How have the tax cuts changed the country, two years later? What is next for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade? What about the trade deal with China? Jessica Ditto, deputy communications director at the White House, joins the podcast to discuss all this and more. Read a lightly edited interview transcript, pasted below, or listen on the podcast:
Rachel del Guidice: The Daily Signal Podcast is coming to you from the U.S. Treasury Department today and we’re joined by Jessica Ditto, she’s the deputy communications director at the White House. Jessica, thank you so much for being with us today.
Jessica Ditto: Thank you for being here. I’m excited to be on your program.
del Guidice: So we’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of tax reform, the Republican tax package, which among many things, reduced the federal corporate tax rate, it repealed the corporate alternative minimum tax. And so looking two years down the road, how would you say tax reform has impacted the American economy?
Ditto: Well, I think there’s no question that this president has brought tremendous growth to this economy and put us in an amazing time of economic optimism. Obviously, delivering within his first year historic tax cuts and reform and making sure that American families have access to the child care tax credit.
We’ve since learned that nearly 40 million families, not individuals, but families, have actually benefited from the child care tax credit. That helps address one of the biggest issues our working families have now that we have this booming economy and jobs aplenty for people to enter into the workforce. There needs to be a plan in which we support working families and child care affordability is one of our biggest issues that we have yet to confront.
So seeing the effects of that and seeing the way the companies responded immediately following the tax cuts, giving bonuses directly to their workers, wages are increasing, and people are investing in their workforce. So we’re seeing that kind of impact across the board. But it’s also created this tremendous amount of investment in job creation within our country.
So where you look at the split screen of what the Democrats have done over the last three years of this presidency, and from the moment he [Donald Trump] was elected, seeking to undermine his election, undermine the vote of over a half of this country, to what the president has managed to achieve through obstacles, obstruction, resistance with the passage of the Republican-only supported tax cuts.
We have seen that [while] the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] predicted 1.9 million job growth, we’ve actually created over 7.2 million jobs and tax cuts obviously played a tremendous role in that.
The deregulatory agenda that he swiftly put into motion has also had a significant impact on job growth in small businesses being able to boom in our economy. So we’re really thrilled to see that. So we want to continue pushing forward.
Rob Bluey: You brought up the Democrats there and of course House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said that the American people would only get crumbs from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. You now have some very prominent members of the party saying that they wanted to repeal the tax cuts despite all of the economic success we’ve seen. So what is your response or your assessment of where they are today?
Ditto: They are completely out of touch with reality. You see what’s happening in Congress right now. They’re actually taking a vote to impeach the president when he has created the strongest economic prosperity in our nation’s history.
The rest of the global economy is struggling. And this president [is] delivering win after win, exceeding job expectations month after month, breaking records for African Americans, for Hispanic Americans, for our women in the workforce. People are coming off the sidelines. Fewer people are applying for food stamps.
This is a tremendous time to be an entrepreneur, a worker in the manufacturing sector, all across the board.
While farming and rural prosperity was on the decline when this president came into office, he’s putting the farmers and ranchers first in all of his trade negotiations where he’s fighting for market access so that America’s products, the best in the world, can be traded all over without barriers.
So it’s really an astounding time and it’s astounding to see what the Democrats are running on. It’s astounding to see what they’re proposing in contrast to this, the fact that all of them proposed paid leave and child care and all the things that they claim to support and yet they all voted against it in the Republican tax cut bill two years ago.
It’s all been all talk, and the reality is, when you look at the proposals, “Medicare for All,” or the crazy Green New Deal, it’s all about putting a burden back on the worker, driving jobs out of this country, slowing growth. That’s the direct opposite of what this president is doing for this country.
del Guidice: Jessica, you had mentioned how minorities have benefited from tax reform and Adam Michel, he’s a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he just published a piece saying that very thing, highlighting that lower-wage black workers [are] seeing wage growth of 8.5% and similar low-wage black women [are] seeing gains larger than 10%. What have those gains meant for these Americans?
Ditto: I mean, it’s life-changing. This president is a jobs president, he understands the private sector. He understands why government should get out of the way and let the private sector drive momentum. For the African American community and rural and urban areas, this president has invested in creating new opportunities.
So … tax cuts, again, a very bipartisan concept, only gained Republican support and passed and [are] being implemented across this country for opportunity zones. … We’re giving states and investors the opportunity to rehabilitate areas of our country that have been left behind and forgotten, and this is having an transformative effect.
From the president’s policies, even a year later, where bipartisan legislation passed with a very divided time following the midterms, to do criminal justice reform and give people a second chance and an opportunity to reenter the workforce and not see recidivism.
… The trend is lifting up all Americans. It’s supporting the forgotten man and woman. He’s messaging and working directly for the American people because for too long, Washington has ignored them and has not pushed policies that directly meet the needs of the American people where they are.
So this president is confronting some complex problems with very clear economic objectives and priorities, but he’s also implementing a domestic policy to support it and to create that kind of family structure, that opportunity and stability throughout our country.
So we’re really proud of all of these accomplishments and certainly to see the records of African American employment, wage growth. That’s why we do what we do every day. That’s what motivates this White House, that’s what motivates this president, because he came here to create new opportunities for all.
Bluey: Jessica, let’s shift gears to another policy topic that I know you’ve been focused on a lot lately and that is trade. I’ll start with China, then Rachel can get into USMCA [the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement]. So this president has talked about China going back to his campaign.
Ditto: Going back decades.
Bluey: Decades, that’s true. Long before his campaign. Talk about this phase one deal and what it will mean to Americans.
Ditto: I think it should not be lost on anyone what Ambassador [Robert] Lighthizer said on Sunday, that Friday was the most historic day in trade history. So for the American worker, that translates into two major trade agreements getting cemented for growth and market access both with Canada and Mexico, but also with China, transforming a relationship that has been strained and broken for decades since China entered the WTO [World Trade Organization].
Everyone knows that China’s been a bad actor, that they have stolen our technology, that they have stolen from our farming and ranching, that they’ve retaliated against our rural communities in order to continue to keep an upper hand in our trading relationship. But the president has for decades and very clearly indicated on the campaign that he would do something about it.
And so what he has achieved in such a short amount of time, with no support from Democrats, is something historic and it’s on the move and it is actually getting finalized as we speak.
The president announced the agreement in force on Friday with Ambassador Lighthizer confirming that with the Chinese. This is phase one. It is very substantive. It’s more than agriculture purchases. It’s $60 billion in energy trade. It’s massive amounts of energy export. It has IP and enforcement and structural changes.
The technology transfer, which they forced our companies to hand over key information in order to operate in the country, all of these things are being addressed in the phase one. Someone even asked [National Economic Council Director] Larry [Kudlow] recently, “What’s left for phase two?”
So this is so historic, it’s huge, and for this administration to get this done with all of the obstruction and resistance that we’ve had is quite monumental.
The president outlined in June of 2016, in Pennsylvania, a job speech and [that] he was going to take seven actions on trade and he’s done all seven and you’re seeing the effects of it throughout our economy, the global economy, people are in awe of what the president’s achieving for American workers.
So for China, we see tremendous progress. As Ambassador Lighthizer said, this is an important first step, but the American people need to remember that when they entered the WTO, 70,000 factories left our country. Millions of jobs were lost and it’s going to take a lot of time for us to rebuild that.
But from the moment he took off as the president, [he] has been taking action to bring these jobs back. We’ve seen furnaces start back up. We’ve seen an auto manufacturing plant be opened up in Detroit for the first time in 25 years. These are tangible signs of this economy working in full force.
del Guidice: Well, the House is currently working on finishing their part of … the USMCA deal. And looking at what they’ve been working on, what the president has been working on, what are some of the pieces to this trade deal that you say are maybe most important for the American people but they might not be aware of? What are certain pieces that you can pull out and say, “These are how this will benefit you?”
Ditto: Well, this president and this White House [have] been talking about this for over a year. This was signed by Canada and Mexico last year, as the president, again, in record time, negotiated one of the best modern trade agreements, if not the best, in U.S. history. It is a template for all trade agreements going forward. The speaker herself conceded that last week.
We are putting forward a model of trade that will ensure that small business has a chapter for the first time in U.S. history. So the foundation of a lot of our economic relationship with Mexico and Canada wasn’t even in NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement]. And so for the first time ever, small businesses have a chapter and they have a structure in which we can do business with our two largest trading partners.
We also have the auto rules of origin, [which] is so huge, which is why you’ve already seen the promise of USMCA working in our states where we have the auto manufacturing.
Our auto industry was on the decline. Cars were being made in Mexico and brought back over [to] the U.S. for much cheaper labor. We have addressed that and rightsized that so that cars and a percentage of all of the products are made here in America, by American workers.
So these things are real. They are creating jobs and communities across this country.
Toyota has announced investment. GM, Ford, they’ve all announced massive investment with the promise of USMCA. And that’s why this White House was so frustrated with the delay and the partisan bickering over USMCA, to the point that … what is the largest trade agreement in U.S. history is being rolled out on the same day that they announced impeachment. It’s an astounding and absurd split screen that I hope the American people can see through.
Bluey: Well, Jessica, finally, I wanted to ask you about that because we are seeing not only a government funding bill move forward, impeachment, USMCA, of course the National Defense Authorization Act—I mean, that is a lot of activity happening with the past week—the China trade deal.
President Trump has talked about how the media doesn’t give him the credit that he believes this administration deserves for the accomplishments. What is it that you, working in the communications office, what are you trying to convey to the American people that they should know about and what do you want to do going forward to counter this negative media attention and this impeachment drive that we’re seeing on the part of Democrats?
Ditto: Well, I think, first of all, we know that not everyone watches CNN and MSNBC. In fact, far fewer are watching every day.
We know that it’s important to talk directly to the American people, which the president does through Twitter and through his briefings on a daily basis. We also know that it’s really important to do regional media.
Our Cabinet is deployed all over the country, all the time, talking about business that we’re doing for the American people. We also want to highlight the fact that this president is getting wins on behalf of the country without bipartisan support, without Democrat support, in the face of massive resistance and obstruction. It’s been going on since Day One.
So we are used to the chyrons that say “largest military spending bill ever,” “rebuilding the defense amid Russia investigation, amid impeachment,” so we’re used to doing this amid some kind of partisan scam on the other side, but we do know that it’s important to articulate what is truly happening in this economy because next year there is going to be a choice.
There is an election next year and the proposals that are being put forward on the other side are incredibly scary. They will take away your health care choices. They will burden you with incredible amounts of taxes.
So we want to make sure that people understand that USMCA, this new agreement, it’s not just an update of NAFTA in the internet age, it has structural changes to help protect our manufacturing industry, to bring jobs back, hundreds of thousands of jobs back, and to have a massive impact on our GDP [gross domestic product].
We’re going to see growth in the long term as a result. The two major trade accomplishments that we had last week … are getting overshadowed by impeachment, so it’s really upon us and we know it to help articulate that for the president and talk about it every day.
We are doing hundreds of interviews on a daily basis talking to the American people, talking it through radio and regional press because we know it’s important to get that word out.
Bluey: Jessica, it’s not every day that you have a member of Congress switch parties amid something that is as big as this, so certainly something to keep an eye on. We will continue to watch the work from the White House.
I appreciate you mentioning, in particular, the president’s direct communication with the American people. It’s one of the reasons that we decided to start The Daily Signal because we felt that that media filter was not letting conservatives get their voice out. So definitely wholeheartedly support your efforts in that regard too.
Ditto: Thank you so much.
del Guidice: Thank you for joining us, Jessica, on The Daily Signal Podcast.
Ditto: Thank you.