Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Claims Credit for Economy; Surge in Opioid Deaths in Ohio; Impact of Coronavirus on Global Economy. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired February 18, 2020 - 08:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Two presidents, past and present, have been sparring over who gets credit for the stronger U.S. economy on their watch. President Trump last night slamming his predecessor claiming President Obama is trying to take his credit. Earlier in the day, Obama, in a subtle dig at Trump, bragged about the recovery eleven years ago from the Great Recession.

So which president has the strongest claim?

Joining us now, CNN political commentator Catherine Rampell. She's a "Washington Post" columnist, and Stephen Moore, he was an economic adviser to the Trump campaign.

So let's begin with the numbers. Let's look at economic growth, real GDP growth under Presidents Obama and Trump here. We can put the numbers up on the screen. Fairly consistent. Of course, that dip there, that followed the Great Recession of 2008.

Catherine Rampell, is it an even split here?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I will use the disclaimer that I always give when talking about presidents' economic records, which is that they get too much credit when things are good, too much blame when things are bad. They do not control the economy.

That said, if we want to look at the numbers, the Trump economy is not substantially different from the Obama economy. GDP growth last year was about 2.3 percent. We spent $2 trillion in unfunded tax cuts to get us to what is essentially the average growth rate under Obama's second term. Job growth was actually slightly stronger under Obama in the last 37 months.

SCIUTTO: We have those figures, too. We can put them on the screen.

RAMPELL: Wage growth, after you adjust for inflation, was slightly stronger, not appreciably different. So on a range of major economic indicators, things look basically the same. It's not like you can point to one of these charts and say, ah-ha, that's the point where Trump took office, the Red Sea parted and suddenly the economy was transformed.


Stephen Moore, your response?

STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER TRUMP ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, look, certainly Barack Obama deserves some of the credit because this is an eleven year boom.

And, by the way, we should just sit back and put partisan politics aside and say, is this a great country or what? You know, we've had eleven years now without a recession. We are the envy of the world today. We have more jobs today than we have people to fill them. We have the lowest inflation rate, the lowest interest rates in 50 years. We have the biggest wage gains now in 30 years. So it's pretty much a beautiful picture for the U.S. economy. And I see it continuing.

Now, look, Catherine and I disagree about why this happened. I remember back when I was debating people on CNN and other shows, they said that if Donald Trump was -- you know, became president, we would have a second great depression, we would have a stock market collapse and now we have, you know, the best economy in 40 or 50 years.

So I think that it's the tax cut. I agree with Catherine, the tax cut has been a big, big, big stimulus to the economy. The deregulation has been a very positive thing.

One other quick statistic. You know one of the thing we're really proud of with our tax cut is we brought $1 trillion of money that was stored abroad back to the United States. Think of all the jobs that are created with a trillion dollars.

RAMPELL: Yes, except that the way that the tax cut was supposed to supercharge the economy was by increasing business investment and business investment has been shrinking for the past three consecutive quarters. To the extent that the tax cut had any effect on the economy, it was through traditional demand side fiscal stimulus. Basically we have had much more simulative fiscal policy under this president than under the previous one. We have spent tons of money on tax cuts. We've spent lots of money on increased, you know, spending on the other side of the ledger. These are things that Republicans used to claim that they cared about. They used to claim that they cared about deficits. And now, suddenly, once a Republican is in office, we're happy to have, of course, deficit side fiscal stimulus.

SCIUTTO: Stephen Moore, I just want to remind you of what the president set as something of a benchmark here because he and his supporters, yourself included, they weren't just talking about 2.3 percent economic growth, they were talking about 3, 4, 5, 6.


SCIUTTO: Here's the president in December 2017. Have a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economy now has hit 3 percent. Nobody thought it would be anywhere close. I think we can go to 4, 5, and maybe even 6 percent ultimately.


SCIUTTO: We're not even halfway there and taxpayers, remember, $2 trillion in the tax cut. That's taxpayer money. We're going to eventually have to pay that back. Why didn't it pay off?

MOORE: Well, the economy -- the tax cut has been a phenomenal success. I mean, my goodness, we have the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. We have very, very healthy job creation.

You know, the problem we're running into, frankly, is we're running out of workers. We need more immigration. We need to get welfare reform, get people off of welfare into work. We need more workers in this country. You know, 6.5 million more jobs than people to fill them.

Look, Catherine is just wrong on the facts.


I mean, my goodness, the deficits, you know, hit 10 percent of GDP in Obama's presidency.

RAMPELL: We're having a -- we're having a trillion dollar deficit this year in an expanding economy.

MOORE: Yes, but --

RAMPELL: That's unheard of.

MOORE: Yes, but --

RAMPELL: Unheard of. If you look at the --

MOORE: Yes, but, what about the trillion --

RAMPELL: If you look at the post-war --

MOORE: Catherine, what about the trillion and a half --

RAMPELL: If you look at the post-war record --

MOORE: Catherine, what about the trillion and a half deficits that Obama ran in 2009, 2002 (ph) --

RAMPELL: During the Great Recession. During the Great Recession.

MOORE: Yes, but this -- but, look --

RAMPELL: Deficits always go up.

SCIUTTO: Let her finish, please, then you can comment (ph).

MOORE: OK. Sure.

RAMPELL: Deficits always go up when the economy is doing badly. Both because of stimulus and because --

MOORE: Right.

RAMPELL: You know, people are out of work, tax revenues fall. They're more likely to claim unemployment insurance and things like that. Deficits are supposed to expand when the economy is doing badly.

MOORE: So --

RAMPELL: They are not supposed to expand when the economy is doing well.

MOORE: So, Catherine, answer me this, after eight years of Obama in the White House, about 36 percent of Americans rated the economy as good or great. Today that number is about 70 percent.


MOORE: There's a difference between an expansion and a boom.

RAMPELL: I can answer that question.

MOORE: And we're in a boom right now. We -- we were expanding under Obama and now we're booming.

RAMPELL: We're expanding at exactly the same rate. We are expanding at exactly the same rate.

MOORE: No, we're not.

RAMPELL: Yes, we --

MOORE: We have 2.5 percent growth versus less than 2 percent under Obama. That's a big, big difference.

RAMPELL: But look at -- look at the average --

MOORE: The average growth rate --


MOORE: The average growth rate -- 2.

SCIUTTO: The average was brought down by --

RAMPELL: The average -- the average under Obama's second term, when we had was --

MOORE: No, under his eight years. He was president for eight years.

RAMPELL: Was 2.2. The --

MOORE: He was president for eight years, not four years.

RAMPELL: Yes. But the -- the initial several years of his tenure were recovering or during the Great Recession and recovering from the Great Recession. Once the expansion began, we had the exact -- almost the exact same rate of economic growth under Obama that we have now.

And, again, that was under much more austere fiscal measures. Republicans were trying to --

MOORE: Austere? We doubled the national debt under Obama. What are you talking about? We went from about $10 trillion to $20 trillion in debt.

RAMPELL: Once again -- once again, this is a much more simulative, both fiscal and in some ways monetary policy environment.

SCIUTTO: All right, guys, we're going to have to leave it there.

MOORE: It's a great economy.

SCIUTTO: In a perfect world there would be some sharing -- some sharing of the credit between the two.

RAMPELL: Effects.

SCIUTTO: But, Stephen, Catherine, great to have you both on.

MOORE: It's going to last five more years, guys. Five more years of boom.

SCIUTTO: We'll see. There's a race coming up.

Stephen and Catherine, thanks so much.


Drug overdoses are spiking in one state. Officials say it's so bad that they are running out of space at the county morgue. That's next.



CAMEROTA: The White House is touting new CDC statistics that show overdose deaths are down. But deaths from cocaine and synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are up. One state knows this all too well. In Franklin County, Ohio, they need to add a second morgue to deal with the surge in fentanyl deaths.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta is back with us to explain.

So what's happening there, Sanjay?


I mean, look, Ohio has dealt with some of the highest rates of drug overdose in the country for some time. But the thing is, these drug overdose deaths we also see don't come in predictable streams, rather they sometimes tend to cluster in really tragic ways, Alisyn. And when they cluster, it can -- it can really stretch the resources of law enforcement, of hospitals and, as you point out, the county morgue. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL HERNANDEZ, RECOVERED FROM ADDICTION: It's cut-throat out there, man. It's not worth it. There's nothing out there in those streets that are worth it.

GUPTA (voice over): The streets Miguel Hernandez is describing are in Franklin County, Ohio, home to the Ohio State University and a pivot point in recent presidential elections.

But this county has also now become known for overdose deaths. So staggering in number that county officials may have to bring in a temporary morgue just to store the bodies.

DR. ANAHI ORTIZ, FRANKLIN COUNTY CORONER: This facility is a small facility. So it's been -- it's been hard.

GUPTA: County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz took to FaceBook to share the sad news that in less than a week and a half they saw at least 28 overdose deaths. Ten of these occurred on the same day.

According to Dr. Ortiz, they most likely died from fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid, roughly 100 times more potent than morphine.

Here's what happens. Cheap, synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, make their way into the local drug supply, overpowering it, and drug users suddenly have no idea what they're getting.

HERNANDEZ: So it's a game of Russian roulette pretty much. You don't know when that bullet's going to hit if you're playing the game.

GUPTA: Miguel was able to overcome his addiction, but has seen this happen before in Franklin County. And it's far from the only place.

It's also hard to reconcile what is happening here with the recent headlines about opioids. In January, U.S. officials announced that drug overdose deaths were down in 2018, reversing a longtime trend.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Let me go through a couple of the numbers, 4.1 percent overdose death decline overall in our nation. And that is the first time in 29 years. Nearly three decades.

GUPTA: A number of programs across the country have made a difference. Supervised injection sites, reining in opioid prescriptions and increasing access to addiction treatment and the overdose reversing drug Naloxone. All of it has made a difference.

The problem is, at the same time, deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl actually increased 10 percent from 2017 to 2018. During that same time in Ohio, fentanyl played a part in nearly three quarters of the overdose deaths.

ORTIZ: We have more techs that work with the physicians doing the autopsies, and they are -- they don't take lunch. These guys don't take lunch.


GUPTA: I can tell you, again, these tragic numbers, they do tend to cluster. And we will see if this county, Franklin County, will need to add a second morgue just for these overdose deaths.

But one thing, you know, Jim and Alisyn, you know, we talk about these overdose deaths. We talk about the increase in suicides. We talk about the increase in people dying from liver cirrhosis, from alcoholism. They are collectively called the deaths of despair.



GUPTA: And it's something that's somewhat unique to the United States and somewhat unique in the developed world. So while these numbers are going to fluctuate up and down from the prescription drugs and fentanyl, there is a larger underlying issue here, one that researchers and sociologists and pathologists are all trying to investigate, because that's really what it's going to take to help address this problem once and for all.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's hollowing out whole portions of the population. Just a sad phenomenon.

Sanjay, great to have you on.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Yes, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, of course, another health story we're following, beyond the life-threatening impact of the coronavirus, the outbreak is having a major ripple effect on the global economy, including some of the world's biggest companies, U.S. companies. How long will the recovery take? What will the impact be? Where will you see it? Coming up.


CAMEROTA: Seven hundred and eighty million people remain on lockdown in China because of the coronavirus.


I mean those numbers are just jaw-dropping.

So, obviously, the consequences to people's health are very worrisome. But what about the health of the global economy? That's also at stake.

So let's get "The Bottom Line" with Ian Bremmer. He's editor-at-large at "Time" and president of GZero Media.

Great to have you here, Ian.


SCIUTTO: So the old saying used to go, in terms of the global economy, if the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold.

BREMMER: Other way around now.

CAMEROTA: Is it, because I mean not to run with the virus metaphor, but if China -- China is sneezing, and so what does it do to the global economy?

BREMMER: Well, yes, compared to SARS, right? I mean China's now 17 percent of the global economy. It's the second largest economy in the world. It's impact in terms of its share of global growth is nearly 50 percent. It's massive, right? And so, so many American companies are reliant on their supply chain in China. The global economy is reliant on the Chinese actually consuming. Global commodity prices are reliant on the Chinese demand. The phase one trade deal with the United States signed is important and reliant on the Chinese being able to buy all this American product.

And with the Chinese economy imploding, there's no way they're hitting those numbers in 2020.

SCIUTTO: Are the markets too sanguine on this because, I mean, you mentioned it, it's one-fifth of the world economy. China lies about its economic numbers all the time. If the country shut down, and we've got some great images to show that, but empty streets.

CAMEROTA: It is, in some places, shutting down.

SCIUTTO: Empty -- empty skies of planes. All the things that are normally, you know, carrying the growth around China just not happening. They may go into negative growth. What does that mean for the world economy, for the U.S. economy in an election year?

BREMMER: Well, I mean the baseline expectations, about a week ago, were that minimum about 100 basis points off Chinese growth. So, we're looking at 5.5, maybe down to 5 percent growth for the year. First quarter could be flat.

As you're seeing Xi Jinping doing everything possible to ensure that China's on lockdown. So political stability and no further spread of the virus outside of China. If that's his priority, and it overwhelmingly is, the economic hit is going to be a lot greater, right, those disruptions.

Now, there are a couple of big implications for that. Number one is that there are an awful lot of CEOs, Western, American CEOs, in manufacturing and services, who have already been saying, I have got too many people in China, right? They're too expensive. The labor costs have gone up. I can make more money with fewer people because of automation, robotics, big data and they've been waiting to make a big move because they're making a lot of money, so they probably wouldn't suddenly take people out until there's a shock, a big recession.

Coronavirus could be that shock. So you could suddenly see a lot of American CEOs this year saying, I'm going to significantly reduce my labor force. They'll not going to come back, in China. Secondly, there's one person in the U.S. government that's been saying

good things about China all this way through. President Trump. On the back of the phase one trade deal and he's been tweeting Xi Jinping is strong. He's dealing with the coronavirus. But underneath that, whether it's Bill Barr, the attorney general, whether it's the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the head of the CIA, whether it's Nancy Pelosi, who I saw this weekend in Munich saying, we're going to hit these guys hard in terms of 5G and Huawei. I mean it's the one area that everyone is together on, except the president himself. And that's because he thinks that China is helping him to get re-elected because the numbers look good.

If suddenly the numbers don't look so good, you're going to see fire and fury on China for Trump. His ability to flip is pretty significant. So I think this actually plays out potentially quite dramatically in an election year. The timing on coronavirus, from that perspective, is really bad.

SCIUTTO: And you point that China won't be able to abide by the phase one trade deal, they won't be able to buy those goods that Trump's -- you know, that was part of that deal, I mean that's the -- think of it as political implications.

BREMMER: They've been saying they support the deal all the way through, but they've not talked about implementation. The Americans have because they know they can't implement yet.

CAMEROTA: I keep hearing about decoupling. I'm familiar with the Gwyneth Paltrow conscious decoupling, but I don't think that that's what we're talking about.

BREMMER: I hope not. God help me. Yes.

CAMEROTA: So what -- what is it -- is there a way to extricate from this web of China's economy?

BREMMER: Well, we are decoupling on the tech side. And, of course, our companies have tried to get into the Chinese market for a long time, the FaceBooks, the Googles, the Amazons. They can't. They're kept out. We're now saying, Huawei, right, ZTE, other Chinese companies aren't allowed in the United States. And, by the way, our allies are going to have hell to pay if they let them in. the Europeans don't agree. That's an interesting area of confrontation.

Beyond that, we've had a lot of integration between the two economies in terms of basic trade. They've been the factory for the world. All of our companies. The Walmarts are out there and they're building an awful lot.

Well, you see Apple's numbers going down because they can't actually do the supply chain that they need. I was talking to a lot of German automotive manufacturers this weekend and they're saying, you know, our supply chain completely integrated.

SCIUTTO: Yes. BREMMER: We're having a real problem in China. So clearly there's a trend towards insourcing, because if you don't need as much labor to actually build your stuff then sell your stuff, then what's China's advantage?


And if, by the way, your people don't want to go to China and you're not sure if you can turn your factories back on in China, you can't really trust the data. Plus the Americans are giving you a hard time and really want you to pull your labor, to the extent you have any, back to the United States, I mean clearly you see that we're not going to have the same level of integration.

And the reason why the U.S. and Chinese will ultimately have a good relationship is because we need each other. So if we start needing each other a lot less, the potential for confrontation between the two countries goes up (ph).

SCIUTTO: That's the other side of it.

BREMMER: That's right.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

Ian Bremmer, we always get smarter when you're here. Thank you.

BREMMER: Good to be with you guys.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

A big shake-up in the presidential race. CNN's coverage continues right after this.