‘Your World’ on debt limit showdown, Omicron and supply chain issues
This is a rush transcript from “Your World,” November 30, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO, TODAY NEWS ANCHOR: All right, a big sell-off at the corner of Wall and Broad, as the Dow tumbles more than 650 points. You guessed it, the concern right now that Omicron virus and concerns that it is not under control.
They’re letting fears maybe run ahead of themselves because this is the mirror opposite of what happened yesterday, the opposite then of what happened on Friday. But for all the major market averages, it was a shellacking, mainly because of the response we’re getting from Jerome Powell, the guy who has been re-upped to run the Federal Reserve for another four years.
Welcome, everybody. I’m Neil Cavuto, and this is YOUR WORLD.
And confusion right now in the markets as to how bad this variant is, and how extensive it could be; 70 countries around the world are tightening travel restrictions, and some are entertaining lockdowns of their own.
It hit Wall Street, it hit Main Street, and, right now, it is a big concern of the president of the United States, who is touring a facility in Minnesota. More on that later.
First to Peter Doocy on the fallout and how it’s being registered.
PETER DOOCY, TODAY NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Neil, you talk about fallout and what the president is going to do next about the pandemic.
This is a president who has promised to keep the economy open, but we’re hearing that officials around here are also keeping their options open. So the travel bans on eight countries from Africa might not be all. There could be some travel restrictions coming soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president’s decisions related to travel restrictions will be based on the recommendations of his health and medical team. They have not advised that to this point. But we will continue to assess what steps we need to take to keep the American people safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOOCY: Aboard Air Force One today, Jen Psaki also defended Dr. Anthony Fauci having the president’s ear when it comes to this. And it sounds like Fauci’s advice is going to continue to guide the main federal response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BUDDY CARTER (R-GA): I do not trust him. I don’t think he is an authority on this. I don’t think he’s getting good advice.
I mean, you have Joe Biden, who was the one who said he would never take a Trump vaccine, he wouldn’t trust a Trump vaccine. He’s being advised by Tony Fauci, who should be fired, or at least just give it up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOOCY: So variants are spreading, inflation is high, and President Biden is on the road. He’s in Minnesota right this minute selling that infrastructure package that already passed a few weeks ago.
He wants eyeballs on the one big legislative win that they had, and not on this — Neil.
CAVUTO: All right, thank you, my friend, Peter Doocy, at the White House.
Well, we don’t know a lot about Omicron right now, but we do know it could be a startling development in these various variants’ progress. These are like 50 variants tucked into one.
And it became a big issue discussed on Capitol Hill, because no one knows how this all plays out, including the two big money people in this country, the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury secretary.
The read on how all of that went down today with Hillary Vaughn on Capitol Hill.
HILLARY VAUGHN, TODAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Neil.
Well, the line that inflation is temporary, that it’s transitory is getting out — getting thrown out with the trash today, because Fed Chair Jerome Powell admitted to lawmakers that calling inflation transitory is not the best way to describe these crazy high prices that Americans are experiencing every single day.
He also said inflation right now is close to checking off all the boxes the Fed needs to see in order to hike interest rates in response. He admits calling it temporary isn’t the best way to describe it. He’s told lawmakers today it’s probably a good time to retire the word transitory instead.
He also painted an ominous picture of the recovery that we’re experiencing with the Omicron variant spreading, saying he thinks it could make people not want to show up for work and could have a negative drag on the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: We will know something, though, within a week or 10 days. And then if — then and only then can we make an assessment of what the impact would be on the economy.
As I pointed out in my testimony, for now, it’s a risk.
SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I’m a bit worried that the administration has a policy of just zeroing out COVID, that the goal here is to remove a virus that’s likely to be around for as long as we’re alive.
POWELL: We’re going to see this disease being around probably for a long time. I think the economic effects over time will diminish. We have to be humble about our ability to predict this or to really understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUGHN: Neil, but the big concern among lawmakers here on Capitol Hill is, with every new variant, is there going to be a new wave of lockdowns that is going to have a devastating impact on our economic recovery and, of course, on inflation, Neil?
CAVUTO: All right, Hillary, thank you very much, Hillary Vaughn on Capitol Hill.
Well when things are uncertain, markets sell first and ask questions later. And they sold and they sold and they sold, the mirror opposite of what we had yesterday, which, by the way, was the mirror opposite of what we had on Friday.
Susan Li, following all these developments.
I guess just confusion as to how big the impact will be.
SUSAN LI, TODAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
So you just heard from the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell. It looks like they’re now inflation fighters and inflation-focused. And it’s really become too big of a problem to ignore, if you’re looking at inflation at the fastest in 30 years.
And this really surprised the market. You heard Jerome Powell, Jay Powell there, Neil, saying that maybe we need to taper back, wind down the $120 billion in monthly bond purchases a lot faster.
So, instead of $15 billion a month, we might cut it to $30 billion. At least, that’s what Wall Street…
CAVUTO: And we should explain. When they do this — they have been buying up all this paper for, what, the better part of a decade on and often and forcibly keeping interest rates low.
Now, to unwind that and now apparently speed it up…
LI: Yes, speed it up.
CAVUTO: … that rattled folks, right?
LI: That’s right.
So, if you think about it, if you’re cutting back on $30 billion a month in monthly bond purchases, that means that we could get an interest rate hike in March, instead of in June. And you heard from Mohamed El-Erian of Allianz all weekend long…
LI: … talking about policy mistakes from the Federal Reserve because, as I mentioned to you, bull markets don’t die of old age. They die of unforeseen events like COVID or policy mistakes from the Federal Reserve.
CAVUTO: But there’s so little we know about this variant, right?
CAVUTO: We do know that it just came out of nowhere and it ravaged…
LI: Right, lots of mutations, yes.
CAVUTO: But the fact of the matter is, it is not as severe, at least that we know of yet.
CAVUTO: But the fact that it could maybe stymie activity, slow our post- pandemic coming out party, that’s what’s rattling these guys.
LI: Yes. Well, nerves were already rattled this morning when you heard from Moderna’s CEO saying that their vaccine might be less effective.
CAVUTO: Right. Right.
LI: They may not get a targeted booster developed any time soon.
Now, do you listen to the Moderna CEO or the Pfizer CEO, Bourla, who says we are ready, we’re already developing this targeted new vaccine? It could be ready to go in less than 100 days. I think the markets were already scared that maybe this — the vaccine makers don’t have a solution just yet.
CAVUTO: Yes. And we have often said in these kind of situations markets sell first and…
LI: Ask question later.
CAVUTO: … ask question later.
We have no evidence that this is even a problem. In Africa, for example, where the South African leader was saying, we have had a spike in cases, but none of these have been very, very serious.
CAVUTO: It’s still the newness of it that is weighing on them.
LI: Also, you have to remember we’re in a market right now where there are so many new investors that — to buy the dip, they don’t know what a market downturn looks like.
CAVUTO: That’s right.
LI: And they have been encouraged by the way that every time there’s been a market downturn, 600 points down, 900 points down, that somebody, maybe the Fed will step in or people will go in to bargain hunt and buy.
CAVUTO: What was interesting was Jerome Powell acknowledging that inflation is no longer transitory.
LI: Well, he says it’s a good time to retire the word transitory.
CAVUTO: Yes. You think?
LI: I can see you going, hmm.
CAVUTO: I’m glad you are finally up to that.
All right, thank you, Susan Li, very, very much.
In the meantime, the administration, maybe through the Federal Trade Commission, is taking a look at the supply chain disruptions, particularly focusing on Walmart and Amazon, raising the possibility, all right, how are you dealing with this supply chain problem? And are you getting an unfair advantage in the process? Looking at big stores like Kroger as well.
And all of this at the same time the administration has been pointing to the possibility that the spike we have seen in gas and oil prices might be, well, rigged.
So, what’s going on here?
To Charlie Gasparino.
Charlie, what do you think?
CHARLIE GASPARINO, TODAY NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Neil, this is such an absurd investigation and notion that a bunch of these companies are sitting around conspiring and cooling and screwing up the supply chain, that only a millennial that went to an Ivy League school and is a progressive could come up with it.
And that’s exactly who came up with this, Lina Khan, the head of the FTC, Biden appointee, one of those left-wing regulators, although it’s hard to – – this is a growing group that’s occupying the Biden administration. You got Richard Cordray maybe now going to the Fed. You got Lina Khan, and you got a lot more, Jonathan Kanter, Antitrust Division.
But this one is particularly absurd. I mean, let’s just put your hands around it. A bunch of these companies at Christmastime think it’s a good idea to build customer support by screwing them and by gouging them. That is insane. That is like Pizzagate and QAnon, left-wing style.
CAVUTO: Do you think, though, Charlie, that they’re doing this or maybe part of — we’re just throwing it out there that maybe these spikes in prices aren’t anything to do with what we’re doing, but maybe what they’re doing or what these energy guys are doing?
You and I know that oil, for example, that is a commodity that is traded on the open markets, and the markets set those prices. Any movement or fear can also set them either climbing or dropping.
Bottom line, that’s it.
GASPARINO: Of course.
And, by the way, for years, lefties have been trying to pin high oil prices when the — on Wall Street collusion, when it’s nothing more than Wall Street traders pricing in the potential changes to prices that are coming in the future. That’s why they’re called futures.
And it’s had nothing to do with collusion. These are guys that don’t collude. They compete with each other. They’re traders. That’s what they do. They don’t talk to each other.
CAVUTO: Is it — is there a sense here that they must be worried politically, that this is coming back at them?
GASPARINO: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
CAVUTO: So if you can throw out the possibility, remote as it seems, that all this is rigged and fixed when it comes to everything from gas and oil to even the stuff you’re buying from Amazon or Walmart, even Kroger, it does sort of stretch credulity here, but maybe that’s where this is going.
CAVUTO: Because we have seen very little business foundation for this.
And certainly, when we’re exploring it on TODAY Business, which you work at, you have already demanded it.
CAVUTO: And it’s been — there’s no grounds for it.
GASPARINO: There’s no evidence.
Of course, it’s a political angle here. It’s just deflecting blame, because it’s so stupid. If you think about it, you flood the market with liquidity, both fiscal and monetary liquidity. You pay people to stay home. Prices go up. The — you can’t find workers. You’re going to have supply chain issues.
Duh. It’s not Walmart’s fault. And it’s so absurd.
CAVUTO: But they did say, Charlie, interesting, to that point, that even though Jerome Powell said, all right, this isn’t transitory anymore, they kind of hinted that this slows down.
CAVUTO: This — in other words, things start turning around, oil prices dropping, energy prices dropping, largely on the fear of a slowdown from this variant, if it ever materializes to have that impact — doesn’t look like it will — as a fallback, that things will get better soon.
Do you buy that?
GASPARINO: You know, this is a complicated mess right now.
We have never had this much liquidity flooding the zone of the economy that we have today.
CAVUTO: We should say, liquidity is a bunch of cash chasing the economy.
CAVUTO: Go ahead.
GASPARINO: The Fed buying bonds, putting cash into the markets, into the banks’ balance sheet, so they lend.
GASPARINO: Also, the federal — the government, the federal government, spending and giving people money. We have never had this much.
Those sorts of things cause all sorts of economic dislocations when they get way ahead of their time, get way ahead of themselves, particularly in a time when we’re not in a recession. That’s all good stuff when you have the Great Depression.
GASPARINO: But we weren’t when the Biden administration and Congress was doing this and the Fed.
So this causes all sorts of economic dislocations. You have inflation that’s coming. The only way really to deal with inflation is to slow down the economy. You would like to slow it slowly, right, taper it.
GASPARINO: You don’t want to put on the brakes and cause a recession. And nobody knows where we’re going with this stuff right now.
CAVUTO: Well said.
Charlie Gasparino, thank you very, very much. And I’m glad you didn’t wear the tie. It would have just ruined the image.
GASPARINO: Thank you.
CAVUTO: All right, buddy, thank you very, very much.
Then there’s Omicron, right? How do you play this into the picture here, especially if things slow down here? Could that worsen the supply chain problems we have been having?
In other words, if you’re waiting for goods from other countries, and those other countries are locking down or slowing down, that is what the call is a supply chain big mess — after this.
CAVUTO: It’s all about getting goods to you, so you and Santa can have them for under the tree, that is, if you can find the tree. That’s a separate issue.
Welcome back, everybody. I’m Neil Cavuto. You’re watching YOUR WORLD.
And we are watching this latest virus variant. At the same time, COVID itself is putting limitations on just how this supply chain situation can improve. Easier said than done.
To Gene Seroka right now, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.
Gene, last time we talked, we were talking about how things were opening up. You have workers there 24/7 to try to get these tankers emptied. How’s it going?
GENE SEROKA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PORT OF LOS ANGELES: It’s going tremendously well.
And good afternoon, Neil.
We have seen a 45 percent reduction in aging containers over the last month and a 40 percent reduction in the number of ships at anchor. Cargo is moving through the domestic supply chain, as evidenced by the retail sales numbers in the month of October, up 16 percent year on year.
CAVUTO: You know, it’s interesting too, because Walmart, Target, a few others have said there might be sporadic shortages of certain items. I think they were talking mainly in electronics and all that.
But, by and large, they’re not worried about empty shelves. Of course, they could be talking their book. I get that. But what do you see?
SEROKA: I work very closely with both companies, among others, and they’re accurate.
These savvy American importers began bring in their Christmas and holiday gifts in the month of June, about 2.5 months earlier than normal. They saw longer lead times, even transit times that became elongated. And they thought that they needed to bring those goods in earlier to make sure that inventories were good.
Our inventory sales ratios are still lower than they have been since 2011. But keeping up with demand has been their focus. And thus far, based on their financials, they’re doing a really good job.
CAVUTO: Then, Gene, you have to deal with the wild card of this Omicron thing and whether it is a real danger, a real threat. That’s way beyond your control.
But what do you think?
SEROKA: There’s not a day that goes by, Neil, without something that happens in the supply chain.
We have learned over the last two years that we have to be resilient. And in the face of this, we will pivot and continue to move that cargo. But we’re watching it very closely.
CAVUTO: You know, a lot has been said too, do we depend too much on your fine port, that should we spread the wealth around to ports on the East Coast, in Savannah or elsewhere.
What do you think of that?
SEROKA: I think it’s important.
And we did this as an industry dating back to 2002. Some called it the port diversification strategy or even four corners, moving cargo to other ports around the nation. And these ports — take a look at Savannah, Charleston.
SEROKA: They have hired really great leaders. The work they have done with their government, their legislature to bring money in and modernize their ports has been fantastic.
It was a time when the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach brought in 50 percent of the nation’s goods. Today, it’s 40 percent. So that movement around and that redistribution has been taking place.
CAVUTO: Now, you mentioned a lot of these big buyers who were planning up for this some months back. You’re quite right about that. But a lot of that has to do with consumers themselves starting their Christmas shopping a little early.
Much has been made about the not-strong-as-expected readings we got for Black Friday and through the weekend. But the fact of the matter is, a lot of this buying started a lot earlier, didn’t it?
SEROKA: It did, Neil.
And what we will see at the end of the year, based on the National Retail Federation’s estimates, are the best retail sales numbers in the history of our country. So it was a little bit of a longer shopping season. People did go to the stores and online a little bit earlier for just those reasons.
CAVUTO: All right, we will watch it closely.
I know you’re not getting much sleep, but such is the burden running a big port like you are, Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.
As I said here, the markets all down today on fears that that activity is going to slow and we are going to have some stymied developments here, prices of goods going up and the shortage of goods, at that. That would technically be stagflation. That does not appear likely right now. But, again, we’re keeping a close eye on it for you, also on the president of United States right now in Minnesota.
He is about to make a pitch in the strongest possible way for that bipartisan infrastructure plan that came to law just a couple of weeks ago, and make a pitch for the Build Back Better plan that he says will be like icing on the economic cake.
CAVUTO: Well, in light of Omicron, now you have the CDC saying you know what? All vaccinated adults should go ahead and get booster shots, everybody, just to be sure.
But with so many shots, a lot of people are already shot — after this.
CAVUTO: All right, moments away from hearing the president of the United States. He’s speaking in Minnesota and cheering on the bipartisan infrastructure plan and how that’s going to deal and help this whole supply chain mess, and that the Build Back Better program that will sort of grease the skids for the economy coming out of all of this.
Let’s go to Rich Edson in Rosemount, Minnesota, traveling with the president.
RICH EDSON, TODAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good afternoon, Neil.
And the president’s just a few minutes away from making that case behind me here. He just finished touring this facility, the Dakota County Technical College. They will make the argument that the infrastructure bill will address the challenges that the economy is facing.
There are issues with supply chain disruptions, worker shortages, and inflation. And the president and the White House are selling that bill as a way to say that those efforts will help alleviate those challenges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PSAKI: We will start cutting child care costs in half and 2020, make preschool free for many families starting in 2022, lead to the construction of additional housing units starting in 2022.
What is the Republican plan for lowering costs, for addressing inflation?
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Their attitude is, we’re going to tax the living daylights out of everybody, scare every businessperson out there with more regulation, and think, gosh, I wonder why things are not going well?
And then if you look at all this spending, it will cause inflation to — it’s unbelievable where inflation is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EDSON: Now, after the trillion-dollar infrastructure law, Democrats are also trying to pass about $2 trillion in social spending to address health care, climate change and education.
Democrats say they’re trying to get that through the Senate by the end of the year. The president’s been stuck between the moderates and progressives in his party, those who are trying to rein in more government spending, and those who say $3 trillion is just too small to address those challenges.
Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar even voted against the president’s infrastructure plan, using it as leverage to try to pass that larger pending social spending bill.
Now, the president’s poll numbers have fallen significantly since the summer, as inflation has taken hold in the U.S. economy. There’s also the challenge of whether this infrastructure law, the trillion dollars that he signed a couple of weeks ago, can get out quickly and efficiently.
To that, he’s appointed an infrastructure czar, the former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, to oversee that spending — Neil, back to you.
CAVUTO: All right, thank you, Rich, very much.
To Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, kind enough to join us.
Now, you voted for this infrastructure plan in the Senate, one of 19 Republicans to do so. The president is going to say this will go a long way toward addressing these supply chain issues. Do you agree, Senator?
TILLIS: Not at all.
As a matter of fact, this is about building roads and bridges, strengthening our broadband capabilities, hardening our grid. That’s what’s in this bill. Of course, it’s going to involve some economic positive impact.
But what is going to undermine it is what they’re trying to do with their reckless tax-and-spending bill. We just had a hearing in Banking today, when Secretary Yellen and Chair Powell refused to answer a simple question.
If you flood the zone with trillions of more dollars, when we already have supply chain problems, how could anybody with even a basic understanding of economics not understand that that’s going to inflate prices, it’s going to make people spend more for gas, more for food and it’s going to take us in the wrong direction?
CAVUTO: Senator, what do you think of Omicron and this virus variant, whatever they’re calling it right now, that has befuddled doctors?
But it was enough to trigger a sell-off today, because a lot of folks think this great coming out party we have had post-pandemic might be disrupted. Are you worried that that will be the case, regardless of how serious this variant ever is, if it is at all?
TILLIS: No, I’m worried about the fact that President Biden wants to continue to be dishonest with the American people and say, we’re going to wipe out COVID.
COVID is going to be around us for years or maybe decades. We ended up making some mistakes last year. We probably shouldn’t have shut down as badly as we did. But it was a new unknown contagion going through the United States and the world.
Now we understand it’s going to be around us. There are going to be variants. And I mentioned this to Chair Powell this afternoon or this morning. We cannot have Fed policy driven by the next variant. Now we have the Omicron variant. We’re going to have probably a Pi variant.
We have got to get back to normalized monetary policy. And we have got to have the president be honest with the American people and say, we have to be safe, we have to get vaccines, we have to do what we can to fight the onslaught of COVID, but we have to get back to some sense of normalcy.
And this overreaction that every day — you saw the sell-off last week. Every time we have a variant, we cannot afford to have the volatility that we’re seeing in the markets. And that comes right from the White House.
CAVUTO: When we talk about this variant, Senator, and there are a lot of people who are concerned that it’s going to feed on itself and foster mandates or mask requirements.
And we have seen that pop up across the country. Do you think that the people who’ve been leery of getting vaccines themselves will seize on this to say, this is proof we shouldn’t bother? What do you tell them?
TILLIS: Well, Neil, I have been following you. And I agree with your position on taking the vaccines. I fall short of having it being mandated.
But what we need to tell people is that it’s very clear, with the hospital systems deal with in North Carolina, the people that are getting the virus, who have the vaccine are highly likely to live and highly likely to not experience serious symptoms.
So the best thing we can do and the best weapon that we have against COVID is to recognize the vaccine is viable. People should get it. What we can’t do, though, is overreach and mandate it. We need to educate the American people, depoliticize the discussion, get them vaccinated, so that we can get back to a more steady response to various — to variants as they come.
And they’re going to come. We will run out of the Greek alphabet and start over…
TILLIS: … I think, with variants. So we need to be prepared for that.
The best way to do it is for us, for the American people to step up and the president to step up and stop promising that COVID somehow is going to go away. It’s not. And we need to get back to some sense of normalcy and not make the mistake at the state and local and federal level of shutting down the economy and creating more supply chain and more pocketbook problems for American people.
CAVUTO: Senator, we’re two minutes away from the president.
So, if you will indulge me here, one of the things he is going to talk about is this idea that both sides, Republicans and Democrats, have to work hard to avoid a government shutdown by Friday midnight, something to keep the government lights on.
Do you think such a shutdown can be avoided, that something can be worked out? Because, soon after that, we hit our debt — our debt limit.
CAVUTO: And then, to hear Janet Yellen tell it, the Treasury secretary, Katy bar the door, if we don’t address that.
TILLIS: Well, Neil, what we have been discussing, what’s called a clean C.R., a clean continuing resolution, that would do just that.
We have a couple of members who would like to offer some amendments that we’re working through, but it’s certainly within our power. The last thing we want to do — and the same could be applied to the future debt ceiling vote. We have got to give confidence to the American people.
Confidence of the American people in the economy is at a 10-year low. Now’s the time for Congress to step up and take that off the table, and then get back to healing the economy.
CAVUTO: The Federal Reserve — and I know you had some pretty sharp questions for the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who says that now I guess they can retire this transitory label to refer to the inflation that goes on and on.
Do you have confidence that he’s up to the job in the next four years he’s been reappointed to?
TILLIS: I do, I think, on the whole.
I have my disagreements with Chair Powell, but I think, on the whole, we could do far worse. And the thing that I think is most important to recognize, the president said that he had Nobel laureates and economists say that this was going to — that Build Back Better, the tax-and-spend- spree bill, was going to reduce inflation.
If you dig in and read The Washington Post fact-check, you will see that they all said, in the long term, it may reduce inflation, but in the short term, over the next few years, it could have an inflationary impact.
And I think we’re going to see that. When you flood the zone with money, and you still have significant supply chain issues, many of which are self- inflicted by the administration, we can expect inflation to be here.
I’m at least glad to see that they retired the concept of transitory.
CAVUTO: All right, they have, indeed.
Senator, always great catching up, Senator Thom Tillis of the beautiful state of North Carolina.
The president of the United States in Minnesota right now talking up some twin measures he says are going to make everything right again.
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