Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on How the Obama Admin. Can Prove They're Saving Jobs

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," June 8, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: In the meantime, to the White House.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a member of the president's inner circle, telling me moments ago these job gains they're talking about are real.


CAVUTO: The administration, you folks in general talking about 600,000 jobs likely added or saved or created. How do you prove the ones that are saved?

TOM VILSACK, U.S. AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Well, the facts are — is that, for example, in the education area, 135,000 education jobs, Arne Duncan will be able to establish, because school districts have been strapped because of lack of state and local funding, that the additional resources being provided under the Recovery Act that will allow teachers to save their jobs. This is something the school district can easily verify. So we feel pretty confident about that 135,000 number.

We also know that the youth jobs, 125,000 youth jobs through the Department of Labor is a very solid number as well.

And if you talk to Eric Holder, he's going to tell you that 5,500 law enforcement jobs are absolutely jobs that — that will be created or will be retained as a result of the difficulties that local and state governments are seeing with their — their budgets.

CAVUTO: But as a governor, I don't remember you ascribing new math to how jobs were added. They were either added or they weren't. There's no way to prove if they were saved. Right?

VILSACK: Well, no, that's — with due respect, Neil, that's really not true. It's pretty clear that if you get additional resources in a school district, then you're essentially not going to have to lay off a teacher or staff. If you don't get those resources, then you're forced, because you've got to balance budgets, you've got to force — and you're forced to make personnel cuts. So these jobs are real jobs...

CAVUTO: No, no. I see that, Secretary, I see the possibility that if they didn't get that budgeting and that money, they might have to lay off people. It's not to say they definitely would have, though.

So I guess what troubles some numbers-crunchers, Secretary, is that they don't like the way you're crunching.

VILSACK: Well, Neil, there's no question, you talk to a school superintendent, and the numbers don't lie. The reality is, without the recovery resources coming into local school districts, there would not be enough money to basically support school budgets, so significant cuts have to be made, because that's what school budgets are.

For the vast majority of them, it's about personnel. It's about people.

CAVUTO: But are you troubled, as some are, sir, that still early going, that the unemployment rate is higher than you thought it would be at this point, and this is with stimulus at this point?

In other words, that if you were expecting a bang for the buck from it, you're not getting as much bang from the buck.

VILSACK: Actually, I'm surprised that we're getting as much bang as quickly as we are, Neil. This is not easy to implement all of these various programs and get resources out, as we are. We're going to see a fourfold increase in the number of jobs created or retained in the next 100 days. I think you're going to continue to see an acceleration of that.

And it's also clear that if we had done nothing, the job numbers would have been significantly greater, and we would not have as much confidence as we currently see consumer confidence increasing, the markets becoming a bit more comfortable, credit becoming a little bit easier to get.

All of that is good news. It's headed in the right direction.

We still, as the president indicated, have a lot work to do. And we're — we're focused on it for the next 100 days.

CAVUTO: But, Secretary, do you credit whatever improvement you're seeing in the numbers to a stimulus plan? I believe the president has even said it's been coming out slower than he would have liked. I think some of the numbers have it at $44 billion to $50 billion of the nearly $800 billion that was signed into law.

VILSACK: Well, a great amount of those resources, Neil, have actually been obligated. It's a matter of going through the contracting process to make sure that we can justify to American taxpayers that we're spending this money wisely, that we're investing it appropriately, that there aren't any sweetheart deals.

It's one of the reasons why we've got the Web site up, to be able to allow the public to see exactly where these monies are being invested.

So it does take a little time. I'm excited about the next 100 days in my department. New water treatment facilities are going to help rural America with cleaner and better water, and create construction jobs and permanent jobs.

So that's good news. And we want people to understand that we're putting these resources to work.

CAVUTO: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

Always a pleasure.

VILSACK: You bet, Neil.


CAVUTO: All right.

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