Will Snow Stay?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," December 2, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You would think that jobs would be turning out like crazy. It hasn't happened. Earlier I asked Treasury Secretary John Snow (search) what's the deal?


JOHN SNOW, TREASURY SECRETARY: Fifteen straight months of job creation averaging about 200,000. We're on the right path.

Productivity remains high, Neil, as you know, and that has an affect there. But I'm confident that, with high GDP (search) Growth, which we're going to continue to have, I'm confident, we'll see the job picture continue to be firming up.

CAVUTO: All right, Secretary. Speaking about the job picture, what about yours? I hear all these rumors back and forth that either you're not inclined to want to stay in the job as treasury secretary or you might want to step down or someone might want to step you down. A lot of gossip, sir. What's the truth?

SNOW: Well, that's a matter for the president and me to discus, obviously. Let me say it is an honor to be part of this administration. I have the deepest admiration for the president, and I've been very pleased to be part of this administration.

CAVUTO: Well, has he told you in those conversation that he wants you to say?

SNOW: Well, Neil, you're trying to get at the subject of the conversation that's only between me and the president. And you're very good at it.

CAVUTO: I thought I'd try. I thought I'd try. But have you at least indicated, sir, that you want to stay on? If you were just talking to me right now, as you are, your wish would be to stay on?

SNOW: Well, again, I'm going to leave that conversation to my time with the president. That's the right way to handle that one.

CAVUTO: The reason why I ask is because all these foreign papers and all are already picking your successor. Does that bother you?

SNOW: Well, I'm not going to comment on speculation of that sort.

CAVUTO: But do you like the job?

SNOW: Well, sure, I like being a part of an administration that develops good, well-conceived economic policies, that articulates them forcefully and gets them through Congress and then sees the results.

And we're clearly seeing the results. Without the president's leadership on economic policy, we wouldn't have seen 15 months of job creation and the 2.4 million additional jobs, GDP growth the best in 20 years. So sure, that's extraordinarily satisfying to have a part in that.

CAVUTO: I don't want to belabor this point, sir, and I apologize in advance for appearing like I am. But you worked hard for the president's re-election. You campaigned in a lot of key swing states. You worked hard to push his tax cuts through.

It doesn't bug you just a little teeny weensy bit when some of these same people are bandying names as your replacement?

SNOW: Well, I'm not going to comment about that. And, in fact, I recall to mind what Nye Bevin said about such reports. He read them — whereas I'm not — he said, because he enjoyed getting a steady dose of fiction.

CAVUTO: Well, the reason why, when Tommy Thompson just announced that he's stepping down, too, you've got to wonder, who's left in Dodge? We'll leave it at that.

Let me ask you while I've got you. There's a report that Greg Mankiw, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, was saying essentially, sir, that Social Security was broke.

He said the benefits now scheduled for future generations under current law are not sustainable given the projected path of payroll tax revenue. They are empty promises.

Do you agree with that?

SNOW: Well, I agree that the system needs to be fixed, that it's not on a financially sustainable basis.

One of the privileges of being treasury secretary is to serve as the managing trustee of the Social Security system. So I spend a lot of time with the actuarial numbers, and they're clearly not sustainable.

CAVUTO: What is the sustainable part, though? I mean, do you argue that it's such now we either raise taxes, increase the retirement age, maybe both? What do you think?

SNOW: Well, I think, first of all, and that's a fair question, but before getting to that, the answers, I think we have to make sure that there's a better understanding in the country and in the Congress that the system isn't sustainable and it needs to be fixed.

There are still, Neil, a lot of people out there who say the system is pretty much fine. A little fix here, a little fix there will do it.

The fact of the matter is, as Greg Mankiw apparently said yesterday, the system isn't sustainable. And what that means is either a very significant reduction in benefits for younger workers when they retire or a very significant increase in taxes. That's something that we need to avoid.


CAVUTO: All right. The treasury secretary speaking out on a number of items, including the possibility of overhauling Social Security. That's a big issue for the markets, as was this issue of the weaker than expected jobs numbers.

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