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WHEN: TODAY, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1 AT 9:30AM ET
WHERE: CNBC'S "SQUAWK ON THE STREET"
Following is the unofficial transcript of a FIRST ON CNBC interview with National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" (M-F, 9AM-11AM ET) today, Friday, September 1ST. Following is a link to a clip of the interview on CNBC.com: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2017/09/01/gary-cohn-i-have-a-great-relationship-with-president-trump.html,
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
DAVID FABER: OF COURSE THE STORY OF THE MORNING IS THE JOBS NUMBER. LABOR DEPARTMENT REPORTING 156,000 JOBS WERE ADDED IN AUGUST. THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DID TICK UP. IT IS NOW 4.4%. JOINING US NOW WITH THE FIRST REACTION FROM THE WHITE HOUSE IS NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR GARY COHN. MR. COHN, ALWAYS NICE TO HAVE YOU. SOME ARE DISAPPOINTED BY THE NUMBER. IT DID COME IN DECENTLY BELOW EXPECTATIONS. ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED WITH 156,000 JOBS?
GARY COHN: DAVID, FIRST OF ALL, THANKS FOR HAVING ME. AND BEFORE I ANSWER, I JUST WANT TO EXTEND OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS TO ALL OF THOSE IN LOUISIANA AND TEXAS DEALING WITH HARVEY. LOOK, IF I TOLD YOU ON INAUGURATION DAY THAT I'D BE STANDING HERE ON LABOR DAY WEEKEND AND WE'D HAVE 4.4% UNEMPLOYMENT AND 3% GDP GROWTH YOU AND I WOULD BE HAVING AN INTERESTING ARGUMENT. YOU'D PROBABLY BE TELLING ME, "THOSE ARE HARD NUMBERS TO ACHIEVE ARE YOU SURE YOU CAN GET THERE?" WELL GUESS WHAT? – I'M STANDING HERE AND I'M SURE WE CAN GET THERE, BECAUSE WE ARE THERE. WE'RE NOT DISAPPOINTED WITH THAT GROWTH – WITH THOSE NUMBERS AND WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED AT ALL. THESE NUMBERS ARENT JUST NUMBERS THAT COME OUT EVERY MONTH WERE LOOKING AT THE TREND OVERALL. AND WE'RE LOOKING AT JOB GROWTH AND WE'RE LOOKING AT JOB CREATION AND WE SEE A LOT OF VERY GOOD MOMENTUM IN THE NUMBERS. THE ONE NUMBERS THAT WENT DOWN WERE GOVERNMENT. WE ALWAYS SAID GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO GET SMALLER THE PRIVATE SECTOR IS GETTING BIGGER. WE SEE JOB CREATION IN THE SECTORS WE WANT TO SEE JOB CREATION IN.
FABER: RIGHT. I KNOW WE'RE GOING TO HEAR A LOT ABOUT THAT 3% GDP NUMBER. PARTICULARLY BECAUSE PRESIDENT TRUMP DISCUSSES IT IN RELATION TO TAX REFORM I WILL POINT OUT AS YOU WELL KNOW THE FINAL NUMBERS ON SECOND QUARTER 16 GDP WERE 2.9 AND THE FULL YEAR IS STILL NOT ANTICIPATED TO BE NEAR 3%. THAT SAID, LET'S GET TO TAX REFORM IF WE CAN. YOU BUMPED INTO EAMON JAVERS IN THE WEST WING. HE ASKED YOU ABOUT IT AND YOU SAID QUOTE, "I'M OPTIMISTIC, I THINK WE HAVE WE HAVE A REASONABLE SHOT." WHY ARE YOU OPTOMISTIC ON TAX REFORM AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN YOU SAY REASONABLE SHOT?
LOOK I AM OPTIMISTIC AND I THINK WE HAVE A MORE THAN REASONABLE SHOT BECAUSE WE NEED TO GET TAX REFORM DONE. IF YOU LISTEN TO WHAT PRESIDENT TRUMP SAID IN MISSOURI EARLIER THIS WEEK HE LAYED OUT WHAT WE NEED TO DO IN THIS COUNTRY. WE NEED TO BE COMPETITIVE. WE NEED TO GET A BUSINESS TAX SYSTEM THAT MAKES US COMPETITIVE TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. IF WE GET A TAX SYSTEM THAT IS COMPETITIVE, WE WILL HIRE PEOPLE. WHEN YOU HIRE PEOPLE, YOU HAVE COMPETE FOR LABOR. WHEN YOU COMPETE FOR LABOR, YOU DRIVE WAGES. WE NEED WAGE GROWTH, WE NEED JOB CREATION IN THIS COUNTRY. WE'VE GOT TO COMPETE WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD. HE ALSO TALKED ABOUT SIMPLIFICATION. IT'S WAY TOO COMPLEX FOR THE AVERAGE AMERICAN TO DO THEIR TAXES TODAY. WE WANT TO GO BACK TO A TAX SYSTEM WHERE AMERICANS SIT DOWN AT THEIR KITCHEN TABLE AND THEY DO THEIR TAXES ON A SINGLE SHEET OF PAPER. THAT'S WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE IN THIS - AMERICA. IT'S NOT FAIR THAT PEOPLE CAN'T DO THEIR TAXES THAT THEY HAVE TO GO OUT AND THEY HAVE TO GO OUT AND HIRE A TAX PREPARER OR GO OUT AND BUY SOME SOFTWARE. WE SPEND MILLIONS OF HOURS DOING TAXES AND SPEND SO MUCH MONEY DOING OUR TAXES. IT SHOULD BE VERY SIMPLE. THE GOVERNMENT SHOULDN'T PUT PEOPLE THROUGH MORE STRESS.
FABER: YEAH, I KNOW. GARY, I WANT TO BE TEN YEARS YOUNGER AND SIX INCHES TALLER BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN WISHES ALWAYS COME TRUE. I MEAN YOU'RE GOING TO GO UP AGAISNT A CONGRESS AND A SENATE THAT MAY DISAGREE. YOU TALK SIMPLICATION, SOME OTHER PEOPLE HEAR WELL, THAT ACTUALLY MEANS CUTS, IN PARTICULAR FOR THE HIGHEST END OF THE INCOME BRAKET. THAT'S GOING TO BE TOUGH TO PASS.
COHN: DAVID, THAT'S NOT – THAT'S NOT WHAT WE'RE DOING. LOOK, SIMPLIFICATION DOES NOT MEAN CUTS FOR THE HIGHER END OF THE BRACKET. WE CAN SIMPLIFY AND WE CAN GET RID OF A LOT OF DEDUCATIONS. THOSE DEDUCTIONS EFFECT THE HIGH BRACKET PLAYER. SO WHEN YOU ACTUALLY SIMPLIFY THE TAX RETURNS, YOU'RE EFFECTING THE HIGH TAXPAYERS THE MOST. SO WE WOULD NOT AGREE WITH THAT STATEMENT. I KNOW THAT'S THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM OUT THERE BUT IN REALITY WE SPENT AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF TIME LOOKING AT THIS AND MODELING THIS. AS YOU SIMPLIFY THE TAX SYSTEM YOU REDUCE TAXES ON MIDDLE CLASS INCOME PAYERS AND AVERAGE AMERICANS AND YOU'RE ACTUALLY TAXING THE HIGH END AT A HIGHER RATE.
SARA EISEN: GARY, IT'S SARA. SECRETARY MNUCHIN YESTERDAY TOLD US YESTERDAY THAT THERE IS A TAX PACKAGE AND IT'S BEING, I THINK HE SAID QUOTE "SOCIALIZED" AMONG MEMBERS OF CONGRESS. WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN? ALL WE'VE SEEN IS A ONE PAGER FROM YOUR ADMINSTRATION, WHICH HAD SOME IDEAS OUT THERE. STATEMENT OF PRICIPLES. BUT CAN YOU GIVE US ANY MORE DETAILS ABOUT WHAT IS BEING PASSED THROUGH CONGRESS AT THIS POINT THAT MAKES YOU SO
OPTIMISTIC THAT IT'S GOING TO GO THROUGH COMMITTEE BY THE END OF THE YEAR?
COHN: I THINK YOU KNOW AS HE SAID YESTERDAY HE AND I ALONG WITH CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE HAVE BEEN WORKING QUITE DILIGENTLY AND RIGOROUSLY FOR THE LAST FOUR OR FIVE MONTHS. REALLY WE HAVE BEEN WORKING SINCE DECEMBER ON A TAX PLAN. WE HAVE BEEN MEETING OFTEN. WE HAVE REALLY AGREED ON A SKELETON AND A FRAME WORK FOR WHAT TAXES NEED TO LOOK LIKE AND WE'VE GOT COMPLETE BUY IN FROM THE SIX OF US ON WHAT THE FRAME WORK FOR TAXES SHOULD LOOK LIKE. WE'RE NOW LOOKING WITH BOTH THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE AND HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE TO REALLY BUILD OUT THE SKELETON, PUT THE MUSCLES ON IT AND THE SKIN ON IT, AND DELIVER A TAX PLAN WHICH WE THINK WE CAN DO BECAUSE WE HAVE BUY IN FROM THE SIX OF US AS WELL AS THE PRESIDENT.
MICHAEL SANTOLI: HOW DIFFICULT IS IT GARY TO SELL THE NOTION THAT PUTTING A CORPORATE TAX CUT, CORPORATE TAX SIMPLIFICATION, AT THE CENTERPIECE IS GOING TO TRANSLATE INTO JOBS? I MEAN, THE RESEARCH ISN'T ALL THAT GREAT. YOU HAVE AFTER TAX PROFITS OF U.S. COMPANIES ALREADY RUNNING NEAR RECORD HIGHS AND WE HAVE THE JOB GROWTH AND WAGE GROWTH THAT WE HAVE.
COHN: WELL WE DON'T HAVE WAGE GROWTH. IF YOU LOOK AT WHAT WAGES ARE DOING, WAGES ARE RUNNING FLAT IN THE UNITED STATES. WE'RE 2.5%, SO WE'VE LITERALLY HAD FLAT WAGE GROWTH. IF YOU THINK OF THE SITUATION TODAY WHERE WE HAVE A TAX SYSTEM THAT CHARGES 15 OR 20% HIGHER THAN A EUROPEAN COMPETITOR. YOU START WITH A 20% DISADVANTAGE IN TAXES SO IF YOU'RE A EUROPEAN COMPETITOR YOU CAN CHARGE LESS FOR YOUR PRODUCT, YOU CAN PAY YOUR LABOR MORE, AND YOU CAN BE MORE PROFITABLE. HOPE CAN WE PUT AMERICA IN THAT POSITION? WE STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT IF WE LOWER BUSINESS TAX RATES IT WILL TRANSLATE INTO HIGHER WAGES ACROSS THE BOARD.
FABER" YOU KNOW, LAST TIME WE HAD A REPATRIATION DEAL - YOU REMEMBER THAT, YOU WERE AT GOLDMAN AND I WAS COVERING IT OF COURSE – LOOK, THEY BROUGHT THE MONEY BACK, THE BENEFICIARIES WERE INVESTORS. I MEAN, IT RESULTED IN BUY BACKS AND HIGHER DIVIDENDS IT REMAINS UNCLEAR THAT THE BENEFICIARY IS GOING TO BE YOUR MIDDLE CLASS WORKING PERSON AS THE PRESIDENT HAS POINTED OUT FROM CUTTING CORPORATIONS TAXES. I GET THEY MAY NOT MOVE ANY LONGER AND CERTAINLY WE DO NEED MORE COMPETITION. WE HEAR IT - I'VE HEARD IT FROM CEOS FOR YEARS. BUT THE IDEA THAT IT BENEFITS THE WORKER -- HOW ARE YOU SO CONFIDENT?
COHN: SO HOW DOES IT NOT BENEFIT THE WORKER? WHO OWNS EQUITY IN THE WORLD TODAY? THE POOL OF EQUITY OWNERS IN THE WORLD TODAY ARE PENSION FUNDS. THEY'RE THE BIGGES PUBLIC PENSION FUNDS ARE THE BIGGEST OWNERS OF EQUITIES IN THE WORLD. YOU CAN TALK TO MANY GUESTS YOU HAVE ON YOUR SHOW -- GO TALK TO LARRY FINK, GO TALK TO FIDELITY, GO TALK TO THE BIG ASSET MANAGERS OF THE WORLD, AND THEY WILL TELL YOU THAT THE BIG OWNERS OF EQUITIES TODAY ARE ALL THE BIG PUBLIC PENSION FUNDS. THEY'RE THE POLICEMEN, THEY'RE THE FIREMEN AND THE TEACHERS, THEY'RE THE CIVIL SERVANTS OF AMERICA TODAY THAT HAVE THEIR MONEY IN PUBLIC PENSION FUNDS BEING MANAGED IN THE U.S. EQUITY MARKET SO YES WE'RE HELPING AMERICANS BY DELIVERING RETURNS BACK TO THEM.
EISEN: GARY, I WANTED TO MOVE ON TO ANOTHER PROJECT YOU'RE WORKING ON – THE PRESIDENT'S TRADE AGENDA. IS IT TRUE THAT THE PRESIDENT CALLS YOU A GLOBALIST, AS HAS BEEN REPORTED, AND THAT HE'S DEMANDING TARIFFS? IS THAT SOMETHING INVESTORS SHOULD WORRY ABOUT TARIFFS CAN BE GROWTH KILLING? AS YOU KNOW TARIFFS CAN BE GROWTH KILLING. IS
COHN: LOOK, THE PRESIDENT AND I HAD A VERY OPEN AND ROBUST DISCUSSION ON TRADE AND THE
ECONOMY AND ECONOMIC GROWTH AND JOBS. WE HAVE A VERY GOOD RELATIONSHIP AND WE'RE ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT WAYS TO GROW THE U.S. ECONOMY AND PUT WORKERS BACK TO WORK AND INCREASE WAGES. THAT'S HIS MISSION. THAT'S MY MISSION.
FABER: AND FINALLY, GARY, THE WASHINGTON POST TODAY REPORTING, THAT THE PRESIDENT – YOU JUST MENTIONED OF COURSE YOUR RELATIONSHIP – IS QUITE UNHAPPY WITH YOU IN TERMS OF INTERVIEWS YOU GAVE TO THE FT IN WHICH YOU CLEARLY STATED YOUR OPPOSITION TO THE COMMENTS THAT HAD MADE BEEN MADE, AT LEAST INVOLVING THE UNREST IN CHARLOTTESVILLE. I WONDER, DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT THE PRESIDENT HAS CONFIDENCE IN THE JOB YOU'RE DOING? ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT YOUR JOB AT THE WHITE HOUSE IS GOING TO COME TO AN END?
COHN: I HAVE A GREAT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRESIDENT. WE'RE WORKING WELL TOGETHER. WE'VE SPENT AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF TIME THIS WEEK WORKING ON TAXES. WE WERE OUT IN MISSOURI TALKING ABOUT TAXES. WE SPENT TIME TALKING ABOUT TAXES. WE'RE GOING BE OUT NEXT WEEK TRAVELING, TALKING ABOUT TAXES. HE AND I ARE SPENDING TIME WORKING TOGETHER ON ALL OF THE BIG ECONOMIC ISSUES THAT ARE GOING TO DRIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH AND DRIVE WAGES IN THIS COUNTRY. THAT'S WHAT HE CARES ABOUT. THAT'S WHAT I CARE ABOUT
FABER: ALL RIGHT. AND A LOT OF THAT HAS TO DO WITH TAXES AND ITS GOING TO BE AN ISSUE THAT WE CARE A GREAT DEAL ABOUT BECAUSE OF OUR AUDIENCE. GARY, THANK YOU AS ALWAYS FOR YOUR TIME. LOOK FORWARD TO CATCHING UP AGAIN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. GARY COHN JOING FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.
COHN: THANK YOU.
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