown he is willing to compromise to achieve that."

He would not say whether that meant the plan would call for tax hikes. He also warned that he has learned that in Washington, until a deal is signed, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

On raising the national minimum wage to $10,10 an hour, Sperling challenged the Congressional Budget Office's assertions that the President's proposal could cost 500,000 low wage workers their jobs.  He cited several studies that looked at neighboring states where one state raised the minimum wage and the other did not. He says the studies conclusively showed that jobs were not lost on either side of the border, and that companies found that the long term benefits of raising wages far outweighed the initial costs.

He said it helped them with greater retention of employees, less absenteeism and not having to pay to hire and train new employees. Sperling said the President's proposal would give raises to 16.5 million workers directly. He pointed to some large corporations which have heeded Obama's call to take unilateral action and already raised or are in the midst of raising their lowest wages to at least $10 an hour, like the Gap and Costco.

Meanwhile Sperling's on again- off again departure from government service is definitely on again. He says he knows his credibility has been "slightly weakened."

But he now says: "March fifth - that is likely the last day," adding, "This time I think it's for real."

He says his exit has been delayed several times because of the President's State of the Union address, and completing the budget deal. Asked whether he would come back to Washington if Hillary Clinton were to move into the White House, he says, "Right now I'm more focused on what my flight to L.A. will be after I leave, than what's gonna happen in the next few years."

But he did leave the door open, saying "Obviously I would always be loyal to President Clinton and Hillary Clinton, but boy that's a long way off."

Sperling has served in his current role at the National Economic Council under both President Obama and previously under President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s.


Filed under: Budget • Economy • Gene Sperling • President Obama
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. salty dog

    Rudy, I fear the schools are next, with similar results, by design of course. Much talk of it in Michigan. They did the same thing with the prisons in Michigan. The Koch brothers are spending big this election for Snyder, he has had ads out for a month now. They taunt his bipartisanship, really, that's not even a funny joke up here. The hop house in Michigan rammed 97 laws through the lameduck session. When local political program asked him whether he even talked to one democrat before voting on any of them, he said no. When asked if he thought that was a good way to govern he said " I have someone on my staff I pay to represent their position", now that's bipartisanship!

    February 20, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. Donna

    Silence DoGood
    Once again Donna takes the conspiracy approach. There were mysterious "failed policies".
    --

    The Community Reinvestment Act and government backed subprime mortgages were not mysterious but were conspiracies of sorts. So how do you think all of those subprime mortgages got guaranteed by the Democrats little protected children, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

    February 20, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Hector Slagg wrote:

    OK, I admit it. Failed Policy of Liberal's Democrats is getting the Republican's and Conservatives to pay for those Policies., No? It was supposed to work! We elect representives that raise taxes on the rich people and we all sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor. So what happened? Rich people store money offshore!
    ----------------------------------
    You cite only one "reason," which isn't an actual concrete example. It's nothing more than a talking point. You lose, too.

    Actually, it was the Bush Tax Cuts and letting "rich people store money offshore" that was supposed to work, but didn't. Do you remember the speech Bush gave to apologize for turning the budget surplus into an annual deficit. He promised the people that the deficits would only be temporary until the economy got moving again, which would turn the deficits into surpluses. At the time, one of Bush's own economic advisors warned of trillion dollar deficits within a decade, so they fired him on the spot.

    February 20, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. 2_indy1600

    Does anyone remember INSLAW? This was the Clinton scandal that sold secrets to China, or as some on this site would like to call the "rewriting of history" during the Clinton years. The people just don't want the consolodation of political, monetary, intellectual and ecclesiastical power; they want sovereignty of the USA. The people in the "triangles" of power will tell you we are in decline because we don't embrace globalization. Embrace the suck.

    February 20, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. democrat hypocrisy

    salty dog
    When local political program asked him whether he even talked to one democrat before voting on any of them, he said no. When asked if he thought that was a good way to govern he said " I have someone on my staff I pay to represent their position",
    --–

    This is how the Democrats jammed Obamacare down the throats of the American people. Why are you now complaining about this process?!

    February 20, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  6. salty dog

    Sayin/Donna, there is enough blame on both sides of the housing mess, but that's only s part if the problem, you just can't wage two wars, and cut taxes at the same time. I would honestly hope some of you would research that war before defending bush, its really disgusting to those who research where our money went 52$ paper plate and cup, oh and a plastic spork, Cheney loved that one, so many more.

    February 20, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Silence wrote:

    Once again Donna takes the conspiracy approach. There were mysterious "failed policies". We can't tell you but (wink wink) you know they are out there. Black helicopters will come to get us if we tell you. We cannot say but they could be out there (wink wink). Maybe they are kept at Area 51 with Obama's real birth certificate. I cannot be kind – sorry. Conspiracy in place of reality is crazy.
    ------------------------–
    Conspiracy. Fear mongering. Historical rewrite. You named it. Donna has blamed "failed Democrat policies" under the Bush administration for the economy going bad during his second term in office. Amazingly, Hector defends her.

    February 20, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. salty dog

    I never thought pushing it through without support from both sides, just do you know, you cant touch me that way, I hardly think the Democrats are angels, only in comparison.

    February 20, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Donna wrote:

    The Community Reinvestment Act and government backed subprime mortgages were not mysterious but were conspiracies of sorts. So how do you think all of those subprime mortgages got guaranteed by the Democrats little protected children, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
    ------------------–
    Are you blaming a law that was passed in 1977 for a massive econmic crash that began in 2007? Okay, that's your first attempt. Try again. You did say "policies" after all. I expect at least two or three. Try again, Donna.

    February 20, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  10. salty dog

    At least the Republicans had an opportunity to participate.

    February 20, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. salty dog

    And truth is we don't really know how obamacare will turn out, I saved a little over a hundred a month: next year? Going on past experience, our policy changed every other year, first year was a little more, the second made you want a new policy, which you got, with less benefits and more expenses for me, year after year for twenty plus years. Maybe it will be worse, maybe better, but I won't be turned down anymore.

    February 20, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. Fair is Fair

    salty dog

    Sayin/Donna, there is enough blame on both sides of the housing mess, but that's only s part if the problem, you just can't wage two wars, and cut taxes at the same time. I would honestly hope some of you would research that war before defending bush, its really disgusting to those who research where our money went 52$ paper plate and cup, oh and a plastic spork, Cheney loved that one, so many more.
    -------
    The wars & tax cuts are not what froze the credit markets causing the crash in '08. The cause of the crash was a truly bipartisan effort, as you correctly stated. It was a time bomb with a fuse all the way back to the Clinton administration.

    February 20, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  13. tom l

    @Salty Dog,
    Revenues went up after the taxes were cut every year from 2002-2007. Were you aware of that?

    February 20, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  14. salty dog

    And such a drastic change in the industry was bound to meet heavy resistance, we now know who is in the insurance companies pocket, you know its true.

    February 20, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  15. Tampa Tim

    Donna, check out the Bush housing plan of 2002.

    February 20, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    The wars & tax cuts are not what froze the credit markets causing the crash in '08. The cause of the crash was a truly bipartisan effort, as you correctly stated. It was a time bomb with a fuse all the way back to the Clinton administration.
    ----------------------------–
    Would care to be more specific? I cited a law that played a HUGE role in the mortgage crisis. I suggest that you research the ADDI, in particular the speech that Bush gave to introduce it. He literally TOLD first-timers to buy homes without seeking professionnal advice. Those loans/grants went to first-time buyers within a certain income bracket, as well as, any public employee who applied for a grant, who received the lion's share of the grants. But, the problem wasn't the recipients of the grants not understanding the mortgages, as much as the CHANGES to the mortgage contracts themselves. Lenders began using the same language for all mortages, not just for those associated with ADDI.

    February 20, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  17. smith

    @Rudy- I think Donna is referring to the revisions to the community reinvestment act by Bill Clinton.

    February 20, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
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