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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

April Jobs Report Better Than Expected; Kentucky Derby Security Stepped Up; "Get Layed" Billboard Causes a Stir; Ride with Emilio; Top of the World

Aired May 3, 2013 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Kenneth Baer is former associate director for Office of Management and Budget under President Obama. He is currently the managing director of the Harvard Group.

Kenneth, let me just start with you. Complete this sentence for me. The current jobs environment is X?

KENNETH BAER, FORMER ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I think you said it right. It's blah. I mean, it seems like right now we're kind of treading water and unfortunately we're doing so not because of any macro factors in the global economy. We're doing it because of self-inflicted wounds happening from Washington, specifically the effect of sequestration that are going to affect right now.

BERMAN: All right.

BAER: We're really feeling that.

BERMAN: Grover, you finish the sentence. Is it blah? The current jobs environment is blank?

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Lousy compared to every other recovery in the history of this country whether it's fiscal or otherwise.

BERMAN: Neither of you are saying it's very good. Christine has the numbers.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I do. 7.5 percent is the unemployment rate, 165,000 jobs created. This is a stronger than expected labor market report. Government hiring down 11,000. So that is as expected.

Have you seen the government pulling in? But we have the private sector growing more than we thought. I'm going to jump back on and find out what sectors are growing. But again, it's stronger than expected, labor market report. February also revised up. That's important to note because we've been worried about this little bit of a slowdown. February revised. Let me get back with this labor --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: All right. Ken Baer, let me go back to you. BAER: Sure.

BERMAN: You said the current job's environment is blah. This report at first reading, a little better than we expected.

BAER: Yes.

BERMAN: The number 165,000.

BAER: Right. Right.

BERMAN: The unemployment rate down a little bit. If it is in fact a little better, which it does look like it is, why do you think?

BAER: Well, you know, I think, listen, these numbers first of all have a plus -- could go either way plus or minus 90,000. So let's just take them with a grain of salt. I will take these better numbers than expected. It's really encouraging. It shows us that the American people are working hard. The recovery is under way. You know, we're in a much better place than we were four years ago or even two years ago and that's all a good sign.

But imagine where it would be if we didn't have these self-inflicted wounds. Imagine where we'd if we actually had a grand bargain, where we had a balanced bipartisan deficit reduction bill. We can then put these -- that issue behind us, focus on really rejuvenating job creation, more people would be back to work.

We know that potential is there, and what's frustrating so is that we're not doing it because of what's happening in Washington.

BERMAN: All right. Ken, sit tight for a second. Christine has got more information.

ROMANS: So a couple of thing to dig in these numbers. You know, the headline is it's a stronger than expected report.

BERMAN: 165,000 jobs created.

ROMANS: And 7.5 percent unemployment. We saw part-time worker increase. So people working part time but want to be working full time. That's not good. We also saw discouraged workers and all of the job increases looks like they're from the service sector for the most part. And where we want to be careful with service sector jobs creation is that some of those jobs are not the kind of job that you could send a kid to college on.

Not to diminish any job in America, but just to be very clear that the trend we've seen is the jobs that are coming back are jobs that pay less. Motor vehicle parts production, one area that can be good paying jobs, those saw some increases. Those are kind of manufacturing jobs that saw some increase.

But again, a lot of numbers to dig through. The headline is 165,000 jobs created. February and March jobs more than we expected. Here we're showing you some of the hottest sectors over the past year. You can see -- hot is a relative term, I should say here. But professional services, health care, leisure, retail, and temp help up over 30,000. So temporary workers. That shows that companies maybe are getting more orders, but they're not really confident enough to put in a full-time worker.

BERMAN: All right. Grover, let me go back to you here. As you said this is lousy compared to every other recovery we've seen at this point. But again, 165,000 jobs created. That's the headline right now. The unemployment rate down to 7.5 percent. Again another big number here. Movement in a positive direction right now. You may not be 100 percent satisfied. But can you deny we're headed in the right direction?

NORQUIST: OK. When you said it's more than you expected from Obama's economy, yes, it's half of what the Reagan recovery was giving us. So these are lousy numbers compared to what real economic growth looks like historically in this country. Why? Well, Obamacare dramatically increases the cost of hiring new people, makes that much more difficult, talk to small business men and women who don't want to have more than 50 people working with them, because of all the Obama regulations that hit with that.

And the idea that what we need to do is get back to the stimulus, stimulus is what got us $5 trillion of debt and nothing to show for it. This unemployment rate is about what it was when Obama walked in the door at the White House. So we're not looking at progress here. The idea that if the government spends money everybody gets rich, we tried that. We didn't have recovery summer.

BERMAN: All right, Grover. Let me -- let me get --

NORQUIST: Now -- yes.

BERMAN: Let me let Ken respond to that then we're going to back to Christine for some more information.

BAER: Yes. I --

BERMAN: Let me just let --

BAER: Yes, you know, and we shouldn't be arguing about the past. But I think if you compare how the U.S. economy is doing, say, vis-a-vis the British economy, which went with -- hard austerity. I think they would love to have a -- the recovery act and the stimulus that we had over the -- in '09 and '10 which really got us out of the deep recession and got us in a positive direction.

I think right now, though, what we're looking at is, yes, there are good signs here, part-time workers, that's good sign, businesses are trying to add capacity. But, you know, there's a sense here that Washington is broken and if these are -- and if, you know, the problem is the president put forth a balanced plan to get our fiscal situation on better ground. To get more job creation. Train those workers to create good manufacturing jobs and Republicans really have not done anything on Congress on it. And that's the problem. It's a self-afflicted wound. It's like breaking your pencil right before going to take the -- the big exam. It doesn't make any sense.

BERMAN: All right. Now we've had the political argument on both sides. Let's go back to Christine for more on the actual economic news here.

What are we hearing?

ROMANS: So we see futures moving higher so that's one thing, the stock market clearly likes this. We know that retail hiring was in there as well. I told you a lot of those were service sector jobs. So we want to be careful of the quality of those jobs. The average hourly earnings were up. That means people are getting more in their paycheck. That's good news.

Something that called the real unemployment rate, that U-6, the real unemployment rate, 13.9 percent. That's people who are unemployed or would like to be working full time but they're working part time. That's a number that has been slightly better, but you want to see -- that's the number that's still a real problem for this economy.

I will see you guys are arguing about the politics of this, John. I will say something that's interesting here is for most people they can't control the politics. Are you a job market of one? You know you -- it's only your -- you either have 100 percent unemployment or zero percent unemployment -- I mean, it's just one or the other. And I think what's very clear here, it used to be about seven available workers for each available job. Now it's about three available workers for each available job.

That means it's still tough, you've got to beat out two other people on average. Got to beat out two other people but you don't have to beat out six. So that's a slight improvement, slight feeling and that's where we are.

BERMAN: Let's give the headline again, 165,000 jobs created last month. The unemployment rate down to 7.5 percent.

I want to thank Grover Norquist and Kenneth Baer for being us with.

Now I want to ask this question -- is this good news or bad news for President Obama? He's wrapping up a trip to Mexico this morning before traveling to Costa Rica.

Our Jessica Yellin is traveling with the president in Mexico City right now.

And, Jess, what do you think the political ramifications are of this?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning, John. Good morning, Christine.

I think that this is obviously cheery news for the White House, although I would expect as soon as the White House puts out its reaction it will be a measured one. They are always very careful not to overstate any enthusiasm when they get these jobs numbers, even when they go down, even when it's a positive one like this because as you've noted there are still 12 million people full-time unemployed in this picture, and the president will always say he wants it to improve.

On the positive note, though, you know, there's something in here for both sides to crow about. The president will point out no doubt, that there is still -- this shows that the economy is on an upward trend. That there's traction and there is private sector growth which has been his argument all along, that the private sector seems to be growing and that people would just invest more, put more -- take more money off the sidelines it would improve.

That the problem really has been largely -- in the government's -- in the government lately and government hiring, but the problem, he'll point out also no doubt is that what Ken Baer was saying earlier, sequester. So the big headline will be, if sequester weren't there, it would be even better.

Now Republicans will take an opposite approach no doubt. And say, look, the economy is growing maybe because of sequester. Maybe people are investing more because -- with sequester. They know that the government is reining in spending and private sector feels better putting money into the economy. So, you know, the politics of this, I bet Christine could take issue with everything I've just said.

(LAUGHTER)

But in terms of politics, there is an argument each side could make that has nothing to do with the facts, just to do with good sound bites.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Jessica, you're always right.

YELLIN: And we got to see that play out.

BERMAN: I've known you a long time. Jessica Yellin, you're always right.

YELLIN: Now one last -- go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: And you know, Jessica, one thing, you mentioned where the Republicans will say -- Republicans will take issue and say maybe let's say because of the sequester that's good for the economy overall, but they'll also say Obamacare is bad, will hold back jobs growth. That's been a talking point this week from Republicans on the jobs front.

YELLIN: Right.

ROMANS: I just wanted to bring in one thing, you guys. The unemployment right now is the lowest now since 2008, so that's something that the White House clearly can point out. And also, February and March numbers, the February jobs gain was revised to 332,000.

BERMAN: That's a huge number.

ROMANS: That is a big number. That shows you at the beginning of the year, companies -- private sector companies had to do some hiring. Remember how they were holding back last year, they had to do some hiring. March, 138,000. So that bad --

BERMAN: Not nearly as crummy as we thought.

ROMANS: That bad -- not nearly as crummy as we thought. That's the unemployment rate you're seeing on your screen over the past year. When you go back even further, it is now the lowest since 2008. Not -- I mean, 2008 wasn't great. Let's be honest.

BERMAN: Right.

ROMANS: But that shows you some improvement there.

BERMAN: All right. Let's give thanks to Jessica Yellin, who's traveling with the president in Mexico City. And we're going to move on to some other news now.

An update now on the Boston marathon terror investigation. A law enforcement source tells CNN that the Fourth of July was the original target date for the attack. The Fourth of July, not Patriots Day.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev telling investigators the date was moved up to April to the iconic Boston marathon because the bombs were ready earlier than expected.

We've also learned the bombs were allegedly built by the brothers in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's apartment where he lived with his wife and his child. And also this morning we're learning that Tsarnaev's body has now been claimed by his uncle and sisters who plan an independent autopsy.

ROMANS: This weekend you can expect big hats and big crowds at the Kentucky Derby. And in the wake of the Boston terror attacks this year's race will also feature a big increase in security.

Our Pamela Brown is in Louisville, Kentucky, for us this morning.

Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Christine. This is the 139th Kentucky derby. So officials have had a lot of years dealing with big crowds and security especially after 9/11. Security was tightened after that and now in the wake of the Boston bombings, officials have been scrambling the past few weeks putting even more security measures into place. They want to make sure the only headline coming out of this year's Run for the Roses is who wins. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): It's one of horse racing's biggest events. The first of the Triple Crown races. A place to see and be seen. But this year's Kentucky Derby is happening just weeks after the Boston bombing. Security at Churchill Downs now understandably tightened.

JOHN ASHER, CHURCHILL DOWNS: The marathon bombing occurred and we were on the immediately with law enforcement partners. And had meetings the next day. We had to move pretty quickly because if we were going to make any changes, if changes were warranted, we had to get the word out pretty quickly.

BROWN: Changes were made. In addition to the ban on backpacks in placed since 9/11, the new security restrictions include no camcorders, cans or cooler of any size. And women with purses larger than 12 inches will have to leave them at home for the big races.

And the estimated 160,000 people going through the gates can expect to have more thorough bag inspections and magnetic wand searches.

ASHER: We hope not a single person who gets to the gate is surprised when he's trying to bring something that's not allowed.

BROWN: Twelve hundred federal, state and local officers will also be out in force. An increase of about 100 since the bombing.

MAJOR KELLY JONES, LOUISVILLE METRO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Basically just areas of command.

BROWN: But Major Kelly Jones says they're relying on alert spectators to report anything suspicious.

JONES: We get used to things sometimes. So what we've learned is our folks have got to be vigilant. We've got to be vigilant. People have to be the eyes and ears of this community.

BROWN: That message seems to be getting through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know if I see something, I am going to say something. Probably more so now than ever before.

BROWN: For others, it's still all about the derby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an event that everybody wants to experience so they look forward to every year and just to come out and have a good time, the fashion, the mint juleps, I don't think it's going to be a concern at all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And today is the Oaks here at Churchill downs, that's the big race leading up to the derby tomorrow. So it'll be a trial run for those new security measures.

Back to you. ROMANS: All right, Pamela Brown -- thanks, Pamela.

All right. Newtown, Connecticut, could decide tonight if it will replace Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of December's mass shooting. A 28-member task force is weighing options, looking into local sites to build a new school. But also under consideration, staying at the current site, demolishing the existing school building or reconfiguring it.

Sandy Hook is closed right now and students are in another nearby school.

BERMAN: Three daughters praying for a miracle. Their father was refereeing a soccer game at Salt Lake City on the area Saturday when a player reportedly angry about a call, punched him in the head. Soon afterward, 46-year-old Regardo Portillo was vomiting -- he was vomiting of blood. He slipped into a coma at a local hospital. He's now on a ventilator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHANA PORTILLO, DAUGHTER: He wasn't just my dad. He was our friend. And I know he didn't -- he doesn't want to leave us.

It's just not fair. We're all there to have fun. Not to go and kill each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It's not fair. It's an awful story. His oldest daughter has a message for the 17-year-old who attacked her father.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PORTILLO: He needs to spend time in jail like forever. It's not enough. They are not going to bring my daddy back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The teen tried to flee but was later arrested. He is now in juvenile detention.

ROMANS: Wow. OK. Does anti bacterial soap do more harm than good? The Food and Drug Administration wants to know for sure. Researchers plan to review the effectiveness of triclosan? Is that what it's called? Triclosan.

BERMAN: Sure. Go with it.

ROMANS: Whatever. It's the germ-killing ingredient found in most anti-bacterial soaps and body washes. Both lawmakers and consumer groups have expressed concern about the safety of that chemical.

BERMAN: What about the safety of this? Take a look at this billboard. Do you think it goes too far? Well, those two little words are causing a big stir in southeastern Connecticut. Some find the creative advertising for the flooring and carpet company witty, while others not so much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON BOULANGER, COMPLAINED ABOUT BILLBOARD: Whoever came up with the marketing strategy has no class as far as I'm concern. We're letting our youth know that it's ok to, you know, to live like that.

KIM BOUCHARD, NAUGHTUCK RESIDENT: People these days get so uptight about the smallest things and to me it's like cool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The company, Valley Flooring is hoping area residents will think their billboard is cool. Our CNN affiliate WFSD reached out to them, hoping they would explain the ad. I'm not sure it takes much explanation. But so far, we've had no response.

ROMANS: You know I used to be a copy editor. And I can't -- is that grammatically correct? I'm not quite sure, I might, I'm sure, I don't know the spelling is right, I don't know I've got to look into that.

All right ahead on STARTING POINT, fighting through unimaginable pain -- how a father turns his grief into an opportunity to help other families in need. That's after the break.

BERMAN: Then coming full circle. The spire rises to the top of the World Trade Center, the historic moment just ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: A father who lost his son to cancer is now helping other families fight. But the sick kids he helps can't fight unless they get to the hospital for treatment. Richard Nares make sure they get there. He is this week's CNN Hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NARES, MEDICAL MARVEL: It's paralyzing when you hear those words "your child has cancer". I know what these families are going through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes the sun is coming up.

NARES: It's extremely difficult. My son, he was diagnosed with cancer. It was such a horrifying time. We were fortunate. We had rides to the hospital to bring Emilio. Many families don't have that support.

Good morning.

We find out that many of them were missing appointments.

My name is Richard Nares and no child should miss their cancer treatment due to lack of transportation.

Ready to go, all right.

We give over 2,000 rides a year. Our furthest cancer patients is a 120 miles. Ride with Emilio plays an important part of their treatment. We get them here and it's a nice, clean and warm and on time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We live here, it's every day treatment, we want to fight, we are in this together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all I care right now. My daughter's life.

NARES: When you're fighting for your child's life nothing else matters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They pick us up in the morning and give us a ride back. Their help is every step of the way.

NARES: 70 percent of our families are Spanish speaking. Having a bilingual staff is extremely important. I feel like it's my obligation to help them navigate the system.

Take good care of yourself.

From someone who has been there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

NARES: And Emilio has passed away almost 13 years. He's the -- the main force of this. And I feel that I'm the right person to help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right still ahead, the crowning achievement in the rebuilding of Ground Zero, more than a decade after 9/11 -- a crowning achievement, literally. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Rising from the ashes of Ground Zero to become the tallest building in the Western hemisphere. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more now on the World Trade Center's crowning glory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's what people record today, the star on the top of the tree, the ball above Times Square and now New York's newest ornament has been lifted -- the spire that will top off one World Trade Center.

The antenna, on the old World Trade Center was the last thing to come crashing down and now we've come full circle with the new spire going up, an American flag attached. For the construction workers --

PHIL DUCATELLI, WTC CONSTRUCTION WORKER: See this go up and cap it off, it's a beautiful moment for everybody. Not just for New Yorkers, for America. MOOS: Workers applauded as the spire was lifted. It will serve as a broadcast transmission center, there will be a beacon on top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The beacon that will be seen for miles around. And give a tremendous indication that we're back and we're better than ever.

MOOS: Workers on lower floors took pictures as the spire was hoisted past them. Atop the 104-floor building, workers savored the moment with upraised arms and dangling feet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't knock us down. We keep getting up and do what we have to do.

MOOS: A giant crane lifted the 22-ton section, the spire once fully installed will bring the building to a height of 1,776 feet, the date America declared its independence. This was the view from up there, with the spire looking like a rocket, suspended over Manhattan -- liftoff.

Jeanne Moos, CNN. New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: A beautiful site.

ROMANS: It sure is.

STARTING POINT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT.

A sea lion pup checking things out at the local Chamber of Commerce in Southern California; a receptionist in Imperial Deep saw this little guy hop right through the front door after wandering up from the beach. He eventually settled under a desk until rescuers from SeaWorld came by to pick him up.

BERMAN: Always happy to show you sea lion pictures on a Friday.

ROMANS: That's it for STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Have a fantastic weekend.

But before you go and have that fantastic weekend, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the "NEWSROOM," breaking overnight, California inferno -- walls of flames, burning through the L.A. area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll stay until I know that our house is still here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as our families and dogs are safe, we can get through this.

COSTELLO: Also, July 4th attack.