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Apple's Big Reveal; Delayed Jobs Report Released; 148,000 Jobs Added in September; Obamacare Web Site Problems Persist; White House Briefing; Ohio Embraces Medicaid Expansion; Obamacare Unaffordable for Many

Aired October 22, 2013 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we're waiting to find out more about that deadly shooting -- school shooting in Sparks, Nevada. A police news conference has just begun. We're going to be listening in for any new information on a motive, as well as other developments. Stand by for that.

Right now the White House is facing more tough questions about Obamacare and all the problems with the website. The White House Briefing now underway. We're monitoring that as well. We'll keep you updated with the latest information.

And right now in San Francisco, Apple's big reveal. Are we getting a revamped iPad? That's the consensus among experts. But with Apple, you never know. We'll check in for an unveiling just in a little while.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from New York.

We begin with a new snapshot of the U.S. economy and it's a lackluster picture. The September employment report shows 148,000 jobs were created in the month, well below the 193,000 created in August. This report was delayed two and a half weeks because of the partial government shutdown. The next report we get will include those who were furloughed by the shutdown.

There are also some bright spots in these new numbers. The construction industry, for example, is coming back to life, 20,000 new jobs were added there in September. We also saw the unemployment rate drop to 7.2 percent. That's the lowest level it's been since President Obama was elected back in 2008.

Today's news isn't likely to change the pessimism Americans already feel toward the economy. A new CNN ORC Poll finds 71 percent of Americans believe current economic conditions are poor and that's the worst number we've seen this year.

The reaction from Wall Street so far has been fairly muted. There you see the Dow Jones Industrials up about 40 points. Alison Kosik is over at the New York Stock Exchange. Alison, talk a little bit about investors and why they're not reacting more positively or negatively to these latest numbers.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You actually seeing them active -- act a little more positively. When you look at the S&P 500, it's still in record territory. And the way Wall Street sees it, it's sort of skewed. It sees bad news as good news because -- OK. So, let's look at the job report. It's weak. It was underwhelming. As far as Wall Street sees it, disappointing. So, the thinking is that the expectation is the fed is going to continue pumping that stimulus money into the economy so the fed will continue to act as a safety net. That winds up pushes stocks higher, smashing new records every day.

And, yes, I know we talk about the Dow which did hit plenty or records earlier this year. Well, now, it's the S&P 500's turn. It's actually more representative of stocks. It includes 500 stocks instead of 30 that the Dow has. And it's what your retirement funds mostly track. It's at another record high today, the fourth day in a row. And then, you look how it's doing for the year. It's up more than 20 percent. A normal gain, Wolf, for the S&P 500 is somewhere around eight percent. So, I'd say it's safe to say you can look at your 401k today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good idea. Alison, when we peel back the big numbers that came out today, we're also seeing some concerns that some of these jobs being created aren't necessarily high quality jobs. A lot of people coming back into the workforce, they are doing so at jobs they may be overqualified for, maybe just part-time jobs. Take us a little bit inside those numbers.

KOSIK: Right. And we are seeing that in the job growth. When you do look at -- look at the report of the details of this jobs report, you see that retail jobs jumped 15,000 just in the month of September. That's kind of expected because we are getting closer to the holiday shopping season. But here's the problem with those jobs. They're generally low-paying jobs. And while it's a good thing the retail industry has been adding these jobs for six months or so, the problem here is that since the recession ended, we're seeing this jump in low- wage jobs being added.

And then you look at the number of jobs being added overall, it's not anything to write home about either. Look at the past three years. We're averaging around 178,000 jobs per month this year. In 2012, we averaged 183,000 jobs per month. And guess what we were adding in 2011? Right around the same, 175,000 jobs. You're seeing the job market just kind of treading water, not really accelerating like you wanted to see. Yes, you want to see those bars that we showed you on the chart, they should be growing more, not staying at the same height. But the problem is the economy is not growing fast enough. Not enough people are getting jobs and quality jobs and we're not enough jobs being added to bring down that unemployment rate as fast as everybody wants to see it -- Wolf

BLITZER: And they want it to come down, down, down but it's a very, very modest reduction. All right, thanks very much for that, Alison.

The Obama administration says the economy and the job market, they are all headed in the right direction. They're just not moving more -- fast enough. The labor secretary, Tom Perez, says the recent fiscal showdown is partly to blame.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM PEREZ, U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR: The sequester and the uncertainty that surrounded the shutdown, those are not ways that you grow jobs. I talk to a lot of businesses day in and day out. And they tell me uncertainty is a huge drag on the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go to the White House. Our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is standing by. Jim there's no doubt the shutdown could mean even more disappointing jobs numbers next month not only because of the partial government shutdown, also because of the uncertainty over the desk -- death -- the debt ceiling, as they say. I assume the administration is bracing for that?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And we should point out that Jason Furman, the Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, just appeared in the briefing room a few moments ago to talk to reporters about what they're expecting in October. Yes, the unemployment rate did tick down in September.

But listen to this, Wolf. Jason Furman just said this to reporters a few moments ago that the effect of the shutdown and the brinksmanship over the debt ceiling here in Washington the last several weeks means that at least.25 percent will be cut from the fourth quarter GDP of this country. That there will be a hit in the GDP in this country of .25 percent and that there may be 120,000 fewer jobs in the month of October as a result of the shutdown. That is a calculation that was made by the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Jason Furman just shared that with reporters a few moments ago. And another member of his -- of the Council of Economic Advisors, Betsy Stevenson, tweeted as much in the last few minutes.

So, the White House trying to make the point here, Wolf, that while things did get better in September, they are very much looking to a drop, not in the unemployment rate but a drop in job growth in October. That is not good news for that labor market -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, and, earlier, S&P estimated that that 16-day government shutdown cost the U.S. economy, what, $24 billion.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Now, there are going to be fewer jobs created in this fourth quarter than would have been created if that had not occurred.

What's the latest on Obamacare over there at the White House? Yesterday, the president came out, defended the entire program even though he acknowledged he's so frustrated by that Web site. What are they saying today?

ACOSTA: Well, what they're saying today -- and Jay Carney is in the middle of the briefing right now and he's going to be hit with a lot of reporters' questions, because a lot of things that, I guess, need to be revealed, at this point, are items that the White House was not really willing to talk about in the last 24 hours. Namely, who are these experts coming in and fixing the Obamacare Web site? Up until this point, the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, they've not been willing to share that information.

They're also not talking, Wolf, about when this process of fixing the Web site is going to be complete. And you can also expect Jay Carney to face more questions, he was asked about this yesterday, whether or not they would detail that insurance mandate penalty. The mandate that people buy insurance by a certain date early of next year in order to avoid that tax penalty from the IRS. Jay Carney is going to be hit with more questions on that. So, that story is obviously not going anywhere -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know what I want to do? I want to go listen in a little bit to Jay Carney right now. He's briefing reporters.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (live): -- experiencing and have experienced with the Web site. Every day improvements are being made. I discussed some of them yesterday. So did the president. Every day, we are seeing more indications of more and more Americans getting access to affordable be health insurance that they did not have before. I would point you to the news out of Ohio yesterday, the significant decision taken there. A state with a Republican governor where -- which is now joining other states with Republican governors to adopt the expansion of Medicaid which will provide insurance to a hundred -- several hundred thousand. I don't have the number right here, but it's a significant number of Ohioans who did not otherwise have access to affordable health insurance.

So, that's what we're focused on. We're focused on the real Americans out there who have a high interest in and demand for the product that the marketplace is providing. And it's on us, the fact that the Web site has not functioned as effectively as it should. It is also the reason why we have made clear that there are other avenues available to Americans with this deep interest in finding affordable health insurance to shop for that insurance and to sign up for and apply for that insurance. And that's happening.

And meanwhile, we have an enormous number of -- not an enormous number but a number of very qualified people involved in the process of making improvements, identifying problems, isolating them and fixing them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the White House cooperate with this committee?

CARNEY: We cooperate with all legitimate Congressional oversight. I would note that as the president said yesterday, rooting for failure in this case, no matter how much you violently oppose the Affordable Care Act, perhaps even if you voted 45 times to repeal it or defund it or sabotage it in some other way, perhaps if you even voted to shut the government down and cause all of that economic harm to the American people because you are so opposed to a bill that and a law that provides affordable health insurance to millions of Americans, you ought not celebrate the fact that Americans might be struggling with a Web site that will provide them information about obtaining that insurance. We should be focused on those Americans. The struggles they may be having with the Web site pale in comparison to the struggles they've had lacking affordable health insurance. That's what this policy is about. It's not about, you know, who's to blame for glitches in a Web site. What we need to focus on is fixing those problems, making the information that the American people want available to them in an efficient way. And that's what we're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And financially, Jay, the Saudi's Prince Bandar is saying there's going to be a major shift in Saudi relations away from the United States. How seriously do you take this? Are you seeking more information about it?

CARNEY: Well, I can tell you that Secretary Kerry has spoken at length about this today, coming out of meetings with the Saudi foreign minister. And they had candid and productive discussions on these issues, rather when they met yesterday in Paris. And the United States and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia have a long-standing partnership and consult closely on a range of regional, political and security issues, including Iran, Syria, the Middle East peace process and Egypt.

In terms of Prince Bandar's comments, I would refer you to him for an explanation of them. Our core -- on core national security issues, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a very strong and stable relationship. And while we do not agree on every issue, when we have different perspectives, we have honest and open discussions. And, again, I can point you to the very constructive, positive meetings that the secretary of state had with his Saudi counterpart in Paris.

BLITZER: All right. So, Jay Carney briefing reporters not only on Obamacare and jobs, but also on a clear deterioration in this U.S.- Saudi relationship, a pivotal relationship, the United States has with a key player in the Middle East underscored only the other day by Saudi Arabia's extraordinary unprecedented decision to reject an invitation to become a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We'll have more on that. Jim Sciutto is -- our Chief National Security Correspondent is working that story. But they're very significant developments. And you also heard a strong defense from Jay Carney on Obamacare and what's going on that front.

We've got other news we're following, including a passing grade from Kentucky's Democratic governor. Now, some Republican governors are coming around on a key part of Obamacare. Could it be a sea change in strategy? A political future? What's going on? We'll discuss when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One of the more contentious elements of the Affordable Care Act is the expansion of Medicaid benefits. It fills a doughnut hole in coverage for low income Americans. That expansion has been fought by some Republican governors, but now Ohio's John Kasich has broken ranks, making Ohio the 25th state to take part. CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza is joining us now from Washington.

Ryan, Kasich, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Republican governors who've changed course. Here's the question, why now, what's going on?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, what's really interesting about this is not just that they've expanded Medicaid, which has really become something that Republicans are vehemently against, but they fought -- in all three cases, they fought Republicans in the state to do it. Look, what Kasich did yesterday, he basically defied his legislature, his Republican-controlled legislature, and got a relatively obscure committee to approve this expansion which will now cover some 275,000 Ohioans who wouldn't have had health coverage without it.

And it looks like the fight's not over. There are some people who are going to challenge that. So I think that's what unique about this, is these are governors, problem-solving Midwestern Republican governors who are bucking the national trend of the Republican Party, which is a sort of scorched-earth all-out campaign against Obamacare. And, look, if you're a Republican governor, there are two things you can do to defy Obamacare. You can not take the federal money to expand Medicaid or you can not set up a state exchange. So Kasich has sort of split the difference. He has not set up a state exchange, but he is taking the Medicaid money.

BLITZER: I take a look at these three states -- I'm sure you do as well -- Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio. These are states that President Obama carried twice in his race for the White House. I assume these Republican governors look at that and they say to themselves, you know what, maybe the future is to be a little bit more moderate as opposed to aligning themselves with the Tea Party.

LIZZA: Yes. And if you look at the map of -- so we're now split in this country, 25 states have taken this Medicaid funding, 25 states have not. Virginia, where it looks like a Democrat is going to win the gubernatorial race there, or at least is favored to win, maybe the 26th state that will take the Medicaid funding. But if you look at the split in the Republican Party, it's really a divide between the southern Republicans, none of the southern states except Arkansas have taken this Medicaid funding, and the Midwestern and Northeast Republicans.

So the three that you just mentioned, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania. These are - these are a more moderate brand of Republicanism where Democrats do well. And, frankly, they -- as governors who have a huge population of uninsured, they think that this is a good deal, taking this money from the federal government. The federal government pays for the Medicaid for three years. And then after three years, they pay for at least 90 percent. These guys have decided it's good for their states, not just good for them politically.

BLITZER: And if you take a look at the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, he's very popular. It looks like he's not going to have any trouble getting himself re-elected. A former Florida governor, let's say like Jeb Bush, who's also very popular, they're not shy about moving away from Tea Party influence on various issues at all.

LIZZA: And I think this issue of, what did you do to stop Obamacare is going to be, obviously, a major flash point in the Republican primaries in 2016. And so if you're coming from Congress, if you're someone like Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, you're going to be able to brag about the time that you -- that you tried to defund Obamacare. And we don't know how that's going to play out yet, if that will be a plus or minus. Probably a plus among a lot of conservative voters.

If you're a governor, you're going to have to explain, what did you do with Medicaid expansion and what did you do with those exchanges. It's really becoming the central issue in the Republican Party, and I think it's not going away at all in 2016. So, you're right, I think some of these moderate governors are in a little bit of a bind over it and they're going to be asked by hard-core conservatives whether they did enough.

BLITZER: Especially in those states, including New Jersey and Florida, which President Obama, once again, carried twice in a presidential election, obviously.

All right, Ryan, thanks very much.

Low cost is one of the selling points of Obamacare. It turns out, though, once they navigate the website maze, some Americans are finding insurance offered under the Affordable Health Care Act not necessarily all that affordable for them. What's going on? Drew Griffin has a report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The technical issues plaguing the Obamacare website rollout are only part of the problem. Many who have managed to navigate the system, gotten quotes, planned to sign up, are now saying, no thank you. They're finding the Affordable Care Act is unaffordable, at least for them. Our Drew Griffin listened to some of their stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christy Metzger and her husband Mark are both 29 years old, healthy with two healthy baby girls and one big problem, their health care company has informed them their current plan will cease in the next year because it doesn't comply with the Affordable Health Care Act. She needs to find a new plan. So Christy, a part-time teacher, and her husband, who owns a video company, went online. And after a week of trying, finally figured out just what kind of insurance she could get under the Affordable Care Act. And for her it seems unaffordable.

CHRISTY METZGER, CAN'T AFFORD OBAMACARE: And when I logged on, I was like, no, this is -- this is very bad. This is much higher than we were currently paying.

GRIFFIN: Their current plan costs $450 a month with a $5,000 family deductible. The bronze plan she found under healthcare.gov will cost her $650 a month with a deductible somewhere between $3,500 and $6,000. Christy says she has yet to find out if she qualifies for any subsidy.

METZGER: And it's very frustrating because we'd like to know for planning for the future.

GRIFFIN: Joshua Strickland, who owns a small business in North Carolina, spent two weeks trying to get on the Affordable Care Act site and couldn't, so he went to his own insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, which was able to give him quotes for both his renewal under a private plan and his quote under the Affordable Care Act. The results, no matter which way he goes, he will be paying much more.

JOSHUA STRICKLAND, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: What I found was that the plans made available were almost twice as expensive.

GRIFFIN: His renewal under his current plan will increase by 9.8 percent to a monthly cost of $540, his deductible will jump too, actually doubling from $500 to $1,000. Under the Affordable Care Act, he says, the most comparable plan for himself and his three children is much worse. He was quoted $838 a month with a $1,000 deductible. And that is after taxpayers kick in a $150 per month subsidy.

GRIFFIN (on camera): You feel like we were told, number one, overall health care costs would come down no matter where you got it from, and perhaps number two, the government cost, if you went on the Affordable Care Act, would be at least lower. And you're not seeing -- you're seeing increases on both ends.

STRICKLAND: That's correct, Drew. That's - that -- you hit the nail on the head with that.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Then there is 56-year-old Helen Cummins of Georgia. She retired early from an airline and now has a new government job making $24,000 a year. She has chosen to have no health insurance. If she currently needs health care, she goes to a hospital and pays the prorated cost for uninsured patients.

GRIFFIN (on camera): You must have been somewhat excited that you might get health care insurance?

HELEN CUMMINS, RETIRED, NEEDS HEALTH INSURANCE: I was. I was. Oh, my God, I was so totally excited.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): When she finally got through, signed up and found out she would not qualify for a subsidy or Medicaid, she learned her cheapest option under the Affordable Care Act is between $357 and $387 a month with a $6,000 deductible. It's just too much, she says.

CUMMINS: I was hurt. I was - I was truly hurt because of the fact that I was expecting better. I was really expecting better.

GRIFFIN: The White House and the president himself has made it clear there are plenty of people excited about the plans, especially those with pre-existing conditions who are now covered and in many cases paying less.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And those who already had a chance to enroll are thrilled with the result. Every day people who were stuck with sky high premiums because of pre-existing conditions are getting affordable insurance for the first time or finding I guess (ph) that they're saving a lot of money.

GRIFFIN: But the treatment (ph) still costs money and the Affordable Care Act is dependent on lots of healthy people participating to make it work.

ROBERT LASZEWSKI, HEALTH POLICY AND STRATEGY ASSOCIATES: This doesn't work if we don't get lots and lots of healthy people signing up because no insurance plan is going to work if you only get sick people signing up and the healthy people stay out.

GRIFFIN: It will all come down to the actual numbers. Numbers the administration has yet to reveal.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Speaking of numbers, new numbers out today on the country's unemployment rate. But what about the number of under employed Americans? The chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors tackles that and more. My interview with Jason Furman. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)