Sperling cautiously optimistic on economy, offers few hints on budget
February 20th, 2014
11:14 AM ET
8 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. CryBabies

    Is that you Gordon Gekko?

    February 20, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  2. just asking

    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."
    --

    we've been hearing the same thing for 5 years now... and will be hearing the same thing for another 3 years. excuse after excuse after excuse followed by claims its getting better and that nirvana is just over the horizon. it has become painfully obvious the obama adminstration only knows how to take, tax and redistribute. so far all he has created is a train wreck with our healthcare.

    February 20, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    If conservatives are so against food stamps and government assistance, then they should be all for a minimum wage increase. Instead of the government subsidizing people, employers should be paying reasonable living wages.

    February 20, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. Tampa Tim

    We have been hearing from republicans who created the mess for our country that Obama is trying to fix, how bad things are. But, they refuse to do anything for Americans, they just condemn the positive job growth, decry the reduction of our deficit, scream about ending wars, and go hysterical at the thought of actually paying for the republican extravagance from 2001 -2008.

    February 20, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  5. rla

    Optomistic after five years equals failed economic polocy

    February 20, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  6. Tommy G

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?
    If conservatives are so against food stamps and government assistance, then they should be all for a minimum wage increase. Instead of the government subsidizing people, employers should be paying reasonable living wages.
    -–

    Maybe these people need to get more marketable and valuable skills in order to be paid more? Fact is, they are getting paid exactly what they are worth. Nobody and nothing forces them to stay working someplace. If they don't like their pay, then they need to move on and do better, if they can.

    February 20, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. Fair is Fair

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    If conservatives are so against food stamps and government assistance, then they should be all for a minimum wage increase. Instead of the government subsidizing people, employers should be paying reasonable living wages.
    -------–
    Dutch, the minimum wage was never meant to be able to support a family. But your statement has a fatal flaw... that is you assume such a minimum wage hike will hike people enough so they will not need assistance. It's not realistic to believe that. If it did, the minimum wage worker might be personally worse off. Think it through.

    February 20, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    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."
    -----------------------------–
    The recovering economy was showing stronger and stronger growth until the Tea Party coup in the House back in 2010. Since that time, increasing economic growth has pretty much stagnated. Those are the facts.

    February 20, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. Tampa Tim

    Maybe republicans need to take responsibility for the mess they created and help fix it.

    February 20, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    "I would still be cautiously optimistic that the general notion is that there are positive trends in the economy."

    Hush now. Under NO circumstances are we to talk about "positive" trends in the economy. Doing so makes those who have spent the past 5 years cheering against our economy upset.

    February 20, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  11. Gunderson

    So you say,
    After 100 years of Bigger and bigger Government programs why we still in such a mess? So what happened? Why we need bailout after bailout? Why we need raise National Debt time after time? Liberals brag about Stimulus. Why did we need a stimulus? Old Gunderson got message for you. Look up POGO see who real enemy is. But shucks, just elect us and we fix problem. Really?

    February 20, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  12. smith

    More Robin Hood politics from the Obama admin. The crazy thing is they want help low wage workers but they actually hurt them.

    February 20, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    Dutch, the minimum wage was never meant to be able to support a family. But your statement has a fatal flaw... that is you assume such a minimum wage hike will hike people enough so they will not need assistance. It's not realistic to believe that. If it did, the minimum wage worker might be personally worse off. Think it through.
    -----------------------–
    Minimum wages were never meant to support a family. The problem is that everybody wants to pay people minimum wages. For example, a local hospital was privatized, which laid off unionized nursing, maintenance, and housekeeping staffers. The average housekeeper was making $15/hour, with benefits. After privatization, they laid everyone off, and offered the same positions at $7.25, without benefits. Former employees were given first shot at their old positions.

    The privatization move was supposed to cut costs and save the municipality money supporting the hospital. Needless to say, the hospital keep drawing nearly the same amount of tax dollars on an annual basis. That was a decade ago, and the place needs a bailout today. The only difference between publicly operated and privately operated seems to be the number of people in the various salary ranges, and the salaries themselves. At the bottom end, there's fewer people making less money. At the top end, there are many more administrators making several times more than what the old positions were paid.

    February 20, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. smith

    What Sperling fails to mention regarding the study on min wage increase is that the cost of living is different from state to state. I would be willing to bet the state with a higher min. wage has a higher cost of living.

    February 20, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. Wes

    Maybe democrats need to take responsibility for the mess they created and help fix it.

    February 20, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  16. Donna

    And if Hillary Clinton gets her hands on the controls, we'll see many more years of a bad economy and promises, promises, excuses, excuses. Wake up America before it is too late. Failed Democrat policies got us into the recession and have failed to get the economy back to where it needs to be.

    February 20, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    smith

    What Sperling fails to mention regarding the study on min wage increase is that the cost of living is different from state to state. I would be willing to bet the state with a higher min. wage has a higher cost of living.
    --------------------
    I would generally agree. I would also be willing to bet that the state with a lower minimum wage has a lower cost of living, as well as, lower living standards.

    February 20, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. truth be told

    Promises and optimism don't pay the rent or put food on the table. Hope and Change has been neither. Time for a real change in 2014 and 2016. Democrats just don't know what they are doing and the country can't waiting and hope forever.

    February 20, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Donna

    And if Hillary Clinton gets her hands on the controls, we'll see many more years of a bad economy and promises, promises, excuses, excuses. Wake up America before it is too late. Failed Democrat policies got us into the recession and have failed to get the economy back to where it needs to be.
    -----------------------
    What "Failed Democrat policies" might those be, Donna? Name one. Excuse, name two. You did say "policies." In addition to millions of the manufacturing jobs that left the country during the Bush years, the Bush administration also gave us the ADDI, the "American Dream Downpayment Initiative", back in 2004. Democrats had nothing to do with it. That single piece of legislation is what led to the deceptive language that was later used in all home mortgages. The law deregulated the home mortgage business, by encouraging banks to write "simpler" mortgage agreements with less fine print.

    February 20, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. Donna

    Rudy NYC
    What "Failed Democrat policies" might those be, Donna? Name one. Excuse, name two. You did say "policies." In addition to millions of the manufacturing jobs that left the country during the Bush years, the Bush administration also gave us the ADDI, the "American Dream Downpayment Initiative", back in 2004. Democrats had nothing to do with it. That single piece of legislation is what led to the deceptive language that was later used in all home mortgages. The law deregulated the home mortgage business, by encouraging banks to write "simpler" mortgage agreements with less fine print.
    --

    Ahhhhh.... so it was a lack of fine print that brought down the economy??? All this time I thought it was people who had taken out loans they knew they could not afford and knowly filled out false paperwork. Yeah, I guess that lack of fine print they never would have read anyways really would have made a big difference. You are quite funny today.

    February 20, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. The Real Tom Paine

    -Donna

    Rudy NYC
    HIllary Clinton has a base that's more solid that of the The Great Pyramid's. It's strange watching the GOP constantly trying to turn upset the Clinton apple cart without any success. Meanwhile, what vision do Republicans have for America? I guess it looks a lot like Ted Nugent, Duck Dynasty, and semi-automatic weapons.
    -

    Hillary's vision for America looks a lot like our dead Ambassador Stevens and a burning consulate.

    ****************}
    Care to assign a dollar value to Ambassador Stevens, Donna? You seem to value his death more than that of 4500 soldiers in Iraq. How about it?

    February 20, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. salty dog

    Its not what the rwnj want to hear, so it must be s lie, it really is that simple for them. Their ability to decide what's true or not is based what they desperately want to believe, study be damned!

    February 20, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  23. Silence DoGood

    @Rudy NYC
    Donna

    And if Hillary Clinton gets her hands on the controls, we'll see many more years of a bad economy and promises, promises, excuses, excuses. Wake up America before it is too late. Failed Democrat policies got us into the recession and have failed to get the economy back to where it needs to be.
    -------–
    What "Failed Democrat policies" might those be, Donna? Name one. Excuse, name two. You did say "policies." In addition to millions of the manufacturing jobs that left the country during the Bush years, the Bush administration also gave us the ADDI, the "American Dream Downpayment Initiative", back in 2004. Democrats had nothing to do with it. That single piece of legislation is what led to the deceptive language that was later used in all home mortgages. The law deregulated the home mortgage business, by encouraging banks to write "simpler" mortgage agreements with less fine print.
    -------------
    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.

    February 20, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  24. Name

    It is because there are points where things go tuscuny for some of the people that were involved in the horrific shootings that went on for most of last year. This is where being people forget what exactly human emotion is involved not objects and is known to be found in serial killers. It is not involved in an argument of what it is to be human but just the opposite of key word "things" that are involved that people go mad over

    February 20, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. Hector Slagg

    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! Soon we all go back to salt mines!

    February 20, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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