Tony Farto Says You Should Stop Labelling The Economy
Q So with the latest bad numbers on consumer spending and labor markets — the news seems to be getting worse by the day — how is the President going to allay Americans’ concerns that the economy is either heading for a recession, or in a recession?
MR. FRATTO: Look, you can try to put labels on what the economy is. I mean, it’s very low-growth and it’s much lower, or slower, than we would certainly like to see. What we’re focused on is the policies that will return us to higher growth.
Q Well, isn’t it an especially bad sign that the consumer, who has been carrying the economy for a long time now, really stopped spending in a dramatic way last month?
MR. FRATTO: Well, I mean, it’s not a positive sign. We would like to see the economy continue to support — the consumer continue to support this economy. We think as long as wages continue to grow and there isn’t a sharp drop-off in jobs — we still have more Americans working than ever before, so we have a lot of Americans working. We still have a relatively low unemployment rate. And so they should still be there to support the economy. But we want to see consumers have the strength to be able to continue to support growth and the economy.
All Out Of Ideas
Q Tony, in tomorrow’s speech will the President be offering anything new, or let us know if he’s thinking about other things that can be done? Or is there anything that can be done?
MR. FRATTO: We’re always looking at new ideas and things that can be done —
Q I’ve heard that before — will we be hearing anything new tomorrow?
MR. FRATTO: No, you shouldn’t look for new major announcements tomorrow.
Q Is it a matter of tomorrow’s theme being “hold on to your hats until we can get into the third quarter, when Lazear says things will be getting better”?
MR. FRATTO: I wouldn’t put it quite that way. I think we said —
Q How would you put it?
MR. FRATTO: I think — Americans should know and Americans should have confidence that this economy will return to stronger growth.
Q Tony, could I follow up on something you said at the gaggle this morning about — in your response to the retail sales numbers? You said, we want consumers to spend. How can they —
MR. FRATTO: We call them consumers.
Q How can they, and why can’t — why should they, when they’re spending so much on gas and food prices, how can they buy other retail items?
MR. FRATTO: No, you’re right, there’s no question. As I said earlier, higher energy prices take — are a drain on the disposable income of families. That’s why we want to see — we want to return to growth, and importantly, wage growth, so that people can afford more of whatever they want. Obviously, there are certain things that they need to spend on, and energy for a lot of families is a growing cost. But, yes, there’s no question it’s a drain on their finances, and we’re concerned about that and we want to — but we need to look at it as the needs of the overall economy.
Q How big of a warning signal is this to you, this retail report today? I know you don’t want to go down the recession road, but there are a lot of analysts out there saying today that this is further warning that the economy has headed in that direction.
MR. FRATTO: Well, there are — we have seen lots of data points in recent months that point to a very slow economy in this quarter. There’s absolutely no question about that. We’ve been very clear about that. That’s one of them; the jobs report is one of them.
Your Daily Les
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Would it be accurate to say that our President realizes the great importance of any leader of a free country in setting a national example in supporting morality?
MR. FRATTO: I think the President pretty clearly supports morality.
Q Good. (Laughter.) What does — I’m delighted. What does the President believe to be the effect on our nation’s young people of one of our nation’s top national leaders refusing even to comment on her state’s married governor’s repeated use of prostitutes, in apparent violation of the Mann Act?
MR. FRATTO: I think what the President said is it’s a sad day, and I think I’ll just leave it at that.