Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Economic Council Director, February 6, 2023
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:28 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Monday.
Okay. So before I introduce our special guest today, I wanted to address the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Today, our deepest condolences are with those who have lost loved ones in the devastating earthquakes that have thus far claimed thousands of lives and caused massive destruction in Turkey and Syria.
The President authorized an immediate U.S. response, in addition to the U.S. personnel currently on the ground. We are in the process of deploying additional teams to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquakes.
U.S.-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria. Since the earliest reports of an earthquake last night, Americans officials have been working closely with our NATO Ally, Turkey. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reached out to his counterpart last night. Secretary Austin spoke — and Secretary Blinken have both spoken with their counterparts today. USAID is also coordinating with their Turkish counterparts on traditional assistance.
I just wanted to let you know — we just found out — that we anticipate the President and President Erdoğan will have an opportunity to speak very soon. And we will certainly have a readout when that conversation occurs.
Finally, I wanted to turn it over to our special guest today, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese. Brian doesn’t really need an introduction, as you all know, given I told you all just last week how much we will miss him when he departs later this month to spend more time with his family, which we think is an amazing thing for him and his family and very happy for him.
I will note that I’ve just learned — we all just learned — that today will be his 11th press briefing in front of all of you. And it is an important milestone for many reasons, including being our first guest on the third day of this administration and sharing the podium with BTS. And you also made a pretty funny joke that day — I don’t know if you remember — when BTS was here.
But anyway — but, today, Brian is here to preview the economic themes in the President’s State of the Union Address tomorrow. You should have all received a factsheet just moments ago on those themes. And as well, we will have a press call tomorrow to preview another theme from the President’s State of the Uni- — Union: his Unity Agenda. You should have received an invitation to that call also a few minutes ago.
And you can all expect additional factsheets and excerpts ahead of the President’s remarks at 9:00 p.m. tomorrow. So please keep your eye on your inbox for tomorrow, and please tune in tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time for the President’s address.
With that, Brian.
MR. DEESE: One of the many things I’ve appreciated is how you all keep us honest, including that day when I followed BTS. I really appreciated how many of you reported at the precipitous decline in viewership when BTS moved out of the briefing room and I took over to talk about economic policy. (Laughter.) So — so, thanks.
I just wanted to spend a little bit of time, as Karine said, giving you a preview, in a sense, of how the President is going to address the economic priorities and economic issues in the State of the Union, and then happy to take your questions.
I think that the President is hoping to do two things broadly when it comes to the economy in the State of the Union. The first is to put the progress that we have made, economically, into — back into the broader frame that really compelled him to run for President in the first place and the broader frame around what it actually means to pursue what he refers to as a bottom-out, middle-up — middle-out, bottom-out — middle-out, bottom-up economic strategy, and make a clear contrast to the trickle-down economic philosophy that has pervaded thinking for years and decades in the past.
And so you will hear him talk about the progress that we have made, but in that context: that this is — this is — has been an animating part of what the President has wanted to achieve as President, and also a real consistent vision that, from the campaign to the early days to ongoing, even as we have dealt with a variety of unexpected issues that we have had to work through, the President has had a vision about what it could actually mean to grow the bot- — the economy from the bottom up. And you can — you will hear about that.
Now, the striking labor market report that we got on Friday obviously punctuated a historically strong period in the labor market recovery. You all know the statistics. The fact that the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 53 years.
But the bottom-up nature of the economic recovery is often lost or best seen in lesser understood statistics. And so things like the fact that we have seen this historic burst in people creating new firms, people creating new businesses coming out of the pandemic is not only a source of hope — because people don’t do that if they don’t think there’s opportunity in the economy going forward — but a huge source of potential dynamism for our economy that we need to make sure that we don’t fall back into a pre-pandemic equilibrium of low growth, low wage increases, increased inequality.
But also, the historically equitable nature of this labor market recovery is something that, again, connects to this idea that the President has always centered on, which is putting workers and families at the center of his economic policy.
So it’s not just that we’ve seen the labor market improve this quickly, it’s not just that we’ve seen household balance sheets come out of a crisis in a stronger position than any modern prior recovery, but also the equitable nature of that.
And I just — to give you one example of that: If you look back historically over the last several recoveries, it’s taken, on average, 50 months for the Black unemployment rate to return to its pre-pandemic level. That happened in this recovery in 24 months, less than half the amount of time. And that record is true if you look across other demographic categories as well.
So you’ll hear that about the President, sort of, trying to put in context the progress that we have made.
But the second thing, just to speak to the work yet to come, and the President uniquely understands that we have a lot more work to do when it comes to the economy and that even as we’ve seen real progress and inflation coming down, over the last six months in particular, we have more work to do to bring prices down, lower costs, and create some breathing room, as he says, for American families.
Even as we’ve passed historic legislation that will invest in America and help bring economic opportunity back to places across this country, we have a lot of work to do to actually implement and demonstrate that that kind of investment can unlock economic opportunity in ways that we’re beginning to see all across the country. But we have a lot of that ahead of us.
And we have additional work to do to demonstrate that we can do all of this while being fiscally responsible and while reducing the deficit — something the President has demonstrated in practice over the last two years — and that the plan that he will outline and the new policies that he will call for will underscore that we can invest in our country, lower costs for families, and reduce the deficit all at the same time.
A last thing on — which is something that is familiar to you all, because he’s been saying it since he was a candidate and as soon as he came into office, is: He is going to continue to look for every opportunity, when it comes to the economy and economic policy, to reach out and work with Democrats and Republicans, find practical paths forward, fri- — find compromise. It’s something that a lot of people wrote off, and I think we’ve — he has and we have been able to demonstrate that we can make progress on even when people are skeptical of that.
But at the same time, he’ll draw some clear lines of things where he’s not prepared to do, and — and we’ll — we will have to see whether his commitment to work with Republicans — whether Republicans are prepared to step up and work with him on a number of economic policy issues.
So I think that’s, in broad strokes, what you can expect to hear from him tomorrow night when it comes to the economy.
And with that, I’m happy to take a couple of questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Brian, congratulations on your tenure. On inflation specifically, a lot of progress has been made, and you guys have cited those statistics, but a lot of Americans still aren’t feeling it. And polling shows that as well. What kind of message can President Biden give tomorrow night that also gets to the people who feel like, “Yeah, inflation is still really biting”?
MR. DEESE: Yeah, I think the core message is: We have to make more progress, but people should feel optimism that because of what we have seen and because of the progress that we’ve made, that we know how to keep making progress going forward.
So, it — as you said, we really — we have made a lot of progress. Inflation is down now for six months in a row. Obviously, a big piece of that is that gas prices have come down and are down by more than a dollar and a half from the summer. But we’re seeing inflation moderate in a variety of other categories as well.
And so, at the end of the day, this is about: Can, you know, families and workers look and say, “Can I make everything add up at the end of the month?” And so we need to keep making progress in bringing those price increases moderating, but we also need to keep making progress at lowering costs directly for families.
And so that’s one thing you’re going to hear directly from the President — that a core part of any viable economic strategy needs to answer the question of “How are you going to keep lowering costs for families?” The President will outline specific ideas on how to do that, including building on the prescription drug reforms that we were able to enact to give more people the relief from prescription drugs; building on proposals that we have put in place to, for example, lower the cost of childcare, lower the cost of care for — caring for an elderly parent so that that also reduces a family’s balance sheet challenges, but also can help more parents, more women work. Those are the kinds of policies that would actually help to continue the progress that we have seen.
He’ll outline those, and he’ll make clear that, you know, that should be our priority, is looking at how do we keep this progress going.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jon.
Q Thanks a lot. Brian, good luck to you, whatever you are pursuing post-White House. Can you talk a little bit about how the debt limit will figure into the President’s remarks tomorrow? And is that a critical component of the President’s economic message?
MR. DEESE: Sure. Well, I think that what you’ll hear from the President and what is definitely — is — is his perspective is that the full faith and credit of the United States, this bedrock idea that the President — that the United States has met all of its financial obligations for its existence as a country, isn’t something that anybody should be using as a bargaining chip. It’s not a negotiable item. It’s Congress’s constitutional obligation.
And that’s how everybody should look at it, not only because it’s a bedrock of American stability, it’s something that our adversaries would look at and say, if that was questioned, that might weaken the United States — but also because the economic consequences of even questioning that bedrock principle can be quite severe. So you’ll hear that clearly from the President.
And you’ll hear an openness and, in fact, an eagerness to have a real serious conversation about the fiscal and economic priorities of the country and where we can find common ground on things like lowering costs for families, on things like how do we keep investing in the country and creating more manufacturing jobs, and do that in a way that reduces the deficit.
And the President is going to lay out a very clear and detailed plan, his — his approach for how to do that. He’s eager to see other plans, and then we can have a conversation about that. That’s the kind of conversation you have in a normal budget process, and that’s the appropriate way to approach these things.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Zeke.
Q Thanks, Brian. You mentioned — excuse me — a few minutes ago, in your — in your response to Jeff, you said the American people should feel optimistic about the direction of the country. Survey after survey shows they don’t. An AP survey over the weekend showed three quarters of Americans view the direction the economy is heading — the economy is heading in the wrong direction. Is that the objective for the President tomorrow night, to sort of convince the American public that their views of the economy are not the way — you know, that they should be seeing things the way you are and not the way they are currently feeling right now?
MR. DEESE: I think the objective, as is always the case for the President, is to, number one, meet the American people where they are, with the recognition, as I mentioned, that — that the anxiety and the ongoing challenges that families feel in their lives are the reality of a very challenging period, with a pandemic and a — a war in Europe that has driven — that drove gas prices up and food prices up and created lots — a lot of uncertainty.
And so, first and foremost, to meet the American people where they are, but also to help explain why he is optimistic that if we continue to make the kind of progress that we have — historic progress, even with all of the distance that we have yet to travel — then more and more families, more and more communities are going to see economic opportunity and more durable economic opportunity as a result of the policies that we have put in place, as a result of the economic progress that we’re making.
So that’s the way that the President has always approached these things, but will approach it tomorrow is to — is to acknowledge and meet American people where they are, but also to try to tell a story about where we are going, where we can go together.
And it — you know, it is the case that if you go around the world, if you talk to heads of state, see heads of state, CEOs, other leaders — they will tell you, you know, that the United States really is better positioned than almost any other country, that the opportunity to invest in the United States is something that people are enthusiastic about. And that bodes very well for the economy, not only in the very short term but over the medium term as well.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Weijia.
Q Thank you. Thanks, Brian. And good luck to you with your —
So, related to that, Jeff Zients was brought in in large part to be the — you know, to implement a lot of the pieces of legislation that were signed into law. So I wonder if you could give us a timeline for when you think Americans will really feel the impact of CHIPS; of, you know, IRA; of infrastructure. How long is it going to take before those policies really make a difference in the economy?
And then, secondly, at the top of your memo, before the McCarthy meeting, you wrote two questions that you really wanted him to answer, that the President was going to pose to him. Can you tell us if you got those answers about the — will —
MR. DEESE: Yeah.
Q — when will they release their budget, and will he commit to the bedrock principle that the U.S. won’t default on its debt?
MR. DEESE: Yeah. Yeah.
Well, so let me — let me take — let me take the first question first. And so, the first question is — is: We are beginning to see the impact all across the country. And I think that part of the reason why we have seen economic projections over the second half of last year defy many people’s and many more skeptical observers’ projections — we saw political outcomes define a lot of people’s projections as well — is that we’re beginning to see that.
But on all three of the major pieces of legislation — on Infrastructure, CHIPS and Science, and on the Inflation Reduction Act — 2023 is the year in which the most significant impact will begin to occur.
And so, you know, these things operate in stages. And so, you know, if you live in a community like the greater Syracuse community in upstate New York or outside in the area around Phoenix, the announcement that there is going to be a big investment in building a facility for — to manufacture semiconductors is the beginning of a process that is going to change and affect your community across time, beginning with significant new jobs in construction, and then over the course of 12 or 18 months, hiring engineers and facility operators and the like. And so, that will happen across time.
But I think that this is a year of action and investment and implementation where, across those areas, you’re going to see this unfold in more and more ways.
And one of the things that we — we often show but we use for our own internal planning as well is just a physical map of the United States, where you can see increasingly the commitments of private companies making investments, the grant announcements going in, the ways in which they’re going to begin to unturn.
And so — so, they will certainly happen across time. I think — you know, I do expect that this coming year will be a big year on that front.
And the last thing that I’ll say is that, you know, this is — this commitment to invest in this country in a way that we haven’t really done for decades is core to the President’s bottom-up economic philosophy that you have to do that with speed and precision, you need to make sure people understand how it’s done, but you also need to recognize that if we’re really going to rebuild our infrastructure, we’re really going to regain our strategic edge in an area like semiconductors, we also have to be committed to doing it over a multiyear period. Certainly, that’s true of other countries, but we have been deferring that maintenance and not doing that investment.
So — so it’s also going to be something that we need to commit to over time.
Q And the McCarthy memo?
MR. DEESE: Oh, right. Okay. And so — well, what I would say about the meeting itself is that the — that both the President and Speaker had a constructive and frank exchange. Those were — the President clearly laid out his perspective on those issues.
And I will say, you know, we are — we are continuing to hope and expect that the House Republicans will put out a budget plan, will bring forward a budget resolution. That is the way that the process works most effectively. And it really is important for the American people and for everyone to see that plan in full detail with numbers that add up.
And then, just back to the first — to the earlier question, this question of honoring the full faith and credit of the United States and everybody who holds an office of trust being clear that the United States will honor those obligations and will not default on its debt is something the President will continue to make clear and continue to make clear that’s his expectation of anybody — Republican, Democrat — who holds the office.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, April.
Q As the President, tomorrow night, is going to deliver a broader, optimistic look at the state of the Union, right now, in this moment, listening to what you have to say about the economy, what would you say is the state of the economy, just specifically drilling down on the economy?
MR. DEESE: Yeah. Well, on Friday morning, when I was over with the President in South Court, he — he said this, so I will just say what he said on Friday, which is that the state of the economy is strong. And that — you know, you see that in the lowest unemployment rate in 53 years. You see that in the most jobs created in the last two years in our country’s history. You see that in historic progress in an equitable recovery. You see that in the wage growth that we have seen being disproportionately going to those in the lower half of the income distribution.
And so, even with all of the distance we have to travel, and the understandable and important anxieties that families still face, and the need to bring prices down further, I think that he feels and we all feel that we are — we have an economy that is resilient, an economy that has been through an extraordinary amount and defied a lot of the skeptics’ expectations over the last two years.
Q And another question. Since police reform — this renewed call for police reform is supposed to be very strong in the State of the Union address, have you done the numbers, have you crunched numbers for this, about the cost of bad policing to this nation — be it lawsuits, be it DOJ investigations, pattern or practice, et cetera? Have you done the numbers crunching on that — what it actually costs the American taxpayer with these incidents that continue to happen?
MR. DEESE: I don’t — I don’t have a — I don’t have a specific analysis to point you to. But what I would say is certainly it’s the case that funding the type of evidence-based interventions that we know work in communities across the country generates — is both absolutely the thing we need to do as a country, but also has a broader economic dividend as well.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. And congratulations on the next step that you’re going to take.
So, last week, the Federal Reserve Chairman said that COVID is, quote, “no longer playing an important role in our economy.” Is the President going to make that pivot for policies and whatnot going forward?
MR. DEESE: Well, I think you’ve heard — I mean, you’ve heard from the President, you’ve heard from this administration that because of the progress that we have made on COVID, it no longer is holding back our economy and the lives of the American people in ways that it was, you know, in fundamentally debilitating ways two years ago when — three days into the administration, when — when I came to this podium.
The reason why we’re in that place is in no small part because this President and members of Congress worked together to prioritize putting a historic strategy in place to actually get the country vaccinated and make workplaces safe for people to return.
And so, I think the fact that we are where we are right now is a testament to the hard work of actually prioritizing getting a plan to — to get the pandemic under control. And certainly, I think our policies reflect that, including the announcement about how to responsibly wind down the — the pandemic emergency authorities.
Q But the administration and the Department of Justice is using that — the COVID hardship, economic hardship — as a reason for student debt forgiveness. So, does that policy then come off the table?
MR. DEESE: No, I think the — the legal and the practical justification for student debt forgiveness is about the impact that this pandemic has had on individuals’ personal circumstances. And certainly, those — those impacts, which have accumulated over the course of the last couple of years, are profound, they’re straightforward. And I think that that argument is — that argument persists even as we make progress through getting to, you know, new stages of this — of this pandemic.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Brian. Another polling question. I know you touched on it a little bit with some of my colleagues’ questions.
You mentioned how the President said Friday that the state of the economy is strong. We had a poll out over the weekend — ABC News — that found that 41 percent of Americans say they’re worse off financially now than before this President took office.
How do you explain the disconnect there of why this administration’s message about the strong economy is not getting through?
MR. DEESE: Right. So — so, I think — I think the poll that you just cited is actually consistent. So, about two thirds of Americans say that their — their circumstances are better than — than before — you know, say it either way.
And I think that — that it is the case that if you look at the, kind of, key measures of basic economic security — do I have health insurance; do I have $400 in the bank in case my car breaks down or I have another emergency expense; am I late or delinquent on a credit card bill; am I facing foreclosure — if you look at all of those measures, they — on average, American households are in a better position than they were before the pandemic hit. And that’s true for the lower-income quartiles as well.
And so, I think that that is, in part, reflected in the data that you’re saying — is that more Americans believe they’re in a better economic position in terms of their own balance sheet — their own family balance sheet.
And at the same time, in the way that we were talking about before, this has been a very challenging period with — with the pandemic and all of the ways in which — the second- and third-order ways in which that’s affected our lives and the way that we operate in the economy, with the war in Ukraine and the — and the cascading impacts on supply chains and on the ways it affects things that — you know, the basic price of things that people pay in the grocery store.
And so, for all those reasons, it’s — it’s understandable that even as personal household circumstances for the majority of people have improved, the anxiety — the economic anxiety is real.
So, I just go back to the answer I gave before, which is why the President will both speak directly to the fact that we have more work to do, but also underscore how the progress we have made to date can paint the picture to move forward and why we should, then, commit to the proposition of seeing these policies and this policy vision through.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael.
Q I — she basically had mine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. No problem.
Q So I’ll pass.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ian.
Q Yeah, I mean, building off that same question, I guess, when — you’ve been asked variations on this on the perceptions voters are having on the economy. But when do people start feeling more optimistically about the outlook?
And just to clarify on the stat that was just cited, it’s only 16 percent of those in the pool — poll believe they’re financially better off than when they entered — than when Biden entered the office — the White House. It’s 42 percent feel about the same.
So, just to clarify, it’s only 16 percent are feeling better off.
Yeah, so what’s your — so, when do people start feeling — more people start feeling better off about the financial future of the country?
MR. DEESE: Well, look, I think that — I don’t want to — you know, I don’t want to repeat myself, only to say we have more work to do. But if you look at the progress that we’ve made, particularly the recent progress that we have made with inflation coming down; gas prices coming down; real wages, as a result, going up; and the labor market opportunities that — that come from a strong — a historically strong job market — those are all reasons why we should — we should continue to — continue down the path of the progress that we have made.
Ultimately, the ultimate — you know, the — the ultimate test of — of an economic policy and an economic outcome is whether families feel more economic security in their lives.
And if you look at numerous measures, as we just discussed, we have come through this recovery recovering people’s economic security historically fast and historically equitable. And we have to keep making progress on it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Phil, in the back.
Q Thank you. The President has a lot of good news to tout tomorrow — low unemployment, reinvestment in manufacturing. I’m wondering, though, if you can help us get a better sense of his thinking on a lingering problem. The other day, when he was asked about inflation, he said that it was, quote, “already there when I got here.” Of course, inflation, when he arrived on Inauguration Day, was at 1.4 percent.
So, did the President misspeak? Or was he referring to more inherent challenges when he was — when he made that statement?
MR. DEESE: Look, the — the core of what we’ve seen in this economy has been a pandemic-driven economic crisis and a pandemic-affected recovery.
And that pandemic, when he came here, was raging out of control and there was no strategy — economic strategy to actually drive a recovery in the economy and drive a recovery in the pandemic.
And I think that, as we look back, the principal drivers of inflation have been the pandemic globally and subsequent shocks to the system, the most significant of which was the war in Ukraine.
And so, that’s where the — the, sort of, core drivers have been. And that’s, as a result, how we have oriented our economic policies. And I think that that arc and that trajectory is one that, now being on the other side of it, we are making progress.
And globally, as inflation is a challenge everywhere, the United States is one of the places where we’re seeing one of the strongest and most resilient labor market recoveries with inflation coming down as well.
So, I think that that’s the — that’s the historical context in which the President was speaking. And certainly, it’s the context in which we’ve been designing and implementing our policies.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Two more. Go ahead, Josh.
Q Thank you. Can you just go back to the Friday jobs report? Goldman has a report out today saying they think the odds of a recession are falling — next 12 months — to 25 percent, they now peg odds at, from 35 percent.
What do you think the odds are of a recession right now? And do you think that they’re improving, given that jobs data?
MR. DEESE: Look —
Q Are you more hopeful of a soft landing?
MR. DEESE: Look, the way I’ll answer that question is — is to go back to a point I made earlier about the importance that this President — of this President having a consistent and clear economic vision.
We — if you go back, you know, seven, eight months ago, when we laid out our strategy for how to effectuate a transition to more steady, stable growth — which meant trying to bring inflation down, maintain a resilient and strong labor market — a lot of people at the time — a lot of projections at the time said that wasn’t possible, that wasn’t feasible, that the economy would likely be in recession now — you know, in the first quarter of this year.
And I think that over the course of this period of time, we’ve seen — we’ve seen inflation come down, we’ve seen the labor market remain resilient. We’ve seen real wages go. And we find ourselves today in an economy where we have real resilience — real resilience here.
And so, as we look forward, the takeaway that we take is less to look at the — you know, the infinite predictions that are out there that we study — those analyses along with others — and, instead, to redouble our efforts to actually implement a policy agenda that we know and we have seen has really helped to bring this progress along.
So — so that’s — that’s where our focus is.
Q So you don’t think the recession odds are rising or falling with the status quo?
MR. DEESE: I think if you look over the course of the last three months, it would be hard pressed not to say that the — the economic data has come in in a way that is — spoke to inflation cooling and a more resilient labor market than most people thought was possible.
Q And a bit of a tricky question. They haven’t, obviously, announced your successor yet. We don’t know when that will be. One of the rumored candidates has been the Vice Chair of the Fed.
Have you been part of any conversations at the White House about how that process would go in replacing — or filling any Fed candidacy? And would existing governors be a candidate for the Vice Chair, or would you be looking outside to fill the Vice Chair position?
MR. DEESE: So, the President hasn’t made a decision. I’m not going to speak to or get ahead of the President making a decision on that front. So, I’m going to leave that to him.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Right there.
Q Thank you, Brian. The Federal Reserve increased rates and signaled more rate hikes. Is the President concerned about rising borrowing costs for businesses for consumers? And how is this going to impact his economic plan going forward?
MR. DEESE: Well, I think it goes — it’s an important question. And it connects to — just — I’ll bring it back to where, you know, we started this briefing, which is: The President’s view is that the most important things we can do for the economy right now to sustain this historic recovery, transition to not only a — not only to get back to that pre-pandemic equilibrium but to have an equilibrium where we have stronger, more resilient growth, higher productivity gains, stronger and more broadly shared wage gains, is to actually invest in this country and lower costs for families.
And so, that’s particularly important at a time where the financial pressures on families and household balance sheets are acute, and to do that in a way that is consistent with this transition that we need to have.
And we have a policy model for how to do that. In fact, the Inflation Reduction Act was, at its core, about lowering costs that families face — the actual, you know, monthly costs that they face for prescription drugs or for healthcare, lowering the clean energy costs that they face — while also reducing the deficit at the same time.
So, we know that we can do this. We just — we just passed a historic piece of legislation to this effect. And so, in areas from childcare to housing to otherwise, you’ll hear proposals from the President that have exactly that structure: How do we lower the costs on a family’s balance sheet and do it in a way that actually supports the macroeconomic transition we need?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Steven.
Q Thanks. Brian, I wanted to ask you if we should expect to hear anything from the President tomorrow night about the solvency of Social Security and Medicare. Will he have a comprehensive plan? Will we hear about it tomorrow night?
MR. DEESE: So, I think what you can expect to hear from the President is his values and his orientation on this issue, which is: He thinks that it is — it is not something that he would support to cut either of those programs and that there are ways that we can strengthen those programs and actually increase their — the ways in which they help the American people while also bringing down the deficit at the same time.
So, you can certainly expect to hear from him a pretty clear posture when it comes to those programs.
Q Specifics that address the solvency question?
MR. DEESE: Well, I think that — that, you know, there’s — there’ll be a period between State of the Union and the budget. And so, I think you’ll hear from the President speaking about his prin- — his principles and his vision tomorrow.
And then, I think you can expect that you’re going to see a lot of detail about the President’s policies in his budget.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. One more. Andrew and then Phil.
Q Thanks. In the speech, will he directly express optimism that the U.S. won’t hit a recession? Is that something he’ll address directly?
And then, on a separate issue, I think you’re set to meet with the French and German economic ministers here tomorrow. They’re raising concerns about the subsidies in the IRA. What’s your message to them going to be? And what’s the latest in terms of how the U.S. might accommodate concerns in Europe?
MR. DEESE: So, on the first question, I think you’ll hear the President is optimistic about America’s future because he believes in the American worker and the grit and resilience of the American people, and that that’s — that’s a message that he will — he will communicate clearly.
And with respect to your second question, you know, our — our message is — is pretty clear, which is that Europe and other allied countries have nothing to fear from the Imatio- — Inflation Reduction Act and quite a bit to gain, and that when the United States steps up and makes the most significant investment in clean energy and energy security ever in the history of the country, one of the many things that it does is to actually accelerate the reduction in cost of deploying next-generation energy technologies that are critical for the world and that those benefits are felt far outside the United States, number one.
And number two, we have nothing to apologize and, frankly, everything to be proud about — that that is a piece of legislation that provides long-term, technology-neutral incentives to invest in the United States and particularly in communities that have borne the brunt of — of pollution or have been at the front end of producing traditional fossil energy.
That’s the right thing to do for the country. It’s the right thing to do for our clean energy manufacturing base. It’s the right thing to do for American workers. And the President is quite proud of that approach.
So, we’ll continue to work through those pieces, but I think the important piece is to keep our eye on the fact that the United States is now leading, and other likeminded countries should both recognize that and also seek, you know, opportunities to partner with us. That’s certainly something we’re open to.
Q Thanks, Brian. Putting aside the responsibility you may bear for BTS taking a break — (laughter) — shortly after appearing with you at the briefing —
MR. DEESE: It was — it was — it was shockingly close.
Q Yeah —
MR. DEESE: It was a correlation/causation problem. (Laughter.)
Q Yeah, I figured as much.
But on a serious note, a lot of the optimism is based on the legislative agenda that you guys signed into law after the first two years. But implementation, while it’s kind of an abstract concept, also brings challenges.
When you look into the months or years ahead when it comes to implementing that agenda, what challenges do you think the administration is going to have to confront? And how capable do you think they are with the tools they currently have to overcome any implementation challenges?
MR. DEESE: Yeah. Well, even the word “implementation” — it sort of sounds technocratic. This really is about investing in America, because it’s about using public investment grants or tax incentives to crowd in and unlock an enormous amount of private investment across the country. And you’re right, and the priority has to be on doing that efficiently and effectively and with — with the policy goals and the American people in mind.
I think, certainly, it’s going to require, as a country, that we do things differently, do business differently. It’s one of the reasons why the President has been so supportive of permitting reform. And while we’re looking at the tools we have — the executive tools that we have to accelerate the process, we need to demonstrate to the American people and the world that we can build faster, more efficiently, and more equitably than we’ve done in the past.
And while that’s a challenge, I feel really quite confident and optimistic that we have the tools in place. Congress has given us the tools in — across those three pieces of legislation. We have extraordinary talent and capability across the executive branch, and there’s been a lot of, now — because these laws have passed — a lot of mobilization happening at the state and local level with companies and otherwise organizing around this collective effort.
So, no question there will be challenges and there will be setbacks along the way. But I think that that collective effort of investing in America — I would just end on the note of: It also — it summons a larger national project. Again, one that we — you know, we haven’t really taken on as a country since the 1960s around collectively understanding the impact of what it means to invest across years and upgrading our infrastructure, changing the face of the country — whether it’s electric vehicle charging stations or whether it’s being able to say, you know, we committed to the proposition that we were going to eliminate lead pipes from schools and homes across the country, and then being able to see many years down the road.
And that also creates the opportunity for people to feel — and we’ve been talking, you know, about polling — this sense of pride in that — in the United States that we can do big things and we can do big things collectively and that — and that that’s — that’s part of the potential here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Deese has gone for a long time because — this his 11th briefing. But I’m going to do —
Q Do you have any comment on the billions of dollars —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — Kelly — Kelly O — and then —
Q — that went to (inaudible) your administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — the gentleman in the back.
Q Mr. Deese, do you have comment on —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait — wh- — hold on.
Q — the fraud that took place —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I didn’t call on you. I didn’t call on you.
Q — on the COVID money?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Kelly O, go ahead.
Q Billion of dollars went to fraudsters.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Kelly O.
Q First of all, thank you for taking so many questions. We all appreciate that. And we hope your successor will, too. And we do really appreciate it.
A number of them dealt with this perception issue of how Americans are feeling differently than a lot of the positive data you have. Is there a perception issue in the other direction on inflation?
Because when the President says he’s not responsible for inflation, that it’s a global issue and things like that, is there a problem or — or maybe a gap somewhere in how the White House views inflation when so many Americans feel it on a daily and weekly basis when they’re having to meet their obligations? Is there a perception gap on inflation here?
MR. DEESE: No, not at all. I mean, you have a President who has gone out and said that his top economic priority is to bring down inflation. You have a President that prioritized working with Congress to pass a bill called the Inflation Reduction Act, which, as we talked about before, was designed specifically to lower the cost of people’s prescription drugs, lower healthcare costs, lower clean energy costs.
And you have a President that has been tireless about working on those issues that connect most directly to the lived experience of people across the country: the efforts — which I won’t, you know — we’ve talked about at this podium around trying to help bring gas prices down in the wake of Putin’s invasion. From things very visible in public, like the historic release strate- — Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to the — to things the President is doing every day behind the scenes diplomatically with our allies and partners on those sets of issues.
And as a result, in no small part because of those efforts, we’re now seeing progress. That progress is not sufficient. We need to keep making more progress.
But the President is actually focused today on those — the — those issues. And that’s what you’re going to hear. “How can we keep making progress to reduce — lower costs for people?”
And I would say this, I think, also is an area of contrast that the President will highlight, which is that what — you know, he wants this economic conversation to focus on how we can keep reducing costs for the American people. And doing things like cutting taxes for the very wealthiest people in the country and increasing the deficit as a result of that not only are bad economic policy, but they don’t speak in any way to that core issue.
So, I think — I think the President is very much focused on that issue. He’s shown that he can actually work to deliver results and is going to keep arguing why we need to make more progress and effort.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Very last question. The gentleman in the back.
Q Thank you. Speaker McCarthy clearly believes Democrats in the White House will give Republicans some concession for raising the debt limit. I’m wondering why Democrats wouldn’t negotiate at all over that debt ceiling.
MR. DEESE: So, we’ll just circle back. I think I’ve answered elements of this before. It’s important to distinguish between two things. One is the full faith and credit of the United States government and the sacrosanct nature of that commitment and the core commitment that the U.S. needs to pay its bills. And any — any sense that the United States is going to fail to meet that obligation has enormous economic and national security ramifications that no — we — we cannot get close to.
Separate from that issue, having a conversation about fiscal policy, having a conversation about how we can reduce the deficit responsibly while also keeping our focus on lowering costs for families is something that the President is
is eager to have.
And frankly, the way to have that conversation is for the President to put out his budget plan, for House Republicans to put out their budget plan, and then to have a conversation around those two.
So, that’s why you’ve heard the President and the administration both commit that we will do that. We’ll put out a budget. We’ll put out a very detailed budget here in the next month. And our hope and expectation is that the House Republicans will do the same.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thank you so much, Deese.
Q Any comment on COVID fraud?
MR. DEESE: All right —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much.
MR. DEESE: Thank you, everyone.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Deese.
Q Will you be shaving? (Laughter.)
MR. DEESE: No.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s a good question.
MR. DEESE: No.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thank you so much.
And one more thing before we head into questions. I also wanted to highlight that today the Vice President is convening private-sector leaders as part of the public-private partnership she launched in 2021 to address the root causes of migration from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
The Vice President is announcing that this partnership has generated more than $4.2 billion in private sector investments. These investments are created — have — are creating economic opportunity for people in those countries so that they are less inclined to leave their homes and take the dangerous journey to the United States.
These are long-term development efforts, but we are already seeing encouraging trends. Illegal border crossing from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have significantly declined over the past 18 months. This — that’s in addition to the impact of the border enforcement measures President Biden announced just last month, which have resulted in a dramatic decline in illegal border crossing with Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Cuba.
All told, we are now seeing the lowest number of illegal crossing between ports of entry since February of 2021.
It doesn’t mean our work is done. As you all know, we still have more work to do and we’re going to keep at it.
But unlike Republicans in Congress who simply pull the political stunts and tried to get in the way, we’ve got an actual plan to address these very challenging issues. And as you see, as I just laid out, our plan is indeed working.
All right. Go ahead, Zeke. Kick us off.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just a bit of housekeeping. Do you an update on when the President will be coming back from Camp David? Is there a reason for his delay?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I — no — no update on when he’s going to be returning. I think we had mentioned and you probably saw his Twitter account this weekend just laying out how — on social media — how the President was going to Camp David to focus on his speech for tomorrow night. I just don’t have an update on his return. And I’m sure it’ll be sometime this afternoon.
Q And on a different topic: In the wake of the balloon operation, NSC and — the administration has said that it’s going to brief members of the Trump administration on that. Can you give us a list of which Trump administration members would be eligible for that briefing? I mean, is former President Trump eligible since the President had previously blocked him from getting classified briefings after he left office?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as we mentioned, and you heard my colleagues from the — from NSC — that we are prepared — the intelligence community is indeed prepared to — to offer key officials, as you were just laying out, from the Trump administration to — on the briefings on this PRC surveillance program.
And so, I don’t have — we’re not going to get into who are those key officials from here. I would refer you to the intelligence community on those logistics, on when it’s going to happen and who those key officials are — would be.
But again, we are — we are prepared, we are willing to have that conversation, to do the briefing, but just not going to get into the specifics of who.
Q And just on a third topic: A number of surveys, including from the AP, over the weekend showed that a majority of Democrats don’t want the President to seek reelection. They’re looking for a new generation and have concerns about his age.
Without getting into whether or not the President will announce, does the President believe that he has to address those concerns from his own constituents?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you just laid out, I’m going to be very careful; covered by the Hatch Act. Don’t want to get into the specifics of what 2024 is going to look like or any underlying components of that.
The President has been very clear: He intends to run. And, you know, I think the way that we should look at this is what we saw from the midterms. Right? I think that’s a really important point there, where the President laid out the policy, right? He’s the one that laid out the policy for senators and congressional members to really have a midterms that did not lead to a red wave, right?
We saw what happened in the Senate. We saw that, yes, Republicans now have Congress, but by a slim majority. We were told it was going to be more than 60 seats. And it’s not that at all.
And that’s because the President went out there, spoke directly to the American people, and laid out what it is that we have done the last two years — how we’ve built — you’ve heard from Brian Deese just moments ago. He took many, many questions, laying out the President’s economic plan, how it’s working, but how there’s still more work to do, but essentially, talking through the different policies — the different policies that became — that became legislation, that turned into law. That was — that was historic. And all of those pieces matter.
And I think, in the State of the Union, he’ll have an opportunity to speak directly to the American people, not just congre- — not just Congress, to talk about what we have done the last — what he has done the last two years and how he sees the future of this country.
And so, I’m not going to get into what the person — what the President should respond to. I think, you know, the President always says this: Watch him. Watch him and see what he does.
And I think he has a record over the last two years that shows that he has delivered. And that’s the numbers that we’re going to pay attention to. Right? We’re going to pay attention to unemployment, how it’s been down more than in 53 years, a historic unemployment. We’re going to pay attention to more than almost 12 million jobs that has been created under this President. We’re going to pay attention to the 800,000 manufacturing jobs that has been created under this President. And I think that’s what we’re going to continue to work on and that’s what we’re going to continue to speak to.
Q Thanks, Karine. Some State of the Union preparations questions. Can you tell us what the President was doing at Camp David this weekend? What did those preps look like? Who was he working with? Is he still in major rewrites at this point or just kind of fine-tuning, doing run-throughs? What was the weekend like for him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, one of the things that I’ve said — I said this last week — is that, as you know, when it comes to big speeches like this, there’s going to be probably, you know, tweaks and — to the speech until the last minute. That’s kind of how — how it goes.
But I’ll say more — more generally or actually speaking to your question about Camp David: The President was accompanied by several of his senior aides. Work has — has gone into the speech over the course of many, many weeks, as we know, because, again, this is something that the President truly sees as a moment to speak to the American people. And the work continued the weekend — through the weekend, as — as it did today.
Michael Donil- — Michael Donilon was there. Bruce Reed was also there with him. Steve Ricchetti, Anita Dunn. And Vinay Reddy. As you all know, he is his — his speechwriter.
And so that was, kind of, the makeup of the weekend. And certainly, I’m not going to get ahead of anything else from here.
Q And how does the President approach this speech, given the different dynamic in the House chamber tomorrow night with the Republican majority, compared to his speech last year?
You know, this is a Republican majority that’s launched multiple investigations into his administration. How is he thinking of that as he goes to give this speech tomorrow night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the President is heavily — as I’ve said many times, heavily engaged in the writing process. When you — when you hear the speech, you’ll certainly hear — there’ll be no question that this is a Joe Biden — Joe Biden State of the Union speech. So just want to make that really clear.
But, you know, don’t want to get ahead of what you’re going to hear from him. And so, again, it’s going to be about ensuring our accomplishments and what we’ve done the last two years. He’ll talk about that clear — clearly. He’ll lay that out.
And, you know — and I’ve also said this before: This is a President that’s incredibly optimistic, and he talks about the possibilities. He talks about not betting against the American people.
And so, you’ll continue to hear those types of, kind of, themes in his — in his speech. But, of course, I’m not going to get into specific issues or the political moment that we’re in as he — as he’s still working through and dealing with the speech for tomorrow.
Go ahead, Phil.
Q Thanks, Karine. Administration officials said that after the balloon was shot down, there were communications between the administration and their Chinese counterparts, kind of, detailing the rationale and the why. Can you talk about how you guys are thinking through the next steps in this relationship, given the cancellation of Secretary Blinken’s visit and, obviously, what seemed to be pretty brazen act over the course of the last week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, our approach with China has been pretty clear, and we’ve been very, very clear about this, that — and it will be — continue to be calm, resolute, and practical. That is not going to change on how we’re going to move forward with our relationship with China, with our diplomatic conversations.
As we move beyond this, the President has been clear: We have been and will continue to keep open lines of communications with China. As you mentioned, Blinken and Jake Sullivan and many others have continued those dialogues, especially after last week. And, in fact, he — like I — was mentioned, there was multiple levels of conversation about our — about their surveillance balloon and, again, communicated directly with China after we took our action to bring the balloon down.
So, again, multiple — multiple channels of communication. That will continue.
China’s, we believe, irresponsible action were visible for the American and the world to see. Not only that — at the same time, a second PRC surveillance balloon was seen traversing Latin — Latin America. That’s one thing that you all reported.
And it’s up to China to show it is serious about its words of being a responsible country, that it wants to build a mee- — build on the meeting that the President and — the President had with President Xi very recently. And so, it’s up to China to figure out what kind of relationship that they want.
And as you know, yes, Secretary Blinken did — did postpone his trip; it was not canceled. And when the time permits, we’ll see that trip back on the books.
But again, it doesn’t change our — what we are trying to do and how we’re trying to move with China. It’s up to them.
Q And then, just one more. On Saturday, when the President spoke just off of Air Force One, he seemed very definitive in making clear that he was the one who said explicitly, “I want this to be shot down.” Military leaders suggested to wait.
Was that a reflection perhaps and frustration in terms of the political attacks you guys have gotten from Republicans who said this should have happened on the front end as opposed to the back end?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, just a couple of things. I know there was a tick-tock that went out to all of you from the National Security Council that was pretty detailed on how everything kind of broke down for the past week and how things — how things flowed. I’ll give a little truncated version of that.
On Tuesday, the President — through the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan — directed the military to refine and present options to shoot the balloon down immediately. The President also directed the military and the intelligence community to collect against the balloon so that we would learn more about China’s capabilities and tradecraft.
At the same time, we protected — we protected against Chinese intelligence collection because we knew exactly where the balloon was going. The military recommended taking the balloon down over water following the determination by military commanders that there was undue risk of debris causing harm to civilians while the balloon was over land in Alaska, Canada, or the continental United States.
On Wednesday, the President directed the military to take it down at the first available opportunity when it could be done with safety, especially as we’re thinking about Americans’ lives and being safe there, while maximizing our ability to recover the payload.
Shooting the balloon down over water wasn’t just the safest option, it maximized the chance of recovering the payload, giving us a better chance to get information from the Chinese surveillance balloon payload.
But I think the bottom line here — and this is something that we want to make very clear — is that: Look, what China did was unacceptable. We protected civilians, and we gained more intel while protecting our own sensitive information.
And so I — I laid that out so you have an understanding of how this past week went.
And, you know, the President, as we all know, is not just the President, he’s also the Commander-in-Chief. And his number-one priority is making sure that American lives are — are protected and that we protect, you know, citizens in this country.
But at the same time, we wanted to make sure that we were able to collect some data, which we were able to do, and that’s why we took that action. And the President — the President made sure we took that action.
Q Thanks, Karine. How much damage would you say has been done to the U.S.-China relationship because of this? And do you expect the President to bring this topic up in his speech tomorrow night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I will say this: As we know, when — when it comes to the State of the Union speech, foreign policy is always a topic in those — in that speech. I’m not going to get ahead of the President and what he’s going to — speak to.
As it relates specifically to China, you know, I just laid out at the top that it is going to be up to China. It’s up to China to see how they — they want to see this relationship moving forward. And so I’ll leave it there.
Q Let me ask you one —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — more broad question about the State of the Union Address. We heard Brian Deese’s take on the economic terms. Obviously, foreign policy will also be in — a theme. Can you just give us a broad-brush answer on what does President Biden hope to achieve with his speech tomorrow night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know — and I’ve said this before, so it doesn’t — this doesn’t change much at all — is that the President sees this moment as a critical moment, an important moment to speak directly to the American people, to talk about the last two years, to talk about where we’ve been and where we’re going. And that is important to the President. That doesn’t change. He’s — this is his second State of the Union speech.
Certainly not going to get into issues and get ahead of the President.
But, you know, the President will underscore the progress we have made during one of the most challenging times, especially in history, and the progress the American people want us to continue to make by working together in this year ahead.
You just — you just heard from Brian outlining how the President has carried out his economic vision, growing the economy from the bottom up and middle out, instead of the — from the top — the top down.
One of the things that you have seen this President do: He has transformed how we see the economy, right? When you think about the trickle-down — the trickle-down economy, he sees it, again, bottom up, middle out. This is something that the President has done with — with the policies that he’s put forward. And so that is something that we are going to — he is going — you’re going to continue to hear from him, continue to hear from — from him about giving the American people a little bit more of a breathing room. Because this is something that he understands personally.
So, tomorrow is going to be a big opportunity for the President, again, to speak directly to the American people, the millions of people who will be watching and who will be wanting to hear from their President. And he takes this incredibly seriously.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q So I wonder if I could follow up a little bit on Zeke’s third question. I think you made the assertion that the reason that there wasn’t a red wave or the reason that the elections and the midterms were more successful than many people thought they would be for Democrats was because of the President. Is that — that’s a fair —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And we’ve said that before. It’s noth- — it’s nothing new. We think —
Q So, like —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — we think the President played a very big role in laying out the message for Democrats.
Q So I wonder how, in light of the following poll, you can make that assertion.
This is a recent NBC poll:
Is Biden honest and trustworthy? 34 percent, yes; 48 percent, no.
Ability to handle a crisis: 30 percent — 32 percent, yes; 49 percent, no.
Competent and effective: 31 percent, yes; 49 percent, no.
Has the necessary mental and physical health to be President: 28 percent, yes; 54 percent, no.
Uniting the country: 23 percent, yes; 50 percent, no.
I mean, given that poll, which, you know, is not just a single poll, it’s been — you know, versions of that had been repeated in poll after poll, survey after survey since the midterm elections and before. And I think one of my colleagues referenced a recent poll that said 60-something percent — more Democrats don’t want President Biden to be their nominee than Republicans don’t want President Trump to be their nominee.
So, given all of that, why are you so convinced that it was President Biden that caused the Democratic success in the midterms and not that the Democrats had success in spite of the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I’ll say this: Because if you look at what candidates — senators and congressional members — ran on, it was the successes that the President had. It was on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. It was on the CHIPS and Science — and Science Act, which was bipartisan because of — the President was able to make that happen. It was because of the Inflation Reduction Act. If you hear the message that was coming out of Democrats during the midterms, it was what we were able to deliver.
So, yes — so that’s what they used. Right? They used exactly what the President was able to do in order to get that success. And so —
Q So that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is — right? — if you think about all of the pieces of — of historic legislation that became law, clearly, that — that we did last year, again, the President led that. And the President went out there and spoke on these very important pieces of historical legislation.
When you think about what it’s done for the economy, what it’s done for the American people, how it’s provided some relief: Yeah, I think the President did play a big role.
Q So, then, just one quick follow-up. I mean — I mean, I guess does it suggest then that maybe the Democrats who were talking about the President’s agenda have been more successful at talking about the President’s agenda than the President —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well —
Q — himself has been? And does that make it all the more important tomorrow and — and whatever — whenever the President rolls out his election — re-election campaign, if he does — but does it make it that much more important for the President to somehow find a way to communicate as effectively as, I guess, some of these other Democrats were? Because, obviously, however — however he’s communicating now isn’t translating —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’ll say — I mean, look —
Q — into his own successes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll say this, Michael — and Brian — and Brian spoke to this — right? — I think he got this question every which way from — from your colleagues, and a very important question to ask. But I’ll say this: We understand and it is true that the American people are feeling — are feeling inflation. They’re feeling what the pandemic and COVID has — has done — right? — the last two, three years.
And so we understand that they’re going to have some feelings about the economy right now. And so that is something that the President has always acknowledged and has said, “There’s always more work to do.”
But also, the reality is, if you look at the data, if you look at how the economy has bounced back because of this work that the President has done — and Brian spoke to this; I have spoken to this — when you think about record 12 million jobs, when you think about unemployment at the lowest that it’s been in 54 years, when you think about the 800,000 manufacturing jobs and how important the CHIPS and Science Act is going to continue to be as we see manufacturers coming back to the U.S — those are real data points, right? Those are real things that has occurred these past two years, and it’s because of the President.
And so, look, we get where the American people are. But what we are going to focus on is — are the numbers that I just laid out. And that is also important.
Will we continue to need to talk directly to the American people? Absolutely. That’s why the State of the Union — we see it as an important moment to lay out — for the President to lay out how he sees the country moving forward and also to remind folks and lay out what he has done the last two years.
There’s no easy answer there. I get where you’re getting to. But this is an incredibly complicated time.
What the President is going to focus on is how he’s going to continue to deliver for the American people.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Thanks. Is this the first Chinese balloon that the U.S. identified flying over U.S. airspace under this administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So what I can say is that we have talked about the China’s — China’s balloon program. We have — generally on this, the Chinese surveillance balloons program has been around for some time. We even — we even briefed Congress this past August.
So I don’t have any specific on any other balloon during this — during — during this President’s administration.
But there has been a program that has been in effect. We have kept Congress abreast on that. So — but I don’t have anything more to say or to share.
Q How is it possible that this administration discovered at least three previous balloons that flew over the U.S. under the previous administration, but Trump officials didn’t know it was happening?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so, look, I think that — and we have talked about this before, about how the — when it — when the PRC government surveillance balloons trans- — trans- — trans- — transited the continental U.S. briefly at least three times, as you just mentioned, during the President’s — the prior administration and once that we know of the beginning of this administration’s. But never for this duration of time, as we know.
This information was discovered prior to the admin- — administration left, but the intelligence community, as I said, is prepared to give — give briefings to key officials. But this is something —
Q Prior or post?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — this is something — sorry, post. So this is something that we — they did not — they were not aware of, as we’ve just laid out. But again, we are ready to brief key officials to let them know what — you know, what the intelligence community was able to figure out.
Q But is there anything you can share about how you became aware of it? Like, did you —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m —
Q Is there — I just don’t — did you go back and look at some —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to get into the intelligence community — intelligence community information from here. That’s not something that we do from the — certainly from the briefing room.
What I can say is that we learned of this, the three prior, during the past administration. And — and so we’re — we are willing to share that information. But again, I’m just not going to get into intelligence from here.
Q And then, last question on this. Since the administration was aware of the balloon program, did any U.S. officials have conversations with the Chinese about balloons over U.S. airspace —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — during this administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — you know, we’re not going to get into specifics of private diplomatic conversations we had with China. We’re just not going to do that from here.
We’ve been very clear that what China did was indeed a violation of international law. You’ve heard directly from Secretary Blinken making that very clear. And China knows that it will — that we will vigorously defend our homeland and sovereignty. That is something that we’ve also made very clear. But we’re just not going to get into diplomatic conversations from here.
Q Karine, can we follow up on that?
MS. DALTON: (Inaudible) one or two more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, what now?
Q We’re — we’re getting the hook, but if you got time for one or two more?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, okay, one or two more. All right, I’m going to go to —
Q In the back, please.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — to the back. Go ahead.
Q Can I ask you just about COVID? It took up a lot of real estate in last year’s State of the Union speech. What’s going to be different this year? And is the President going to address the yawning gap between vaccinations in the developed world and in the less developed world?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s speech tomorrow.
As it relates to COVID, you know, the President has talked about — many times of how we’ve been able to get the economy going. And a lot of that was because of how the President handled COVID, of how he was able to put forward an American Rescue Plan that was able to put forward a comprehensive plan to get shots in arms.
And because of the work that this President has done, we are in a different place. COVID is not taking over our lives. We’re still fighting COVID. And — and — but again, we’re in a different place.
I’m just not going to get into what the President is going to talk about or say and — on any particular issue. We’ve kind of given the — the — you know, kind of a little bit of a — a little bit of the themes a little bit here. You heard from — from Brian. I’m just not going to get ahead of the President from here.
I’m going to — go ahead.
Q Thank you. Sorry. (Inaudible.) Has the President looked to any past State of the Union addresses for inspiration as he crafts this one? He’s worked with some great orators over the years.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to go into the — into his process. What I can say is the President has been — was a senator for 36 years. He was Vice President for eight years. He was — has been President for two. He knows how this process is. He knows how it works. He knows how important tomorrow is going to be. And he is — when you hear the speech, it’s going to sound like a Joe Biden State of the Union speech. So I can definitely assure you on that. Just not going to get beyond that.
Go ahead, the person behind you.
Q Thank you. So, Karine, we know of these few balloons that had flown in the past — the one, of course, from last week. You say the relationship is up to China going forward. Should the expectation be for the American public that — that this is it with balloons then? Or is it that this could potentially happen again in the future? And if that’s the case, that the standard procedure going forward is wait for it to get over water and then it’ll be shot down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I’m not going to get into going to get into, you know, specifics of what might happen next or hypotheticals from here. I’m just not going to do that.
What I can say is, as you’ve heard me say, there is a — there was a China surveillance program — right? — balloon program that we have — that has been going on for some time, that Congress certainly was briefed on back in late — in last August. But just — just not going to get into hypotheticals from here.
Q And then, one more. There are — there’s bipartisan calls up on Capitol Hill as it relates to TikTok and the national security implications of it. You have Congressman Ken Buck saying: If you think a — “If a CCP surveillance balloon scares you…wait until you hear about TikTok….”
Senator Michael Bennet had recently called on the CEOs of Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their — their devices — from their Google Play stores and Apple play store.
Does the administration believe that TikTok is a national security threat? And does it believe that those apps should be removed from phones?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President — the Biden administration more sp- — more broadly, has never allowed TikTok on White House devices. Other fa- — federal agencies have similar restriction. We have been clea- — clear about our concerns on apps like TikTok.
And so, look, we are focused on the challenges of certain countries, including China, seeking to leverage digital technologies and Americans’ data in ways that present unaccountable, unacceptable national security risk.
I’m just not going to get ahead of it. As we know, there’s a review currently happening. But we take this very seriously.
And as I said, the Biden administration has never allowed TikTok on the White House — on the White House devices.
Q Is it a national security risk?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m just not going to — there’s a review happening by CFIUS. I’m just not going to get ahead of that.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right. Thank you. Thank you so much.
3:39 P.M. EST